The nominees for NBA Coach of the Year are Erik Spoelstra, Mike D'Antoni, and Gregg Popovich. However, what are the criteria to select the winner? Is is the record, the quality of play, or overachievement that is most important?

D'Antoni and Popovich led their teams to the playoffs, thanks to outstanding regular season records. On the other hand, Spoelstra and his Miami Heat barely missed the playoffs and, therefore, his nomination might have surprised many.

D'Antoni or Popovich?

Mike D'Antoni simply did wonders with the Houston Rockets. No one can deny his genius work in regards to offense. He took a disappointing Rockets team, that had once again underachieved, to the playoffs.

D'Antoni's system turned Harden into a floor general that scored and dished the ball at will. He became a legitimate NBA MVP candidate and the Rockets had the third-best regular season record in the NBA with 55 wins and 27 losses.

Gregg Popovich has nothing left to prove. He is probably the NBA's most talented coach and has been for many years now. He did not coach the most talented team in the Western Conference but still managed, once again, to harass the Warriors' top position in the conference for a great part of the regular season. The retirement of future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and the aging of players like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Paul Gasol did nothing to impede Popovich from creating a solid team.

It should also be noted that he had the second-best overall player in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs ended up with the second-best record in the league, 61-21.

Erik Spoelstra, the overachieving coach

Erik Spoelstra has a completely different story to recount. The Miami Heat are a shell of what they used to be some years ago.

Spoelstra did not have a single All-Star on his team this year. Hassan Whiteside is the closest thing to an All-Star, while Goran Dragic is a clever, veteran point guard. The Heat were expected to do poorly or barely make the playoffs in the best-case scenario. Their 11-30 record in the first half of the season was very disappointing, to say the least.

Thus, no one could have imagined the second half of the season that they had.

Spoelstra's team went on a 30-11 run in the second half of the season and that was the second-best record in the NBA during this period. Players like Dion Waiters and James Johnson rose from the ashes and played the best basketball of their lives, much to the amazement of the basketball world. Even Dragic looked like his old self all of a sudden. Spoelstra's merit is not only in building such a competitive team in the second half of the season, but also in remaining calm in the difficult moments early on and transmitting that calmness and perseverance to his players.

Does this entitle Spoelstra to the NBA Coach of the Year nomination or even victory?

I don't think so. Spoelstra indeed pushed the Miami Heat to the limit and enabled the team to staggeringly overachieve during the second half of the season. However, coaches, like players, should not be judged on their performance during a single period of time during the season, but rather for the work done during the entirety of the season. The Miami Heat's season, as a whole, definitively cannot be praised, especially because they failed to make the playoffs in the end. Spoelstra has certainly done enough to be recognized and lauded, but not to be named the NBA Coach of the Year.

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