Posted: Tuesday April 12, 2005 12:40PM; Updated: Tuesday April 12, 2005 1:14PM
With help from Steve Nash, Mike D'Antoni has made Phoenix the most entertaining team the league has seen in years.
What Karl has done in Denver cannot be overlooked, but it might because of the precedent that's been set. If so, that's too bad, because Karl is the true coach of the year.
2. Nate McMillan, SuperSonics
No one expected the Sonics to do what they've done this season. And if someone tells you they did, he's either a liar or a diehard Seattle fan. I, for one, certainly didn't see it coming, and for that I have to give some credit to McMillan.
Last season, the Sonics finished with a 37-45 record, better only than the Suns and Clippers in the Western Conference. Despite making just one key offseason move -- the addition of center Danny Fortson -- the Sonics have improved to 50-27 and are currently the fourth seed in the West.
The Sonics' turnaround can be attributed in large part to McMillan's handling of his key players. The second-year coach has handed Ray Allen the reins of the team, and Allen has responded by taking a more vocal role and providing leadership to the team's youngsters. One of those up-and-comers is Luke Ridnour, whom McMillan has trusted with the point-guard responsibilities and has, in turn, run the team smartly and efficiently. Rashard Lewis earned his first All-Star nomination and Vladimir Radmanovic has become a solid third scorer, even coming off the bench.
McMillan has also found a way to get the most out of the team's role players. Guys such as Jerome James, Reggie Evans, Antonio Daniels and Damien Wilkins all have provided productive minutes while quietly accepting heir under-the-radar roles on the team.
"Everybody has bought into the way Nate is coaching the team and everybody is playing their role," Lewis said. "The guys that need to rebound are rebounding, the shooters are shooting. Nobody is jealous of each other, and at the same time we're taking it one game at a time."
3. Mike D'Antoni, Suns
The Suns have become the league's most exciting show, and you can thank D'Antoni for that. Last season, the Suns won just 29 games while relying on Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson. This season, the arrival of Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson has given Phoenix one of the league's most dangerous starting fives, but also made for a potentially difficult situation. How would they get shots for all five guys and keep everyone happy? Somehow, D'Antoni made it work, thanks to his hands-off approach.