Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has been named the 2016-17 Coach of the Year, as revealed at the first-ever NBA Awards Show on Monday. After two disastrous stints with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, D’Antoni rebuilt much of the reputation he had earned during his time guiding the Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns and turned the Rockets into one of the league’s most successful and enjoyable teams during his first season with the club. It was a complete turnaround from Houston’s disappointing and often unwatchable 2015-16 campaign.
Like many prior winners of this award, D’Antoni exceeded expectations. The Rockets won 41 games during the 2015-16 season and looked likely to finish among the bottom half of playoff teams this season. However, a team full of adept three-point shooters took to his fast-paced offense immediately. The Rockets went 55-27, good enough for the third-best record in the league and the West’s No. 3 seed, and looked like a transformed franchise. Their Western Conference Semifinals elimination at the hands of an injury-riddled San Antonio Spurs group was disappointing, but this season was absolutely a success.
D’Antoni previously won the award in 2005 during Steve Nash’s first season with the Suns.
D’Antoni beat out fellow top-three finalists Gregg Popovich of the Spurs and Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat. Each member of the trio represents one of the major arguments for how this award should be decided — D’Antoni got his team to over-perform relative to preseason predictions, Popovich is considered the best coach in the league overall, and Spoelstra turned his team around in the middle of the season to finish at .500 after a 10-31 start. All would have been worthy winners.
Ultimately, though, D’Antoni had no real competition. He earned 68 first-place votes and appeared on 94 ballots, figures all the more impressive given that Spoelstra, the second-place finisher, only appeared on 61 ballots in total.
Coach of the Year was voted on by a panel of 100 independent media members. The post-draft, TNT-televised NBA Awards replaced the league’s previous team-organized press conferences for major awards, which typically took place during the first few rounds of the postseason.
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