The NBA D-League announced that Alex Jensen of the Canton Charge has been named the league's "Coach of the Year" for the 2012-13 season.
The decision to award one recipient with an honor like that over another is usually debatable, but alas, not so much so, in this case. Jensen should have been the clear-cut favorite for such an award, and without a doubt, he was.
The "Coach of the Year" award seems tailor-made for a man with the plan like Jensen. He may not have been able to help the Charge secure the very top seed in the NBADL, but there's no doubt he did the best he could and managed to get the most out of his players.
Out of the D-League two other fellow division leaders, the first-place Bakersfield Jam were led by two NBA call-ups from this season, Jerel McNeal and Damion James. The second-place Rio Grande Valley Vipers (the affiliate of the Houston Rockets) reaped the benefits of having a plethora of Rockets assignees don their uniform this year.
For the Charge, things were a bit different. Though Canton is in fact the single-affiliate of the Cleveland Cavaliers, it makes more sense for the NBA squad to keep their younger talent in town and develop them in The Association, as opposed to the D-League. Canton did welcome the likes of Josh Selby and Jon Leuer to town this season, but such assignments were both short-lived. Cavs' forward Kevin Jones was seen the most in Canton, but even he only played in 12 games.
Canton's roster isn't exactly full of prime NBA prospects currently knocking the door down in hopes of big-league call-ups. Going down the list, there aren't any clear-cut household names, either.
As mentioned previously, if there were, they'd probably be getting more time to develop in Cleveland than Canton.
But none of this ever seemed to matter to or discourage Coach Jensen from attempting to develop a winner. He found the strengths of a bevy of players, putting them in the best possible position to succeed and show off their abilities. Not too worried about guys getting called up or sent back and forth between leagues, Canton was able to instead focus on winning and playing together like a unit.
Jensen's guidance not only led his team to a division-leading 30-20 record this season, but will also likely go on to help a number of his players earn spots on NBA Summer League rosters this coming July. The fact remains that big league executives value winning, and if nothing else, each of Coach Jensen's players can be considered such after the season they completed.
Coach Jensen seems to understand how to nurture raw prospects, developing their games and helping them shine. Gritty forward Ryan Rossiter is a prime example. Heading into the D-League season, Rossiter was known for not being afraid to do the dirty work. He could defend and rebound well, and wasn't afraid to throw his body around, either. With the season now complete, Rossiter has expanded his game, all because Jensen wasn't afraid to help him explore different facets of his abilities. The forward was seen helping the Charge spread the floor as a long-range shooter all season long.
Jorge Gutierrez is another great example of a player Coach Jensen helped nurture. The point guard will likely go on to garner NBA consideration next season as he continues to develop. As a rookie in Canton, Gutierrez was given the green light to run the show and be a floor general. He may have buckled under the pressure in the playoffs a bit, but there's no doubt he made strides while learning how to set up his teammates the right way and be an outstanding team player.
These are just a couple of examples of players that Coach Jensen helped grow tenfold over the course of the season. The fact remains that the coach's efforts can be easily recognized across the board with this roster, as he guided such a group to quite the impressive winning season.