Anticipating the beginning of the 2014-15 season, we examine the Coach of the Year props on NBA odds. The betting favorite is San Antonio's Gregg Popovich at +350.
Pop Closing on 1,000 Wins
Could this be Popovich's final season on the San Antonio Spurs' bench? He has said previously that he might walk away when his meal ticket retires and that's future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan. He will be 39 in April so this would well be Duncan's last season as he pondered retirement briefly this offseason. Popovich did agree to a four-year contract extension in July. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that that he was told Popovich "was eager to coach another 4-5 years."
Popovich won his third career NBA Coach of the Year Award last season in leading the Spurs to an NBA-high 62 wins. The award is based solely on the regular season but then of course San Antonio beat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals for the franchise's fifth title under Pop. Last season was the 15th consecutive that Popovich's Spurs posted 50 or more wins, and the fourth time in that stretch the team won at least 60. Popovich joins Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only three-time winners of the award. Popovich infuriates those placing NBA picks on the Spurs because he rests his stars whenever he wants, with no notice. You generally can determine when he might do so: the second of a back-to-back on the road, for example. He usually won't sit Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili in front of the home crowd. No Spur averaged even 30 minutes a game last regular season. Duncan was healthy all year but sat eight games. Ginobili and Parker played 68 each. Not a single Spur played all 82.
No coach has ever won this award in back-to-back seasons. I don't think Pop will, either, because there's really no way to exceed what San Antonio did last year. Popovich is 33 wins shy of 1,000 in his regular-season career. Nelson holds the record with 1,335.
Big Expectations for Cavs' Rookie Coach
Probably no coach has more pressure on him than rookie Cleveland coach David Blatt, and he is the +550 second favorite on NBA odds. That's what happens when your team lands LeBron James. Blatt was a moderately surprising hire. He is considered an offensive guru -- but then so was Mike D'Antoni and ask the Lakers how that worked out -- and was very successful all over Europe. He led Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Euroleague championship last season. He's American born and played at Princeton under Hall of Fame coach Pete Carril. The Warriors and Timberwolves were looking to hire him as an assistant before the Cavs made him the first European coach to become an NBA head coach.
The Clippers' Doc Rivers is next at +600. He won this award back in 2000 while coaching the Orlando Magic. Rivers probably has more job security than anyone right now with the Clippers' ownership change. He essentially was the front office for a while there and was promoted to president of basketball operations. So apparently only Rivers can fire Rivers. He led the Clippers to 57 wins in his first season last year and the Clips should win at least that many again barring injury to Chris Paul or Blake Griffin.
The Chicago Bulls' Tom Thibodeau (+800) is the only other option under +1000 on these NBA odds. Thibodeau won the award in 2010-11 while leading the Bulls to 62 wins. That was Derrick Rose's NBA MVP season as well. Unfortunately Rose hasn't had a healthy season since then. Chicago has still won 48 and 45 games the past two seasons despite having Rose a total of 10 games (all last year). Rose is healthy now but if the FIBA World Cup and preseason action are any indication, also very rusty. Thibodeau is considered the pre-eminent defensive coach in the NBA. His guys play hard for him. The problem is Thibodeau rides his stars too hard. Will he take it easy on Rose and Joakim Noah this year? Noah is coming off his own surgery and was battered late last season.
NBA free pick
The best value on NBA odds I see is Dallas' Rick Carlisle at +1500. He won the award in 2001-02 with Detroit. The Mavs won 49 games last year but should be better with the additions of Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons and, to a lesser extent, point guards Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton. The team did lose Vince Carter and Shawn Marion. Getting Dallas a Top-4 seed in the loaded West should be enough for Carlisle to win Coach of the Year. I could see the Mavs winning the Southwest Division.