Two NBA D-League Coaches Stand Out in "Coach of the Year" Race

NBA.com

It's easy to recognize the NBADL coaches with the best records as "Coach of the Year" candidates, but two coaches have been leading their teams while dealing with different things along the way. This is what truly propels them into the COY conversation.

It's always easy to draw parallels and say that the best team in a professional league's best player is a top leading candidate to come away with the M.V.P. trophy. That said, it's more important to examine just how crucial these players are to their respective team's success. Would the team be winning without them? What kind of contributions or adjustments have they made to make their squad better?

As it just so happens, a similar line of thinking undoubtedly comes into play when also considering potential "Coach of the Year" candidates.

In the NBA D-League, it'd be easy to say that the Bakersfield Jam's Will Voigt and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers' Nick Nurse are most deserving because each coach has led their team to the NBADL's two best overall records so far this season. With that in mind, however, it's not all abut the records themselves that helps each man stand out, but rather under what circumstances the coach has helped his squad attain such success.

Coach Voigt has gone from attempting to balance his team's rotation and managing the minutes of certain NBA assignees to now even going further to get his squad to buy into hitting opponents hard with a total team effort on both ends of the floor each and every night. An NBA affiliate of four teams, the Jam have already hosted a handful of players on assignment n Bakersfield this season.

But after taking a bit of a back seat to Suns' guard Kendall Marshall and accept a sixth man role, Jerel McNeal has since emerged as a leader for the Jam in the last few weeks. The combo guard's recent NBADL All-Star selection only proves he's on his way to solidfying his presence as a very promising prospect.

McNeal may have Coach Voigt to partially thank for that, as the man in charge had faith in the 25 year old and trusted him to be a leader of the team. What's more, while some NBA alum in the D-League look to dominate the competition, standing out as the league's top scorer doesn't always catapult you back into The Association. With that in mind, the Jam coach has gotten Damion James to buy into his system, and James has thrived immensely while maturing and doing all of the little things that big league teams take note of. So far this season, James has already received a call-up from the Nets.

The list of players making key contributors goes on, but the beauty of it is that they are all coming within the flow of the game as each player allows things to come to them. With no one player on the Jam representing that of a D-League superstar, Coach Voigt has seemed to find the perfect formula for a strong balanced enough effort to lead his team to the league's top spot.

Whereas Coach Voigt and the Jam may not have that evident star power, that's where Coach Nurse and the Vipers keep on cashing in. RGV has all the top talent in the world, complete with dominant scorers and a bevy of players on assignment from the Rockets.

That said, Coach Nurse's ability to help his team keep up the level of consistency has been key. With so many players getting sent back and forth between the Rockets and their minor league affiliate, it may prove difficult for a coach to make sure his team maintains that same level of stability while not necessarily knowing who will be on the court each and every night. As talented of a player as Rockets' swingman Terrence Jones has been, Coach Nurse has had to ensure that any number of his players are ready to step up in Jones' absence in order for RGV to keep up their winning ways.

In addition to letting players like (now full-time Viper) Scott Machado and Tim Ohlbrecht play well within their means and succeed by doing what they do best, Coach Nurse has also embraced new RGV guard Andrew Goudelock as one of the leaders of his squad. The ever so talented high-scoring combo guard has responded well, emerging as an M.V.P. candidate himself while leading the Vipers to a very impressive record through his still young tenure. Goudelock, Coach Nurse, and their gang currently own the D-League's second best record.

Of course, both Coach Voigt of the Jam and Coach Nurse have led their teams to the NBA D-League's top best records thus far, making them easy candidates for "Coach of the Year." That said, its been the way they've managed their teams well enough to create balanced and consistent efforts, no matter what the circumstances may be, that helps each one truly stand out above the rest.

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