The NBA D-League is a place where so many people --- from players, coaches, front office staffers, referees, and more, come and go, often moving on to greener pastures from year to year.
Such promotions are what the minor league is all about, but should players cash in on more lucrative opportunities (be it in the NBA or overseas) midseason, it can prove tricky for teams to maintain continuity and remain competitive throughout. It's the nature of the beast, but that doesn't mean coaching staffs aren't dealt with difficult hands to play as a respective campaign progresses. Should a team's top player be called up, it's up to a head coach and their lieutenants to recognize which player can be depended on to step up, fill the void, and serve as a team's respective top scorer, floor general, defensive anchor, etc, all the while hoping the team doesn't miss a beat along the way.
With all of that in mind, credit Santa Cruz Warriors' head coach Casey Hill with doing everything necessary to ensure his team stayed afloat from start to finish this season.
Joe Alexander was stepping up big time for the team early on, even looking like an NBA call-up candidate in the season's first few weeks. He left town to take advantage of an international opportunity. Golden State affiliate player Mitchell Watt followed suit. The team traded fellow affiliate player Sean Kilpatrick (who went on to earn an NBA call-up with the Timberwolves) for 76ers' affiliate player Ronald Roberts, but,he too, flocked abroad following just two games with Santa Cruz. James Michael McAdoo earned a call-up to Golden State, and fellow D-League all-star Elliot Williams was also strutting his stuff in the NBA for different parts of the year as well.
This left Coach Hill and Co. with plenty of voids to fill, but they found success by instilling their collective trust in the likes of Darington Hobson, Dominique Sutton, and Blake Ahearn.
The aforementioned players are quality contributors for a minor league club like Santa Cruz. There's no doubt about that. Still, to be able to get them each to buy into the team's mentality, all the while not disrupting chemistry, is reflective of the type of respect Coach Hill warrants from his players. He relates well to all and is seemingly as equally as invested in their futures. What's more, he's able to see special things in certain prospects that fellow coaches/staffers may have otherwise doubted or written off previously.
Nevertheless, for his efforts over the course of this campaign, not only is Coach Hill well deserving of an NBA call-up in his own right, but he's also earned RidiculousUpside.com's Coach of the Year honors for the 2014-15 D-League season.
Coach Hill has already led the Warriors to the D-League Finals twice, once as an assistant under Nate Bjorkgren, and again last season in his first year as head coach. It'll be interesting to see if he can continue the trend following a 35-15 regular season.
Runner-up for RU's C.O.Y award: Longtime NBA assistant Phil Weber, who led the Sioux Falls Skyforce to a 31-19 record and their first division title.
Last season's winner: Sioux Falls Skyforce head coach Pat Delany.