Report: Mike Brown Named Coach of the Year

April 20th, 2009 by John Krolik

Three quick points on this one:

1. Other than Most Improved Player of the Year, which is a completely nebulous and pointless award, Coach of the Year is definitely the most vaguely defined of the major awards. If I had to give it a working definition, I’d go with “coach of a team who surpassed its expectations the most.” That makes a bit of sense, but in a way it’s tricky. Phil Jackson, who dealt with major injuries, figured out the perfect way to use Lamar Odom, shuffled his rotations throughout the year to maximum effect, and found a way to work Shannon Brown, Josh Powell, and DJ Mebenga into his rotation effectively, not to mention successfully dealing with maybe the most infamous ego in sports? You get no votes, because everyone knew your team was going to be really good. It’s a cliche, but this award could have gone to at least seven or eight different candidates and I wouldn’t have  a serious qualm. And while the fact the voting ended up being a landslide is surprising, you certainly see the reasoning; when in doubt, which is at the core of this voting, go with the guy with the most wins, and the Cavs certainly didn’t have overwhelming talent.

2. Congratulations to Mike Brown, obviously. From working games, I can tell you he’s a good guy who respects the media and has his head on his shoulders-he essentially wrote the beat story after the Laker game of the top of his head before anyone asked him a question, and he was courteous and charismatic. 

More so, he’s a testament to hard work; he’s not some ex-player or know-it-all college guy with a lecture circut and self-help book in his pocket, but a guy who worked his way up from the bottom, in the video room trenches, and learned the game the right way and stuck to his principles without ever having his ego go Larry Brown. 

And of course, imagine trying to be successful when you start off as being clearly more expendable than your 21-year old star who supposedly works for you. Not the easiest balancing act to pull off.

3. For the second year in a row, the coach du jour is a guy who was maligned for years; last year it was Doc Rivers (although he tecnically didn’t win coach of the year), and this year it’s Mike Brown. In a way, MB’s emergence is even more amazing than Doc’s. Doc never helmed a competitive team; Mike Brown’s teams have outperformed their record in the playoffs every year he’s been a full-timer, and everyone still thought he was a terrible coach. That offense he was running was just god-awful and stagnant, and it was there for the world to see as LeBron James ran pick-and-roll into waiting defenses again and again and again. 

Now it turns out that Larry Hughes made everything stagnant, and that with competent point guards and some offensive talent around LeBron James, as well as a new assistant he wasn’t afraid to delegate to, Mike Brown can orchestrate the 3rd-most efficient offense in the league (basically tied with the Lakers) without sacrificing the defense and tempo his teams have always hung their hat on. The great thing about this coach of the year award is that it stands as a testament against the idea that coaches are successful or unsuccessful completely independently fromt heir circumstances-the award is an attack on ego-driven “my way is the RIGHT WAY and I can win games from the sideline” philosiphy of coaching. For a humble and quietly effective coach like Brown, it fits.