The Atlanta Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer is the 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year.
The Hawks made the announcement via a press release on their official website on April 21. Budenholzer, who is just in his second year as an NBA head coach, has transformed a 38-win, eighth-seeded Atlanta squad last season into a 60-win, first-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.
Granted, there are several other worthy candidates such as rookie head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors.
However, Budenholzer represents not only the transformation of the Hawks into a contender, but also the determined individual who can succeed in his or her chosen profession given the right mindset.
From 1999-2007, the Atlanta Hawks were a moribund franchise. During that span, they averaged a paltry 26 wins per season under the guidance of three head coaches in Lon Kruger, Terry Stotts (who is now the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers) and Mike Woodson, per Basketball-Reference.com.
For the next seven seasons, they would turn things around and make the playoffs for seven straight seasons. According to Basketball-Reference.com, they would up their average win total to 43 per season.
The farthest they would go is the second round, which they would do for three straight seasons from 2009-11.
However, since Larry Drew’s days as Atlanta’s mentor, the Hawks would be mostly a one-and-done team in the postseason—they been eliminated in the first round for the past three years.
Now, with Budenholzer callling the shots, it seems those one-and-done days in the playoffs are over.
Behind his guidance, the Hawks have been flying high in 2014-15. They have four All-Stars in Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Al Horford and Paul Millsap to lean on.
The ATL has never looked so good these days.
Mike Budenholzer Is The 2014-15 NBA Coach of The Year
The Hawks issued a press release on Budenholzer’s accolade on their official website on Tuesday:
The Atlanta Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer, who guided the team to the best regular season in franchise history, is the recipient of the Red Auerbach Trophy as the 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year, the NBA announced today.
Budenholzer received 67 first-place votes and 513 total points from a panel of 310 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. The Golden State Warriors’ Steve Kerr, who led the Pacific Division champions to a franchise-record and NBA-high 67 victories in his first season as an NBA coach , finished second with 56 first-place votes and 471 total points.
Jason Kidd of the Milwaukee Bucks was third with one first-place vote and 57 total points. 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.
Budenholzer led Atlanta to a 60-22 record in his second season, three games better than the previous team-high of 57-25 set in 1986-87 and matched in 1993-94.
The Hawks earned both the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference and a division title (Southeast Division) for the first time since 1993-94 — the last season they had the NBA Coach of the Year (Lenny Wilkens). Atlanta made the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year, the longest active streak in the East.
Behind Buldenhozer’s leadership, the Hawks became a force on both the offensive and defensive ends. Atlanta wound up sixth in the NBA in offensive rating and seventh in defensive rating, per NBA.com/Stats (via the Hawks’ official website).
The Hawks are arguably the league’s most balanced team with six players averaging in double figures, with none of them scoring more than 17.0 per game. Budenholzer is the main architect of the Hawks’ high-octane offense, as the team finished no lower than fifth in field-goal percentage (fourth), three-point field goal percentage (second) and free-throw percentage (fifth).
Budenholzer’s Hawks also went on a 19-game winning streak at one point this season and even went 17-0 in Jan. 2015, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore.
Vivlamore also revealed on Tuesday it was Gregg Popovich, Budenholzer’s former boss with the San Antonio Spurs, who first broke the news of this year’s Coach of the Year award to the Atlanta head coach. Popovich even had to convince Budenholzer it wasn’t a prank call.
To note, Popovich gave Budenholzer his start in the NBA as a Spurs video assistant in 1994, per Vivlamore.
“I’m very, very thankful for everybody who put me in this position, who put me in this place,” Budenholzer told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on April 21. “I’m forever thankful for this opportunity.”
The Parting Shot
Nobody deserves the 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year Award more than Mike Buldenhozer.
Some of the East’s head coaches made a strong case for themselves this year. There’s the Cleveland Cavaliers’ David Blatt, who helped make LeBron James’ comeback to Northeast Ohio a successful one with a 53-29 (.646) win-loss record and a second seed in the conference.
Defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau also held serve after missing 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose for a considerable part of the season due to nagging right-knee injury issues. Dwane Casey continues to make the Toronto Raptors’ bid for Canada’s first NBA title a stronger one as the years go by.
In the West, it’s an even tougher call.
Kerr made history earlier this month by becoming the winningest rookie coach in league history, besting Thibodeau and Paul Westphal when he won his 63rd game of the season on April 5.
All of the coaches of the West’s playoff teams—from the Houston Rockets’ Kevin McHale to the New Orleans Pelicans’ Monty Williams—all did a very admirable job for their respective squads.
But in the end, Budenholzer won out, thanks to the Hawks’ ascent to the No. 1 seed in the East. That’s a 22-game improvement from last season, folks.
He beat out Kerr by just 42 total points for the 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year Award, so it was a close call. Kerr having no coaching experience whatsoever made his candidacy also very impressive.
It’s just that the Hawks have no bona fide superstars in their lineup. True, they have four All-Stars in Teague, Korver, Horford and Millsap, but they’re not the big-name players the Splash Brothers (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) are. To the media voters, that was most probably something they considered.
Is there any reason for Buldenhozer not to win the award?
We really can’t think of any.
Many people don’t realize Budenholzer was arrested for DUI just three months after the Hawks hired him to be their new head coach in May 2013. He did guide an underachieving Atlanta team to the playoffs that year, giving the No. 1-seeded Indiana Pacers all they could handle before losing in seven hard-fought games.
Now, after beating other big-name coaches such as his former boss, Gregg Popovich, to win this year’s NBA Coach of the Year Award, Mike Buldenhozer certainly has come a long way.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all stats are current as of April 21 and are courtesy of NBA.com/Stats.