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Magic worker

Orlando's Rivers wins coaching honor despite .500 mark

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Posted: Tuesday May 02, 2000 09:11 AM

  Doc Rivers Orlando's Doc Rivers became the fifth first-year NBA coach to earn the Red Auerbach Trophy. Andy Lyons/Allsport

By Desmond M. Wallace,

So when is a coach whose team went .500 and actually had a lower winning percentage than the previous season worthy of the highest honor in his profession?

When the team implodes that coach's roster, when most so-called basketball experts picks his team to finish at or near the bottom of the conference, and he's in his rookie season as a head coach at any level and he still almost makes the playoffs, that's when.

For his ability to build a highly competitive team despite numerous changes from the previous season, the NBA named first-year Orlando coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers the 2000 recipient of the Red Auerbach Trophy as the league's Coach of the Year.

Project Management
Worst records to win NBA coach of the year
Year  Coach  Team  W-L 
1966-67  Johnny Kerr  Chicago  33-48 
1999-00   Doc Rivers   Orlando   41-41  
1977-78  Hubie Brown  Atlanta  41-41 
1981-82  Gene Shue  Washington  43-39 
1980-81  Jack McKinney  Indiana  44-38 
1974-75  Phil Johnson  KC-Omaha  44-38 
1983-84  Frank Layden  Utah  45-37 

Rivers becomes the fifth first-year coach -- and second in three years -- to receive the award. Indiana's Larry Bird was honored in 1998.

More impressively, Rivers became only the third coach in league history to be named coach of the year without having a winning record, leading the Magic to a 41-41 mark. Johnny "Red" Kerr earned the honor in 1967 after leading the expansion Bulls to a 33-48 record. In 1978, Atlanta's Hubie Brown was rewarded after a 41-41 season -- a 10-game improvement.

Orlando, however, finished with a .660 winning percentage last season in the lockout-shortened season. The last coach to earn the award despite the fact his team finished with a worst record than the previous season was Milwaukee's Don Nelson in 1982-83.

Quick Learners
First-year coaches to win award
Year  Coach  Team 
2000  Doc Rivers  Orlando 
1998  Larry Bird  Indiana 
1987  Mike Schuler  Portland 
1967  Johnny Kerr  Chicago 
1963  Harry Gallitin  St. Louis 

But Rivers, who was expected to have nothing more than a rebuilding season, led the Magic to within one game of the playoffs.

Since Rivers was named as the team's head coach last June 7, Orlando made 37 player transactions, including four involving starters from the previous year.

Rivers exhibited a unique ability to squeeze talent out of every ounce of his roster. The Orlando coach routinely distributed minutes among 11 or more players a night. In fact, Rivers' sense of even his role players' talents was so keen that in 33 games this season the Magic's leading scorer came off the bench.

That enabled Rivers to edge runner-up Los Angeles' Phil Jackson, whose Lakers finished 67-15, for the award.

Related information
Statitudes: Charles Barkley, By the Numbers
Magic man: NBA names Rivers coach of the year
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