Coaching still matters in today’s NBA despite how star-driven the game has become. The Coach of the Year award has been given out since 1963. Harry Gallatain earned honors after the St. Louis Hawks improve from 29-51 to 48-32, second best in the five-team Western Division.
Gallatin won the award just once, but eight coaches have won the award multiple times. Don Nelson, Pat Riley and Gregg Popovich have each won it three times, while five others have won twice. Because there are different winners just about every season it’s tough to find trends, unlike betting NBA games against the spread or over/under. However, we’ve managed to find four trends over the last couple decades that should help your NBA betting picks for Coach of the Year.
NBA Coach of the Year Betting Tips
The Best Coaches Simply Win
OK, so we’re not exactly starting with a surprise. It’s true the Coach of the Year winners win games, but it goes beyond that. They win an incredible amount of games. Consider that from 2003 to 2016, a span of 14 winners, the Coach of the Year won on average a remarkable 59.6 games. Steve Kerr earning Coach of the Year honors for the 73-win Warriors skews the data a bit, but these numbers speak for themselves; eight teams won 58 or more games, and only the Raptors in 2007 won fewer than 50 games under Sam Mitchell. The point here is that only the best of the best teams win Coach of the Year.
Those teams finished first in their respective conference eight of 14 times, one finished second and two more finished third. You give yourself a much better chance if you can locate a team that will finish near the top of the West or East.
And speaking of great teams, they usually come somewhat out of nowhere as far as Coach of the Year is concerned. When it comes to this award, improvement is just as important as success itself. Coaches who have guided great teams to top records rarely get credit for it in this category if they do it a second or third consecutive year. What’s more important here is taking a good team and making it great, or a great team and making it historic.
From 1997 to 2013, the Coach of the Year’s team increased its win total by 16.2 games, nearly a 20 percent increase year-to-year on an 82-game schedule. Twelve times the team won 17 or more games than it did the year ago, and a team never won fewer games than they did a year ago. Remember to look for a big jump. If a team reached 50 or more games the previous season, the head coach isn’t going to get as much credit the following year unless they make another significant leap.
All-Stars and MVPs
Great coaches are great coaches, but having a little help along the way never hurt. Of the teams from 2001 to 2018, 15 of them had members of an All-NBA Team, with 10 of those coming on the First Team; that means 10 of the 18 Coaches of the Year had one of the league’s five best players on their team. And 16 of those coaches had an All-Star. It’s fine if a coach can guide a gritty, under-the-radar team and turn a bunch of mediocre players into a great group. It just won’t result in a Coach of the Year award. Star power weighs heavily.
Offense Over Defense
As hinted at above, the kind of teams that are winning Coach of the Year lately tend to score a lot of points. From 2011 to 2011, five Coach of the Year winners had top-6 defenses and only four had top-6 offenses. A stout defense was more likely to gain you recognition than a fancy offense. But there was a shift around the time the Golden State Warriors began changing the landscape of the league.
Offense has reigned supreme for some time now, and it matters most in the mind of the media members who vote for Coach of the Year. Similarly to NBA MVP betting, scoring matters. From 2012 to 2018, all seven Coach of the Year winners had top-6 offenses, and three of them actually had defenses that ranked outside the top-10.
The best coaches recognized are ones who win with high-powered offenses. Don’t try and outsmart yourself by digging for a diamond in the rough. A team might go from the NBA Draft Lottery to contending for a playoff spot, and that coach may have done a great job taking them there. But the Coaches of the Year are ones who will have their teams playing late into May and potentially into June.