Raptors' Sam Mitchell wins Coach of the Year

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 9:10 pm
Raptors' Mitchell wins NBA coaching honor

April 24, 2007


TORONTO (AP) -- Sam Mitchell remembers the advice he got from Bill Fitch when he was cut by the Houston Rockets in 1985.

Fitch told him to persevere, regardless of what others say.

Mitchell did just that, as a player and a coach. On Tuesday, he was honored as NBA coach of the year after leading the Toronto Raptors to a franchise record-tying 47 victories and their first Atlantic Division title.

"It floors you," Mitchell said. "You're thankful. Words just can't express it."

Mitchell won the Red Auerbach Trophy in a decisive vote over Utah's Jerry Sloan. He picked up 49 first-place votes for a total of 394 points in balloting by 128 basketball writers and broadcasters. Sloan had 301 points, followed by Dallas' Avery Johnson with 268.

"We're very proud of what has transpired this season," Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo said. "Sam winning this award is a major indication of just how far we've come."

Mitchell's colleagues were equally impressed.

"He did a tremendous job," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Well deserved, very well deserved."

The sixth coach in Raptors' history, Mitchell guided Toronto to an NBA-best 20-game improvement over the 2005-06 season. Toronto trailed New Jersey 1-0 entering Game 2 of the first-round series Tuesday night.

"We recognized him for it this morning," forward Chris Bosh said. "But the thing I love about him is he said it was a team effort."

Mitchell was the last cut on the Rockets in 1985. Fitch, a two-time NBA coach of the year, insisted he not give up.

"I had tears in my eyes when he called me into the room," Mitchell recalled. "He asked did I think I belonged in the NBA and I said, 'Obviously not, because you cut me.' He said, 'Who am I to tell you what you can and can't do? There's a lot of reasons that you're not going to be on this team, but it's not because you're not good enough.'

"He was like, 'If you want something, you've just got to keep your head down, stay focused and go get it. Don't let me or anyone else tell you what you can and can't do.' After you get over the hurt of not achieving what you want to achieve, I sat back and appreciated those words, because maybe without those words I wouldn't be here now."

Mitchell played three years in the CBA and two seasons in France before returning to the NBA and joining the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989.

He ended up playing 13 years and was regarded around the league as a student of the game. Following two seasons as an assistant, Mitchell was hired as the Raptors' coach in June 2004.

"I thought Sam has done an unbelievable job when you look at where that team came from," said Pistons coach Flip Saunders, who coached Mitchell in Minnesota. "He was basically a coach for me when he played, and I asked him to stay on with us, but he thought it was best to go out because he was so close to our players -- (Kevin) Garnett and those guys. He got a great opportunity in Toronto and he's made the most of it."

Guard Anthony Parker praised Mitchell for building unity on a team that added nine new faces before the season.

"His focus was trying to get us all in and get the chemistry going early," Parker said. "Throughout the course of the season we seemed to come together pretty nicely. Sam obviously was a huge part of that."

Bosh pointed to a change in Mitchell's approach.

"The year before last he tended to get a little emotional and let his emotions get the best of him," Bosh said. "Now he's a little bit more composed, he takes his time and he handles a lot of situations better."

The Raptors went 33-49 in Mitchell's first season but slumped last season, starting 1-15 before finishing 27-55.

"Publicly, when I was out and about, I kept my head up. You're never going to show people that you're struggling with things on the inside," Mitchell said. "But when you're sitting in your office by yourself and you've lost three or four in a row and people come by and say kind words, you remember those times."

Mitchell held onto his job even after the Raptors stumbled out of the gate again this season, losing eight of their first 10 games.

"We went through some difficult times early on and we talked about the direction of the team," Colangelo said. "Any time you get off to a 2-8 start you're on edge and the red flags go up, but there was never a point where I felt like (firing Mitchell) was even remotely close."

Last April, an informal poll of NBA players by Sports Illustrated deemed Mitchell the NBA's worst coach. Mitchell said the hardest part was how that affected his children, particularly his young daughter.

"They don't want to hear their father talked about like that," he said. "I just explained to her it's just part of what I do, that criticism comes with my job."

Mitchell, whose contract expires after the season, felt embarrassed to be singled out for the coaching honor.

"I feel like the whole organization should be behind me, the players, the front office people, the equipment managers," he said. "There's so much work that goes into us being successful."

Mitchell has been talked about as a candidate for jobs in Charlotte and Indiana, but Colangelo said he'll try to keep him in Toronto.

"We're going to do everything we can," Colangelo said. "It's our intention to bring him back. I am saying Sam is right for this organization and we're going to try and make it happen."

