This is one of the hardest measures in basketball, how good or bad of a job is a head coach doing?
It’s a very subjective topic that poses questions like….
Is the team stacked with talent and anyone could coach that team and win?
Are injuries a factor throughout the season?
Do we purely measure a coach on overall wins and championships?
What data is really out there that we can say a coach was fully responsible for vs a player?
So many questions and really a lot of it comes down to opinions rather than data based evidence.
Here is an attempt at using data for what I deem to be 3 important measures of a coach’s performance and how this year’s crop of NBA coaches ranks overall.
The 3 Measures:
2. Player Development
3. Coaching under pressure
To come up with an overall ranking of coaches, I didn’t just want to rank coaches 1 to 30 as it wouldn’t show the proportion of how good of a job some coaches are doing and how poorly others are.
Therefore I have weighted the 3 Coaching Measures by:
Wins (Pre Season vs Current) = 60%
Player Development = 20%
Coaching under pressure = 20%
At the end of the day winning matters and it’s always going to be the most important measure of how a coach has performed. Is 60% the right number? No, it’s my opinion but I feel it’s in the ball park for how a coach is going to be judged when it’s all said and done.
To get to a final ranking, as well as giving a weight to the 3 measures I have also normalized the numbers (Nerd Alert) to spit out a rating out of 100 for each coach.
I have also allowed for injuries in the final ranking as this is a major factor in the final outcome for a team. An injury factor is applied to the 1st coaching measure of Pre-Season predicted wins vs Current projected wins before calculating the final ranking.
Injury data was sourced from (https://www.mangameslost.com/)
Here are the rankings:
Looking at the results they seem to give a pretty accurate ranking vs public/expert opinion.
If you listen to “NBA Experts” the top names you will hear for this year’s coach of the year are Mike D’Antoni (HOU), Greg Popovich (SAS), Brad Stevens (BOS), Quin Snyder (UTA), Erik Spoelstra (MIA) and Scott Brooks (WAS) all of these coaches are inside my top 10.
My rankings however show there is a clear top 3 this year with D’Antoni (HOU), Brooks (WAS) and Popovich (SAS) leading the way.
At the bottom end we have:
Kenny Atkinson at Brooklyn (Poor player development, Brooklyn has no draft picks and have decided to take flyers on a lot of youth with a few years of experience. There was always going to be a lot of failures)
Terry Stotts at Portland (Under achieved vs projected wins, a curse of a better than expected year last year and higher expectations)
Vogel at Orlando (Under achieved vs projected wins, an unbalanced roster was always going to be hard to coach)
There was one surprise in the rankings which is always going to happen as no model is ever 100% correct....
Rick Carlisle of Dallas coming in 25th.
This was the biggest oddity for me as the eye test would say Rick is doing a fantastic job with a pretty mediocre roster. Looking at the injury data, I found Dallas was ranked as the 7th most impacted team by injuries, so this is certainly a big factor.
Secondly the pre-season expectations for the Mavs was probably a little too high in hindsight, I have no doubt the “Dallas is always competitive” being a factor in an inflated pre-season projection.
Overall it appears as though the model has done a pretty reasonable job at ranking the performance of coaches this year with a clear top 3 to choose from. If we are handing out awards it goes to Mike D’Antoni of Houston who is highly likely to receive the actual award come seasons end.