Jeff Hornacek is not the NBA's coach of the year this season, but that is OK.
The NBA announced today that Gregg Popovich was voted as the 2013-14 Coach of the Year, the third time he has taken home the Red Auerbach Trophy in his career and the second time in the last three years.
Popovich, who wins his second NBA Coach of the Year award in the past three seasons and third of his career, joins Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only coaches to receive the honor three times. He totaled 380 points, including 59 first-place votes, from a panel of 124 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Coaches were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.
The Spurs finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 62-20 and they also had the best point differential at +7.8. Under Popovich, the Spurs have been and continue to be a machine, pumping out 50-plus wins like nothing.
The Spurs are still led by three Hall of Famers in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but as has become Popovich's style he rested those players as much or more than he ever has, yet they won anyway regardless of who suited up.
Popovich presided over a balanced roster which featured no player who averaged 20-plus points, nor 30-plus minutes, with Tony Parker's 16.7 ppg and 29.4 mpg leading both categories. He ended the 2013-14 campaign with 967 regular season wins, good for ninth on the all-time list.
Popovich is the best coach in the NBA, and this award is well-deserved.
(Click to enlarge to see final voting totals)
Popovich won on the strength of his 59 first-place votes, but Hornacek wasn't too far behind with 37 (compared to the 12 of third-place Tom Thibodeau) and he finished with the most total votes with 102 to Popovich's 98.
Jeff Hornacek did a fantastic job turning the Suns around in his first season in the Valley of the Sun, and the national media has taken note. Hornacek's career is only beginning, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing his name in this discussion for years to come.
Also, now we don't have to worry about him getting fired any time soon. The Coach of the Year curse has been avoided.
On a related note: Joakim Noah was named Defensive Player of the Year yesterday, running away with the vote with 100 first-place votes and 555 points. Suns forward P.J. Tucker finished 12th with two votes and six points. Who voted for him? Al McCoy (first place) and Tim Kempton (third place).
Channing Frye's return to the starting line-up was almost as surprising as the Phoenix Suns' return to NBA relevancy. What grade did the Comeback Kid earn for the comeback Suns?
One has to wonder what the future holds for Channing Frye. According to The Arizona Republic, the 30-year-old power forward reportedly would like to work out a contract extension that would likely end his career in Phoenix. This is more amazing news than your average contract extension story considering his career nearly ended in Phoenix at the end of the 2011-12 NBA season.
Frye's recovery from his heart disease is practically a metaphor for the Phoenix Suns organization this season. After a disheartening 2012-13 campaign that saw the second worst results in franchise history, the Phoenix Suns were left for dead going into 2013-14. And like Frye's sudden and unexpected announcement that he would be at training camp, Phoenix suddenly and unexpectedly announced that they would be competing in every game until the end of the season. Coincidentally (or not), Channing became the first player since 2009-2010 to start all 82 games for the Phoenix Suns.
But does the comparison end there? Ultimately this incarnation of the Phoenix Suns wasn't good enough to make the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference. Is Frye good enough to make it as a starter for the next incarnation of the surprising Suns?
For the first half of the season, the answer was a resounding yes! Until the All-Star break, Channing Frye was averaging near career highs across the board and having his best season since 2010-11. In addition to those numbers, his presence outside the arc usually forced other teams to send one of their big men outside as well, clearing the lane for Goran Dragi? and Eric Bledsoe to get to the rim. He was the perfect compliment to a line-up featuring two slashing All-Star quality guards.
But in the second half of the season, Frye's offensive production dropped significantly. His FG% fell from 44.9 to 39.8 and his 3PT% collapsed to 31.5 from 39.9. His "hot" games were becoming fewer and farther between. And it's probably no accident that he saw his minutes per game go down from 28.7 to 27.4, while Markieff Morris saw his go up from 25.0 to 29.1. It became clear which player Jeff Hornacek saw as his finisher at the power forward spot.
To be fair to Frye, he had spent the 12 months prior to the season doing no physical activity other than yoga, walking and golf. He took his body from zero to NBA season in a month. The likelihood of maintaining that early season production was always in doubt. But as a player, you're only as good as what you produce on the court and that production suffered in the second half of the season.
For what it's worth, I wouldn't mind seeing Channing Frye retire as a Phoenix Sun. He's got an almost unparalleled Phoenix/Arizona pedigree and I think he embodies the spirit of the Suns' organization. Being on the other side of 30, he'll have to accept a smaller contract to make it happen and I think it's doable. Or maybe I'm just soft for a Phoenix guy and the inevitably cold business of the NBA will send him off to Milwaukee or Charlotte or some other NBA purgatory. Regardless of his next contract, Channing still has a player option for one more year left on his current one. The choice to remain a Phoenix Sun is his for the moment.
Channing Frye had a surprisingly solid if inconsistent return to the Phoenix Suns this year. He provided stability in a line-up that saw its two best players come and go over the course of the last 82 games. He was a veteran leader on a young team that went from playing over its head to playing under the weight of growing expectations. It was a good year for the Phoenix Suns and their walking metaphor. Here's hoping they can continue to flourish together.
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