By Scott Sullivan, WBZ-TV
BOSTON (CBS) — Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is your 2017-2018 NBA Coach of the Year. End of discussion. However, former Raptors head coach, and now, ah-hem Pistons head coach, Dwane Casey won the actual award Monday night.READ MORE: Wind Figures To Be Major Factor For Patriots-Bills Monday Night Matchup
Why you might ask? It’s simple. The panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who voted for Casey got it wrong. They blew it.
Once again, Casey did an admirable job guiding the Raptors this past season. Toronto finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and a franchise-record 59 wins. That was an eight-win improvement on the season before. Also, Casey’s bench improved thanks in large part to the enhanced play of second-year men Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam.
But here’s the problem: Was anyone surprised by Toronto’s success? The Raptors were supposed to be good! This wasn’t the Bad News Bears we’re talking about. After all, they were led by a pair of four-time All-Stars in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, to go along with defensive stalwart Serge Ibaka and underrated center Jonas Valanciunas. Throw in the improved bench and very few health issues and voila’, you’ve got a very good basketball team on your hands. Heck, M.L. Carr might have won 59 games coaching this team.
The Celtics, on the other hand, were the great unknown going into this season. Yes, they signed Gordon Hayward and acquired point guard Kyrie Irving in a trade. But they also moved Isaiah Thomas, who was the heart-and-soul of the team, along with Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, while also letting Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko sign elsewhere. In all, Stevens had 11 new players on his roster just months after his previous team went to the Eastern Conference finals.
Despite the challenges, the team seemed to mesh well during training camp and there was a quiet optimism among the coaches and players that 2017-18 could be a special year. Then five minutes into the regular season opener in Cleveland, everything changed in one unforgettable flash when Hayward broke his left leg in horrific fashion, with his ankle snapping in the wrong direction, ending his season before it barely began.
Suddenly, the Celtics turned from title contenders to title afterthought. The C’s would end up losing the season opener as well as the next night’s home game against the Bucks. Things looked grim for the Green.READ MORE: Holiday Tipping - Who Should Get One, And How Much? Advice From An Etiquette Expert
But that’s when everything changed. The Celts stopped feeling sorry for themselves and started winning games — 17 straight to be precise. Instead of Hayward doing the damage, it was rookie Jayson Tatum and second-year guard Jaylen Brown picking up the slack. Plus, Irving was doing his thing (spectacularly) to go along with Al Horford’s all-around contributions.
Even without Hayward, the C’s were marching towards a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference until they encountered more bad news. Irving’s cranky right knee was acting up and he’d ended up needing surgery with 15 games left in the regular season. Doctors were hopeful he could return at some point during the playoffs, but an infection was later found and Irving had to undergo another surgical procedure, ending his season for good.
But, despite the losses of Hayward and later Irving, the Celts still finished with a 55-27 record, good for second in the Eastern Conference. They finished four games behind Casey’s Raptors, who enjoyed great health all season long.
Yet when it came time for the voters to pick this season’s Coach of the Year, the majority of them voted for Casey. How can that be? Can so many writers and broadcasters be that blind? Were they just not paying attention to the work Stevens was doing?
Again, Toronto was SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD. They’ve been good for years behind the same core of players. There were no surprises. The Celtics, on the other hand, were a mystery. Yes, they had talent, but could Stevens make it all work with so many new players? The answer was a resounding yes.
Ultimately, the history books will say Dwane Casey was the 2017-2018 NBA Coach Of The Year. Unfortunately, you can’t believe everything you read.MORE NEWS: New York City Announces First-In-The-Nation Vaccine Mandate For Private Companies