Recently, Matt Moore of CBS Sports ranked every head coach in the NBA 1-30. Jeff Hornacek came in sixth overall, tied with the Hornets' Steve Clifford. Before you go digging for your pitchforks, realize that Moore has been a staunch supporter of the Suns recently and you can thus deduce that these rankings were arrived at objectively.
Hornacek was ranked behind Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Doc Rivers, Erik Spoelstra, and Tom Thibodeau.
It's always a rather nebulous task to rank such a thing as head coaching. Who's to say how much of a team's success is to be attributed to the influence of their coach, rather than perhaps despite their coach? Save for a few rare examples like Popovich, no one can say for sure. Of the last ten recipients of the annual Coach of the Year award, half are currently without a head coaching job in the NBA -- this should tell you all you need to know about the league-wide coaching climate.
All that said, I find Moore's rankings to be fair for the most part. Hornacek's impact on the Suns' franchise was immense in 2013/14, but he still only has that single year of coaching under his belt. I can understand that he needs to prove his methods for more than a calendar year before officially rising to the cream of the proverbial crop.
From the article:
The Suns were supposed to tank last year and instead wound up just a few games short of a playoff spot. That could have been just an outlier year where things went right, or a singular performance by a player. But while Goran Dragic was something special in 2013-2014, the Suns legitimately shocked the league with their playstyle. They shared the ball and played fundamentally sound. They shot extremely well but they also shared the ball and focused on playing inside and out.
Hornacek's spacing opened up new worlds for their roster and several young players made unexpected leaps under the tutelage of Hornacek's staff. The players also lavished Hornacek with praise not only for how he built and executed gameplans but also for how he handled the locker room and ran the team.
Worth noting, all five coaches ranked above of Hornacek have won championships (Thibodeau as a high-profile assistant with the Celtics). About the only gripe I have with the rankings themselves is that Hornacek was ranked evenly with Clifford.
I must admit my bias, not only as a Suns fan but as a man who is incapable of taking seriously any events that occur within the Charlotte Bobcats franchise. Steve Clifford may have done a masterful job in Charlotte (I really wouldn't know), especially considering that the Bobcats were historically bad only two seasons prior, but isn't it a bit of a no-brainer to give Hornacek the edge based solely on the virtue of competing in the brutal Western Conference?
Both Hornacek and Clifford were rookie coaches that took over floundering teams. Hornacek steered his team to 48 wins in the West, while Clifford's Horncats managed 43 wins in the East.
Am I missing something here?
Even the blurb listed with Clifford's ranking has an apologetic tone:
The Bobcats flew under the radar last year, and then just popped up in the playoffs randomly. They were swept away in a Heat supercurrent, made none the easier to stop after Al Jefferson went down with a torn plantar fascia. And on the surface, 43 wins is nothing to get excited about.
But Charlotte had a lot of really interesting trends. They were legitimately good against top teams often times during the year. Their record was greatly impacted by a couple of road-trip meltdowns that resulted in long strings of losses, to be expected for a young team.
They had one of the best marks for defending the paint in the league... despite not having a rim protector. On offense, they moved the ball and made the right play... they just didn't have any shooters. Still, the Cats were a tough out, and now with the Hornets logo on their chest instead of that depressing Bobcats set, they also have a lot more weapons to play with. The Hornets seem like a solid lock for the playoffs and could push for a top-three seed.
A tough out? Steve Clifford is on par with Jeff Hornacek because of his team's ability to foul off pitches? And is it just me, or is "legitimately good against top teams often times during the year" an exceptionally hollow endorsement?
Anyway, we should be happy with the recognition Hornacek has received. It may take another year to prove himself as elite, but last I checked, recognition is not a valid form of currency anyway. These rankings exist to fuel debate, so I figured I'd have a go.
What's your take, Bright Siders? Are these rankings fair, or did they do our boy dirty?