To be honest, I was a little confused when the Austin Spurs announced that they signed former G League point guard Blake Ahearn to be their new head coach last July. Obviously, that confusion wasn’t due to him being an unknown person as he spent a little more than four seasons in the league from 2007-08 to 2011-12 where he played for the Dakota Wizards (now Santa Cruz Warriors), Austin Toros (now Spurs), Bakersfield Jam (now Northern Arizona Suns), Erie Bayhawks (now Lakeland Magic) and Reno Bighorns (now Stockton Kings). He made a brief return in 2014-15 to play with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the one team that hasn’t moved or had their names changed.
The uncertainty surrounding Ahearn was largely due to his prior work as a coach. Before signing with Austin, he coached at two separate high schools: De Smet Jesuit High School and Clayton High School, which are both located in Missouri. During his stints at those two schools, his teams struggled as Clayton and De Smet went 7-17 and 12-16 respectively.
So while it isn’t unseen for high school coaches to make their way to the G League, as we saw in 2012-13 when Mike Peck signed onto coach the Idaho Stampede, Ahearn’s lack of success at that level made his move to the G League into something that was a bit confusing.
However, my confusion wasn’t exactly warranted as Ahearn’s Austin Spurs quickly established themselves as probably the most well-rounded teams in the entire G League. That balance was evident when you look at the team’s stats as they’re the only team that were in the top-10 in both offense and defense.
From an offensive perspective, they were 7th in the league as they averaged 108.7 points per 100 possessions. That success was also seen on the other end of the ball as they held opponents to only score 103.8 points per 100, which placed them as the 8th best defense in the G League. Their dominance on both ends of the ball ultimately allowed them to finish the regular season at 32-18, which placed them as the top squad in the Eastern Conference.
Due to the new format of the G League playoffs which allows 12 teams (six per each conference) in, the Spurs had a first round bye. While that was looked at as a benefit for elite teams, it actually ended up as a detriment as three of the four teams ended up losing their initial games.
Austin was the lone squad to actually win as they beat the RGV Vipers 117-91. That dominance continued as they remained undefeated throughout the remainder of the playoffs as they beat the Lakers in the Conference Finals and swept the Raptors 905 in the NBA G League Finals. In fact, that series win over the 905 meant that Blake Ahearn was the second straight rookie coach to win a G League Finals, as Stackhouse led the 905 to one back in the 2016-17 season.
So because of him pushing the Spurs to a G League title while allowing them to be a top-10 team on both ends of the court, Ridiculous Upside is proud to announce that Blake Ahearn is their 2017-18 NBA G League Coach of the Year.
Runner-up: Mike Miller - Westchester Knicks: Although they lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Raptors 905, Mike Miller helped push the Knicks to have an amazing season during the 2017-18 campaign. Alongside the 32-18 record, he did a great job of pushing his players to the NBA as each member of their opening day starting 5 (Trey Burke, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Nigel Hayes, Isaiah Hicks and Luke Kornet) all spent some time in the NBA at some point during the season.
Last year’s winner: Jerry Stackhouse - Raptors 905