New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson lost out on the NBA Coach of the Year award to George Karl of the Denver Nuggets, and there is no doubt in this writer’s mind that the trophy went to the wrong man.
To add insult to injury, Woodson finished third in voting, with second place going to the Miami Heat‘s Erik Spoelstra.
Don’t get me wrong. Karl is a well-established head coach with experience that goes back almost three decades, having helmed teams like Denver, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, and Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder). In his career, Karl has gone 1,131-756, good for a career winning percentage of .599.
The only real mark against Karl is that he is not exactly known for playoff success, going just 80-105 on that level and only making it out of the first round eight times. Given the length of his coaching career, that isn’t a pretty statistic.
More importantly, though his Nuggets were the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference this year and finished 57-25 on the season, they really didn’t start heating up until late January. The team went on a nine-game winning streak that lasted from Jan. 20 until Feb. 10, and then went on a 15-game winning streak that lasted from Feb. 23 to March 25.
Granted, that’s pretty amazing considering how the Nuggets were an ensemble cast of players with no real star outshining everyone else, but let’s take a look at Woodson’s tenure with the Knicks.
In his first full season coaching the team, Woodson guided the Knicks to a 54-28 record and the team’s first Atlantic Division title in 13 years. Team star Carmelo Anthony led the league in scoring, and New York also won the season series against longtime rival Miami, taking three of four games quite handily.
Currently, the team is competing in the Conference Semifinals against the Indiana Pacers and is in a prime position to extend its playoff run, while Karl’s Nuggets were eliminated in six games in the first round by Golden State.
More importantly, Woodson’s career record with the Knicks is an astounding 72-34. The team has responded incredibly well to him in coming out of nowhere to do so well, while Karl has been established in Denver since 2005.
Moreover, it’s an insult that Woodson finished behind Spoelstra in voting. Were it not for Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James being on the roster in Miami, the Heat would surely not be in the playoffs. Spoelstra is merely an average coach, and he has only James to thank for his recent success and championship ring.
That all being said, it’s easily arguable that Woodson should have been named this season’s Coach of the Year over Karl and definitely deserved more votes than Spoelstra. He is already close to doing more with his team in less than two years than what the other two coaches have done in much longer periods of time; if he manages to be hoisting the treasured Larry O’Brien Trophy above his heads at some point in the near future, the voters are going to feel incredibly silly about how they voted.