1. Monty Williams (Suns)
2. Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies)
3. J.B. Bickerstaff (Cavaliers)
This was an insanely deep class with more deserving winners than there were spots on the ballot. There is a sense among some people that Phoenix had it easy this season and cruised to the best record in the NBA, but that was not the case. The investigation into Suns owner Robert Sarver could have been a major distraction at the start of the season that threw the Suns off. Deandre Ayton not getting a contract extension could have been a distraction. Chris Paul missed time with a hand injury. The list goes on and on, but Monty Williams’ steady leadership and the culture he built sustained the Suns, so he lands on top for me.
Taylor Jenkins in Memphis and J.B. Bickerstaff in Cleveland had teams that surprised us all this season and made unexpected early leaps with young players, a credit to the development and detailed work those two put in to build a foundation with their teams. A lot of years, either one of them could have won this award. Erik Spoelstra was tough to leave off this list.
1. Erik Spoelstra (Heat)
2. Monty Williams (Suns)
3. Billy Donovan (Bulls)
Miami has given significant roles to Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Omer Yurtseven – and is atop the Eastern Conference. Erik Spoelstra is so good at both player development and implementing winning game plans, a tough combination to execute. A late-season blowup with Jimmy Butler is concerning. But it still appears Spoelstra has the veteran Heat ready for the playoffs.
Monty Williams is favored to win this award, but I have him second because I assign more credit than others do to Phoenix’s strong roster (and James Jones for assembling much of it). Still, Williams impressed by navigating the Suns through the Robert Sarver investigation and Deandre Ayton’s contract year – issues that could have derailed less-cohesive teams. Williams also implemented a high-level offense and sound defense.
Both Billy Donovan and J.B. Bickerstaff each made tricky rosters fit so well, it’s easy to forget about all the (valid) preseason concern. What slightly separated Donovan: He adjusted to his team’s numerous injuries just a bit better, though both Chicago and Cleveland might be in over their heads with so many absences now.