What a difference one month makes.
On June 6, we had a list of four coaches who made some case as to why they were in running for the 2014 Coach of the Year award, assuming that they continued to lead their teams to wins on the court. Only one coach from that list has done enough to keep her team on the right track. Another coach who wasn't on last time has built a good resume of his own since then. Needless to say, they are my top candidates for the award thus far:
1. Sandy Brondello, Phoenix Mercury (13-3)
The Mercury has been the WNBA's only true elite team through this point in the season. Nate mentioned to you all last Saturday that efficiency differentials are a good way to determine which teams are elite and which ones aren't. Currently, their offensive rating is 112.7 while their defensive rating is 102.1, a differential of 10.6 points per 100 possessions. That is best in the league by a lot.
While the Mercury's defensive rating is just sixth in the league, consider this. The team was 10th in 2013, 12th in 2012, 9th in 2011, 12th in 2010, and 13th (out of 13 teams) in 2009. When you also add that this is Brondello's first year on the job in Phoenix, that's only a plus. If I could vote for the Coach of the Year, I give it to her.
2. Michael Cooper, Atlanta Dream (12-5)
The Dream was 4-3 in the first checkup on who the Coach of the Year may be. But Atlanta has gone 8-2 from June 6 through July 6, and have a big lead in the standings over a glut of otherwise mediocre teams. Atlanta is also second in efficiency differential, and 5-0 against Western Conference teams. Should this team continue to play the way it is, those Phoenix games in August will definitely be must see TV!
There are a couple other coaches I want to give some props to. They probably won't win this award or even be in contention, but have made some notable improvements.
Dan Hughes, San Antonio Stars (10-9)
A 10-9 record is mediocre. I know that. But the Stars currently find themselves in third place in the West, when most people believed that some combination of Phoenix, Minny, and L.A. would lock those spots up early. Sure, part of the reason why they are third is because the Sparks have sucked during June. But the Stars also had a 2-1 record against them so far this season too.
Also let's consider this. After 19 games in the 2013 season, the Stars were just 6-13. This season, they have won four more games after 19. They still don't have an easy schedule for the rest of the season by any means, but it should be no shock to see them finish above .500 in the regular season.
Anne Donovan, Connecticut Sun (9-10)
I know Connecticut is below .500. But after a 2-6 start to the 2014 season (it was also their record right before the first COY post), the Casino Crew went 7-4, and even had a six-game winning streak. Yes, the Sun, followed that up with another four-game losing streak, but this young team definitely deserves some props for the big win streak nevertheless. Most weren't expecting it before hand.
Coaches no longer in consideration at the present time:
Three of the four coaches mentioned in the first post have fallen out of favor with me. Here are some more details why.
Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx (13-6)
After their 7-0 start, the Lynx have gone 6-6. That's a .500 record. Two of those losses came to the Seattle Storm on the road, and another two to the Phoenix Mercury.
Then Minnesota is also coming off a Sunday loss to the New York Liberty, a team that was at the bottom of the Eastern Conference until after that game.
Hopefully they can find some consistency because this team is still capable of winning 25 games for the fourth straight year.
Pokey Chatman, Chicago Sky (8-10)
After a 5-1 start, the Sky went 3-9 after that. Much of that has been due to injuries to Elena Delle Donne and now Courtney Vandersloot. However, Sylvia Fowles has returned. If the Sky can get back above .500 and get at least 20 wins to finish the regular season, then it's possible to see her back in the race. But otherwise, it's going to be really hard given how Brondello and Cooper separated themselves from the pack.
Mike Thibault, Washington Mystics (7-12)
The Mystics are a league-worst 3-10 from June 6 through July 6. Because of that and seeing a newly acquired Seattle post player bounce back from a funk last year, some of their fans may be demanding Mike Thibault's job.
But to the basketball blogosphere, not just me, we collectively believe that Thibault is doing the right thing long term for Washington. We demanded that he build the team with a new young group. He has delivered. And if they end up last in the East this year, another major partner in crime will join this group next year.
Given his track record, let the man continue to build the team, and the Mystics may just turn out to be one of the W's perennial contenders, sooner than you may think.
Though it looks like Brondello or Cooper are in the position to win the 2014 WNBA Coach of the Year award, would you vote for someone else? If so, who? Share your thoughts in the comments below.