_____________________________________________________________

Can't say I'm shocked but it was a toss up between him, Sloan and Avery
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 11:02 pm
Well I guess getting the Raptors their first ever franchise Atlantic title and taking the 3rd seed in the East was enough.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2007 12:34 am
He isn't undeserving of the award but he wasn't a clear cut winner
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2007 1:55 am
I think Sloan and Nate McMillan did a better job. And, if you look at the list of injuries, Nellie should have been there, too.

I like Mitchell, but I think part of his success comes from being in the Atlantic division.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2007 2:02 am
TMC wrote:I think Sloan and Nate McMillan did a better job. And, if you look at the list of injuries, Nellie should have been there, too.

I like Mitchell, but I think part of his success comes from being in the Atlantic division.



Nate McMillan :shock: The Blazers overchieved but not to the point of where Nate should be seen as an incredible coach, a very good one that's it. Randolph had a great season and Roy was expected to be as good as he was. Had the Jazz continued how they started and won another 7-8 games, he would have got the award
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2007 3:11 am
migya wrote:Nate McMillan :shock: The Blazers overchieved but not to the point of where Nate should be seen as an incredible coach, a very good one that's it. Randolph had a great season and Roy was expected to be as good as he was. Had the Jazz continued how they started and won another 7-8 games, he would have got the award


Yeah, but both players missed lots of games. Roy only played 57 games, for 68 by Randolph (who I don't consider to be anything special. He's a blackhole on offense... except for a few games in which McMillan threatened him with the bench). With Jarrett Jack (who would be a nice backup, but still has question marks as a starting PG), Udoka (who?) and Przybilla/Magloire/Aldridge/whoever was available at center, 32 wins are a lot for a team expect to win around 20 games or so.

Still would have Sloan as my first pick, tho.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2007 12:40 pm
It is sad but if Sloan didn't get it this year I don't think he'll ever get it? Too bad since he is one of the coaches in the league that I respect and deserves a coach of the year award. Mitchell was very deserving of it, however, so it isn't like Sloan was robbed or anything. I think it really was a toss up between those two with the East coast bias being the deciding factor.

But Nate McMillan? His team won 32 games this year. If he is in the running then you would have to put Mussleman and Isiah Thomas in as well who both had more wins that Nate.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2007 12:56 pm
Thunder wrote:But Nate McMillan? His team won 32 games this year. If he is in the running then you would have to put Mussleman and Isiah Thomas in as well who both had more wins that Nate.


Yeah, but it's not only about wins. You have to take a good look to their rosters and what was expected at the beginning of the season. If not, Avery and D'Antonio should be the contenders year after year.

What I'm saying is that I expected Portland to win around 20 games, not 32.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2007 7:19 pm
Haven't checked up on it but hasn't Sloan already won a COY award? I thought he got it back in the 1996/97 when the Jazz went to the finals against the Bulls
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 2:06 am
Nope, here's the full list of winners:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_Coach_of_the_Year
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 3:54 am
Unbelievable that Phil Jackson only won once! Slaon and George Karl, two coaches with winning percentages ranked high alltime, haven't won once!
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 4:02 am
migya wrote:Unbelievable that Phil Jackson only won once! Slaon and George Karl, two coaches with winning percentages ranked high alltime, haven't won once!


What's even worse is that one of the worst coaches of the NBA, Doc Rivers, has one...
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 4:12 am
TMC wrote:
migya wrote:Unbelievable that Phil Jackson only won once! Slaon and George Karl, two coaches with winning percentages ranked high alltime, haven't won once!


What's even worse is that one of the worst coaches of the NBA, Doc Rivers, has one...



Yea but that Orlando Magic team had no talent and they got something like 41-41 record - One of the most overachieving seasons ever!
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 4:18 am
migya wrote:Yea but that Orlando Magic team had no talent and they got something like 41-41 record - One of the most overachieving seasons ever!


Yep, but that doesn't make him a good coach, just a good motivator (and he's one of the best at that). That team won because he was able to get to his players and make them play harder than they would for most coaches.

I know that's part of the job, but when it comes to X's and O's, he's one of the worst.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 4:54 am
TMC wrote:
migya wrote:Yea but that Orlando Magic team had no talent and they got something like 41-41 record - One of the most overachieving seasons ever!


Yep, but that doesn't make him a good coach, just a good motivator (and he's one of the best at that). That team won because he was able to get to his players and make them play harder than they would for most coaches.

I know that's part of the job, but when it comes to X's and O's, he's one of the worst.


It's a big part of the job. Either way,that season I was real impressed by what he was able to do with that very untalented and young team
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