On Wednesday night's RidiculousUpside.com Podcast, site writer Matthew Hochberg joined myself (Keith Schlosser) and Dakota Schmidt to discuss some end-of-the-season award candidates around the NBA D-League.
When "Coach of the Year" came up, we all had different responses: Pat Delany of the Sioux Falls Skyforce (KS), Nate Bjorkgren of the Iowa Energy (DS), and Joel Abelson of the Reno Bighorns (MH).
Coincidentally enough, Conner Henry of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants was briefly overlooked by each one of us. In Coach Henry's first season in town, Fort Wayne emerged as the first seed in the D-League after racking up 34 wins in the regular season.
Many other coaches in the minor league should be commended for being able to accomplish more with less (talent) on their respective teams' rosters. Still, there's something to be said about finding the right formula for success while mixing and matching different lineups, and keeping all of the existent talent on one's roster content with minutes and motivated towards the ultimate goal.
That was the very task Coach Henry and his staff had all season long. With a highly talent roster from A to Z, any number of players across the board in Fort Wayne could have been starters on other teams in the league, let alone worthy candidates for NBA call-ups. What's more, five NBA assignees, Jamaal Franklin (Memphis), Solomon Hill (Indiana), Orlando Johnson (Indiana), and Tony Mitchell (Detroit) & Peyton Siva (Detroit), donned Mad Ants' uniforms this season. Such abrupt and/or unexpected arrivals/departures can undoubtedly shake things up for an NBADL team looking to develop rhythm, but Coach Henry did his best to ensure the pot wasn't stirred all too much along the way. Keeping things in order takes a talented mentor.
Alas, the former NBA and international pro's efforts were not in vain after all. With the Mad Ants poised to take on the Skyforce in the semi-finals on Thursday night, Coach Henry has been named the league's "Coach of the Year" for the 2013-14 season by his fellow coaching peers.
Given his and the team's overall success, such an honor is a well deserved one at that.