DENVER — George Karl led the Denver Nuggets to a team-record 57 wins without a big name on his roster.
For that endeavor, Karl earned the NBA’s Coach of the Year on Wednesday.
He received 62 first-place votes, followed by Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat with 24 votes from a panel of sports writers and broadcasters. New York’s Mike Woodson finished third and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, who won the award last season, was fourth.
The Nuggets went 57-25 — the league’s fourth-best record — and captured the No. 3 seed. But the Nuggets were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors 92-88 in Game 6 last Thursday night.
“I am honored and energized to represent coaching and be their ambassador as coach of the year and continue to symbolize the great coaching there is in the NBA,” Karl said in a statement. “There are probably seven or eight guys who are deserving of it and another 10 or 15 other coaches who have done a great job and aren’t getting any recognition.”
It’s the first time Karl has won the award in 25 seasons in charge. He joined Doug Moe as the only Denver coaches to earn the honor.
The Nuggets surged down the stretch, winning a team-record 15 straight at one point and going 24-4 after the All-Star break. They also won a franchise-best 38 games at the Pepsi Center.
Denver relied on its up-tempo offense and a deep bench to wear out opponents. The team led the league in scoring, fast-break points and points in the paint, with a roster that hardly contained a household name. Speedy point guard Ty Lawson led the team in scoring with 16.7 points a game, which was 31st in the league.
I know I’ll be called a homer for this but this voting is an absolute joke. Eighth? Really? No one in the league faced more coaching adversity this year than Thibs. All season without his star player. A good chunk of time without his All-Star center, yet the Bulls finished 5th in the East and we’re in the mix all season long. Oh and not to mention the fact that every team has basically copied Thibs defensive scheme. Denying corner threes, attacking the ball on pick and rolls, that’s all Thibs doing. He’s everything you want in a coach. He game manages, he is phenomenal at X’s and O’s and his players absolutely love him. You give Thibs the Heat roster and they’re a threat to match the 95-96 Bulls 72 win season, I honestly believe that. Not sure what the voters were watching this year but they definitely weren’t watching Tom Thibodeau coach.