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Greg Popovich & Steve Kerr.

The 2015-16 NBA Coach of the Year: Here are the top candidates

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With the regular season concluded and the playoffs in full swing, it's that time of the year in the NBA where the cream of the crop are recognised with individual awards before the ultimate team prize is lifted in June.

The majority of the awards recognise the players on the court, and rightly so, but the Coach of the Year award pays tribute to the men off the court who provide their teams with the right formula to win and be successful.

The league's MVP and Rookie of the Year honours are expected to be unanimous decisions, with Steph Curry and Karl-Anthony Towns being this year's recipients. 

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The Coach of the Year, however, is far from a foregone conclusion with a number of head coaches across the league displaying their outstanding coaching abilities. 

Here are the top candidates for the 2015/16 award:

Favourites

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Two

Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors)

After winning an NBA regular season record 73 wins, the Golden State Warriors deserve as many accolades as possible for what was an outstanding achievement. In any other year, their head coach would win the award hands down, but there's a slight problem on that front.

The Warriors had two coaches this year. After Kerr underwent back surgery last summer, he missed the start of the campaign and Luke Walton took charge for the first 43 games, going 39-4 in the process. NBA rules state an interim head coach can't be credited with wins, so Kerr will have the 73-9 record on his resume which makes him the favourite for the award.

There are those who will argue that because Kerr didn't 'coach' throughout the entire season - he was still involved in the background despite not coaching on the floor - he doesn't deserve to win the award. If that's the case, there are many other worthy winners. 

San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns

Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)

The league's longest-serving coach is still working wonders in San Antonio and quite frankly can win this award every year for what he continues to achieve with his team.

If it wasn't for the Warriors and their heroics, we would be hailing a special season for the Spurs in which they set a franchise record for wins and finished 67-15, losing just one game at home - matching the NBA record set by the 1985-86 Boston Celtics.

They were also the best defensive team in the league and are once again among the favourites to lift the Larry O'Brien trophy in June. But as I say, the men in Oakland have taken all the spotlight for themselves meaning Pop will probably have to miss out this year.

Portland Trail Blazers v Houston Rockets

Terry Stotts (Portland Trail Blazers)

After losing four of its starting five players - LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wes Matthews and Robin Lopez - the Trail Blazers were projected to have a losing season and miss out on the playoffs. Terry Stotts and star point guard Damian Lillard had other ideas, however. 

Against all odds, the franchise finished fifth in the Western Conference standings and made the postseason once again, ending the year with an impressive 44-38 record because of the circumstances.

There aren't many coaches in the West who can lose four starting players from a 51-win team and make the playoffs the following year, and for that, Stotts deserves a huge amount of credit.

In with a chance

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)

Hiring Stevens in 2013 has turned into a masterstroke for the Celtics. With a rebuilding job in place and a patient front office, the man out of Butler University has quietly turned the franchise into one of the most solid teams in the league.

After unexpectedly reaching the playoffs in 2014-15 - where they were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers - the team has come on leaps and bounds and comfortably secured a place in the postseason with a 48-34 record. They are the only team to have beaten both the Cavs and Golden State on the road - the top teams in the east and the west.

With no real superstar in their ranks, Stevens has done a great job of creating a collective unit who work tirelessly for one another. The 39-year-old is one of the best coaches in the league despite being the youngest and after finishing fourth in the Coach of the Year voting last year, he should move up the list, this time, around.

Charlotte Hornets v Miami Heat - Game One

Steve Clifford (Charlotte Hornets)

Since the beginning of February, the Hornets had the best record in the NBA behind only the Warriors and the Spurs and ended the campaign with a 48-34 record which ensured a return to the playoffs.

Being mentioned in the same breath as two historic teams is a testament to the job Steve Clifford has done in North Carolina and Michael Jordan deserves his kudos for sticking with him despite a poor season last year.  

Clifford led the Hornets to a terrific term and has enhanced his own reputation as one of the leading coaches around.

Outsiders

Toronto Raptors v Indiana Pacers

Dwayne Casey (Toronto Raptors)

Casey guided the Raptors to their best season in franchise history and presided over their first-ever 50-win campaign. The Canadian outfit battled with the Cavaliers for the top spot in the east for much of the year and only just fell short in the final games.  

Under the guidance of Casey, All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have become one of the best backcourts in the league and are on course to finally win a playoff series which the city has craved for so many years.

The Raptors are considered as the best challengers to Cleveland in the east and if they overcome the first-round - which has been their problem in the last two years - there is no telling how far they can go and Casey has been a big part of it.

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat)

After missing out on the playoffs last year following LeBron James' return to Cleveland, Spoelstra's credentials as a coach came into question. He has surely proven all the doubters wrong now, though, as he has brilliantly led the Miami Heat through that tricky spell. The Heat are many people's tips to make it to the Eastern Conference finals. 

With one of the deepest rosters in the league, Spoelstra has expertly coached the Heat and secured a third-placed finish in the east. After receiving minimal credit when he had the Big Three at his disposal, he must now take all the plaudits for the team's achievements, particularly as Chris Bosh has been out again.

With that adversity, he has reinvented the South Beach franchise's style and is showing why he really is one of the elite coaches around. 

Topics:
Charlotte Hornets
Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
NBA
Toronto Raptors
Atlantic Division
Miami Heat
San Antonio Spurs
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Northwest Division
Boston Celtics
Pacific Division
Portland Trail Blazers
Golden State Warriors

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