Mike Brown has done a fantastic job in his first year as Head Coach of the Sacramento Kings, but I wouldn’t be backing him with borrowed money at odds on to be named NBA Coach of the Year.
There’s a growing feeling that Brown will lift the Red Auerbach Trophy for the second time, but at odds as short as 1.50, all the value has gone, and then some.
If there’s one thing that we’ve learnt over the past 15 years, it’s not to trust the Sacramento Kings. They’ve gone 16 seasons without making the playoffs (the next longest active drought is the Charlotte Hornets’ 6 years) and at last that looks like ending, a huge achievement in itself.
Brown has changed the whole culture in Sacramento, and deserves huge credit for doing so, but the West is so close that they are far from locked in the third seed. And any fall down the standings will certainly give reason for voters to look elsewhere.
How can you not be impressed by the job done by Joe Mazzulla in Boston. Aged just 34, he was preparing for the season as the Celtics’ third string assistant under Ime Udoka until the now infamous scandal broke, Udoka was suspended for the season and Mazzulla catapulted into the top job.
Despite never quite having all their pieces fit at the same time, the Celtics have been impressive again this year, adding a top 5 offense to their watertight defense and Mazzulla definitely has a case to be named Coach of the Year. Mazzulla is available generally at odds of 3.50 to 4.50.
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Mike Malone’s Denver have been atop the Western Conference rankings for most of the season, so he deserves a mention too. He may be able to call upon back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic, but the supporting cast have all had injuries of various seriousness, and the Nuggets have carried on winning throughout.
A lively outsider could be Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks, a man who has won this award twice before. Thibodeau can be backed at odds as high as 22.00.
Having refused to trade the farm for Donovan Mitchell and instead picked up the far less exciting Jalen Brunson, Thibs came into this season under pressure. A grit and grind, defense first coach, he’s always had trouble winning over basketball purists, but what he’s done with the Knicks, especially in the past couple of months, deserves some recognition.
New York are still physical, tough and horrible to play against, but they’re also 5th in offense, putting the 13th in defense to shame! Since the start of December they’re 4th in offense and 7th in defense with the 3rd best net rating in the league and chasing the Cavs for the 4th seed and home court advantage.
As good as Brunson has been, as good as Julius Randle has played after a down year last season, the Knicks have no superstars, and that’s where the coaching has excelled. They are built on doing the basics well, rebounding, keeping turnovers to a minimum, and playing hard every single night.
Of course Mike Brown is the favourite, but he looks awfully short with plenty of twists and turns left in this NBA season.
It’s 18 years since Brown got his first head coaching job, leaving his role as an assistant in San Antonio to take over at Cleveland. He enjoyed five years in the Cavs hotseat, and was named Coach of the Year in 2009 after guiding his team to a league high and franchise record 66 wins.
Despite leading the Cavs to at least they second round of the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, Brown was fired In May 2010. A year later he was back in an NBA hotseat, taking over from Phil Jackson as head coach of the LA Lakers. Trying to implement his ideas on a veteran team featuring Kobe, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash was never going to be easy, and he was fired again the following year.
A second stint with the Cavs followed, but despite Dan Gilbert admitting it was a mistake to fire Brown the first time, he did it again a year later, in 2014, and it looked like the Cleveland native’s tilt at coaching in the NBA was over.
After two years out of the game, Brown joined the Golden State Warriors staff as an assistant, replacing Luke Walton, who had left to become the latest incumbent of the Lakers hotseat.
Brown rebuilt his reputation under Steve Kerr, and impressed when called into action to replace the head coach, who was constantly battling a back ailment. He was linked to plenty of head coaching vacancies, but seemed happy as the defensive mastermind behind the Warriors’ success.
However, last summer, Brown made the leap back into a head coaching job of his own, a full eight years since his last gig. Many an eyebrow was raised that he chose Sacramento, a franchise that had become a bit of a laughing stock, both for its inability to make a team capable of at least making the playoffs, and for managing to turn premium draft picks into dust (perhaps the best being managing to use the number 2 pick in a 2018 draft featuring Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr and Shae Gilgious-Alexander to take Marvin Bagley III).
Losing the first four games of the season did not bode well, but gradually Brown’s ideas and guidance has seen this version of the Sacramento Kings blossom. Despite bringing a reputation as a defensive expert, it’s at the offensive end the Kings have impressed.
Having made the tough decision last year to trade away Tyrese Haliburton, who has gone on to become one of only four players averaging over 10 assists per game and made his first All Star appearance last month, to Indiana, the new look Kings are built around Domantas Sabonis, who came back in that Haliburton trade and is leading the league in rebounding, and De'Aaron Fox.
Sacramento are averaging a league high 121 points per game, a full three points better than the Golden State Warriors in second, though only two teams give up more than their 118. Still, their +2.5ppg differential is 8th in the NBA.
The Kings are the feel good story of this NBA season, and they are certs for the playoffs for the first time in forever. But at 1.50, I won’t be backing Mike Brown for Coach of the Year, preferring to look for a bit of value at a price.
$30 Joe Mazzulla to win NBA Coach of the Year at 3.00
$10 Tom Thibodeau to win NBA Coach of the Year at 26.00
Latest Best Odds - NBA Coach of the Year
Odds correct at time of publishing
By Max Bennett | Updated: 03/07/23
Follow Max Bennett on Twitter at @MaxBTheJumpHub