There are established patterns to winning NBA Coach of the Year. You either guide a team with high expectations to its expected goal, stun with an eye-popping turnaround out of the Lottery or take a team from the playoff fringe into a team no one wants to face in the opening round by catching fire. We’ll call them the Excellence’s Status Quo, Out Of Nowhere, or Next Step plans to earning respect, respectively. With the curtain being drawn on the 2012-13 season tonight, Dime is projecting the major awards all week, and today we look at the top coach.
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10. SCOTT BROOKS, OKLAHOMA CITY
It isn’t woe-is-me for Scott Brooks after NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden was dealt away just days before the opener. Brooks and the Thunder got back a sizable amount in return to work with and Jeremy Lamb will be fascinating to watch play alongside fellow rookie Perry Jones III. And — oh yeah — he still has two of the top-10 players in the entire league on his roster. While many coaches need to fix two or even three positions, Brooks needs only to tweak his rotation to find a new sixth man and find a stable shooting guard rotation, likely through shifting Thabo Sefolosha. Keeping the status quo is never easy and the Lakers and Nuggets are improved challengers to Oklahoma City’s Western Conference title, but keeping that high but reachable standard marks a new chapter in Brooks’ coaching. Before it was always about incrementally improving, from one playoff layer to the next. Returning to the Finals with a re-tooled list of contributors won’t be easy, but Brooks should excel once again.