After taking the Atlanta Hawks from worst to first, head coach Mike Budenholzer was named the 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year on Tuesday.
In what came as little surprise to anyone, the former San Antonio Spurs assistant led the Hawks to the top of the Eastern Conference, as the Hawks improved by 22 games in the win column from last year’s finish that produced a franchise-best record of 60-22.
In leading the Hawks to their highest ever amount of wins, Budenholzer did this in a conference over projected favorites such as the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers and Derrick Rose-led Chicago Bulls.
It was a tight race as Budenholzer received 67 first-place votes, slightly edging out Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr who received 57 first-place votes for leading Golden State to the league’s best regular-season record.
Budenholzer joined the Hawks before the 2013-14 season after spending 19 years with the Spurs.
Prior to joining the NBA coaching ranks, he played and coached professionally in Denmark before returning to the United States. His NBA journey began as a video coordinator with the Spurs before moving to the San Antonio bench. It wasn’t long before his intelligence and work ethic helped him develop a reputation as one of the NBA’s top assistant coaches.
He left the Spurs after they lost in the 2013 NBA finals to the Heat and took the open vacancy in Atlanta where he took a team of departing stars such as Joe Johnson, and righted the ship quickly.
His read-and-react system worked beautifully in Atlanta and the wins started piling up. The pass first mentality helped them finish second in the league in assists, assist ratio and points created by assist; third in secondary assists and assist opportunities per game; and fifth in passes per game.
They can also kill a team using the long-range three-point shot as they rank fourth in percentage of total points generated from beyond the arc, as they were led by Kyle Korver’s NBA-best 49.2 percent mark.
Thanks to Budenholzer’s tutelage, Atlanta played well on both sides of the ball as the Hawks finished as one of four teams to rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Up 1-0 over the Brooklyn Nets in the East quarterfinals, the true test of Budenholzer’s genius, is only set to begin.