Behind every great team is a great coach. Several coaches this year have literally turned around the fortunes of their respected franchises. While Doc Rivers and Phil Jackson are definitely putting in work, it doesn’t really come at a huge surprise that those teams are killing it. We ranked the five coaches that have gotten the most out of their players so far and have posted records that far exceeded expectations.
1. Mike Woodson (Hawks): By making it to the second round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs, the Hawks opened up a lot of eyes last season. While people expected maybe the same out of Atlanta again in ’09-10, not many people thought that they would be legit championship contenders. Woodson has led the upstart Hawks to an 18-6 record which is good for third place in the Eastern Conference. Woodson can be credited for the resurgence of Josh Smith, who is playing more efficient this season and at an All-Star level. With so many people who want the shots on this team, he has been able to keep everyone on the roster happy by keeping the focused on sharing the ball, defense and winning. It is unbelievable to me that Woodson has not gotten an extension yet.
2. Rick Carlisle (Mavs): Just a few months ago, the Mavs were talked about as being an aging team with the potential of being an eighth seed at best. People said 36-year-old Jason Kidd was too old and Dirk Nowitzki was too soft. So far this season, Rick Carlisle has lit a fire under his troops’ behinds as the Mavs are playing some of the best basketball in the league right now. They are tied for second place of a tough Western Conference with a 19-7 record. The Mavs are playing D and are closing out close games.
3. Alvin Gentry (Suns): Like the Mavs, the Suns were a squad that were written off from the get-go. A lot of people around Phoenix labeled GM Steve Kerr as the man who ruined the Suns. While he has made some questionable decisions in his tenure with the team, one decision he didn’t drop the ball with was hiring Gentry. The long-time Suns’ assistant and former Clippers coach has brought back the run-and-gun offense that Mike D’Antoni started. Gentry has been consistent with his team’s rotation and has kept everyone happy. They are a perfect 9-0 at home and are in fourth place with a 17-8 record. If the Suns can keep it up, not only will they have a chance to go far in the playoffs but they could convince Amar’e Stoudemire to stay in the Valley of the Sun past this season.
4. Scott Brooks (Thunder): If the playoffs started today, the Thunder would not be in the playoffs. Odds are, they probably won’t be come April. But what Brooks has done with the Thunder has been nothing short of amazing. Brooks is a young coach, who is coaching an even younger roster in a loaded Western Conference. They’ve dropped 3 straight, but the Thunder are still 12-12 and have had big wins against the Spurs, Jazz and Magic. Now that he has the confidence of his extremely talented young core (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, James Harden), Brooks could grow up with them in this league and be the coach that will take OKC to a championship some day.
5. John Kuester (Pistons): In the case of the Detroit Pistons, their 11-14 record doesn’t tell the whole story. On top of having a weak roster before the start of the season, their roster has been even weaker during it as they’ve dealt with injuries to Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton. Kuester has somehow managed to keep the Pistons competitive and has them sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. If everyone gets healthy and he can get them to play together, than the Pistons could see a postseason in 2010.
Who has done the best coaching job so far this season?
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.
Follow Gerald Narciso on Twitter at @Gerald_Narciso.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE