Friday , Apr , 21 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

NBA regular season coaching grades (Part 1)

Now that the NBA regular season is over, I thought it would be a good time to sift through the results of the season, and evaluate the performance of the 30 NBA head coaches. Below is my analysis of how each coach performed. I have given each coach a letter grade based on my opinion of the talent level, injuries and miscellaneous factors that affected each coach’s ability to get the best out of their team.


Mike Woodson-Atlanta
Last year:13-69
This year: 26-56. Atlanta is a very young team, with only two players on the roster born in the ‘70’s. The roster was radically revamped from last year to this, and there seems to be signs of life, and improvement here. Management unfortunately missed seeing the value in the very diverse player Boris Diaw, who has resurrected his career in Phoenix. I think Woodson deserves another season, and a bit more mature talent to work with.
Grade: C

Doc Rivers-Boston
Last year: 45-37 made playoffs with Payton, Pierce and Walker in his first year with Boston.
This year: 33-49, missed playoffs. Gone are Payton, Walker, Blount, Ricky Davis, Szczerbiak (injury) and Marcus Banks; and so are some of the wins. This is Doc’s 6th full year coaching, and he has never been less than .500 in a full season (he was fired early in the ’04 season in Orl. after a 1-10 start). Doc can coach. Maybe not at the championship level, but he has proven he can be an effective coach in this league. Give the responsibility for this losing season to Danny Ainge for leaving the cupboards a little bare.
Grade: C

Bernie Bickerstaff-Charlotte
Last year: (introductory season) with an expansion team of carefully selected players made available from other teams, and draft picks.
This year: 26-56. If this had been his record with his roster in tact, I wouldn’t give him especially high marks, but his roster has been like swiss cheese this year. He hasn’t been able to get more than 67 starts out of any player due to injuries, Sean May and Emeka okafor have only been available for about 1/3 of the season each, and yet this team has been reasonably competitive. Bernie is earning his paycheck, building something for the future here.
Grade: B-

Scott Skiles-Chicago
Two seasons ago: 19-46 (partial);
Last year: 47-35(playoffs)
This year: 41-41: Returning very nearly the same roster minus Eddie Curry, the Chicago bulls finished the season strong with 6 straight wins, and battled their way into the playoffs again. The team has a lot of nice players, but no stars that dominate. Skiles has them playing up to their abilities, peaking at the right time (with 6 straight wins entering the playoffs), and has therefore earned his pay.
Grade: B-

Mike Brown-Cleveland (Rookie head coach)
This year: 50-32
Mike Brown has done a great job as a rookie head coach, taking the Cleveland Cavs to the playoffs for the first time since 1998. He has had them over .500 since the first week of the season, and kept the team together during a 6 game losing streak in January. Coach Brown looks to have a nice coaching career ahead of him. Extra credit must be given to the GM Danny Ferry for bringing in Donyell Marshall and Larry Hughes to play with his greatness prior to the season, and Flip Murray before the deadline to keep the ship afloat while Hughes was hurt.
Grade: B+

Avery Johnson-Dallas (near rookie head coach)
Last year: 16-2 (taking over for the last 18 games for D. Nelson).
This year: 60-22
Guess how many times the Mavs have won 60 games in a season besides this one? Only once, in ’03 before Avery was coach. Avery Johnson has taken a very talented team that won 58 games last year with Michael Finley, and won 60 this year as a neophyte coach without him. He has done what was previously unthinkable: he has Dallas playing Defense! The team allowed 97 pts/game last year, and this year is only allowing 93! Avery has done a fabulous job.
Grade: A

George Karl-Denver
Last year: 32-8, playoffs
This year: 44-38, NW Div. Champs
George Karl did an admirable job in Denver this year considering the injuries the team has sustained. It is easy to expect more of the torrid play the team demonstrated at the end of last season, but George has only had Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby for about 60% of the season, and Nene for none of it. Throw in lost time to super sub Earl Boykins and a remake at the trade deadline, and the results have been commendable.
Grade: B

Flip Saunders-Detroit
Last year: 25-26 (with Minnesota-fired)/Detroit was 54-28 with Larry Brown in ’04 and ’05.
This year: 64-18.
How do you follow a legend? This might have been the question Flip Saunders asked himself prior to taking over this talented team. Larry Brown guided the Pistons to two Finals appearances in the last two seasons, and posted identical 54-28 records. Flip was hired to keep the ball rolling, and he has not disappointed. This year the win total was increased by ten games, and a new franchise record was set for most wins in a season. I guess that’s how you follow a legend. The job Flip has done this year is nothing short of superlative.
Grade: A

Mike Montgomery-Golden State
Last year: 34-48
This year: 34-48
Fans must be a little disappointed in the Warriors and Montgomery this year. They traded for Baron Davis late last season, and proceeded to Go 18-10 with an 8 game win streak to close out the year. Hopes had to be high. This year they have an identical record as last, missed the playoffs again, and actually regressed in win totals from the 03-04 season when Eric Musselman was fired and replaced by Montgomery. G.M. Chris Mullin is reportedly bringing Montgomery back for next season. This team underperformed.
Grade: D+

Jeff VanGundy-Houston
Last year: 51-37
This year: 34-48
The success or failure of this team rests on Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, their two all-stars, so it is a difficult task to keep the ship afloat when McGrady missed 43% of the season, and Yao missed 31%. The team had nice success last year when the gang was healthy, and played well when the big two were available together, but Jeff VanGundy proved he can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Grade: C