On March 17th, the NBA G League named current Eastern Michigan head coach Stan Heath as their 2021 Dennis Smith Coach of the Year for his work with the Lakeland Magic. Within their press release, the league cited Lakeland ending the regular season hot with winning five of their six games, their top-ranked defense, and eventually surprising the world to win the G League title as the reasons behind that selection.
As someone that had Heath as one of the finalists for the award, that selection made sense as the veteran head coach did a great job with getting a band of unfamiliar players to play as a strong collective on the defensive end. Despite respecting the selection from the group of G League head coaches that led to Heath winning, I’m going in another direction with this award.
If you followed this site during the 2021 G League season, you would’ve probably realized that I was high on the Raptors 905. Towards the end of the regular season, there was a two-part series using both statistics and video to break down how the 905 were able to average an all-time best 118.3 points per 100 possessions and finish the year with a league-best 12-3 record. In both pieces, the main consensus behind their phenomenal offense dealt with great ball movement and working together as an unselfish collective unit that led the league in both assists (27.1 per 100) and 3-point percentage (37.6%).
While Alize Johnson played well enough to warrant a spot as one of the site’s finalists for MVP, each player that rocked 905 across their chest did a phenomenal job in the role that they were given. Whether it was Gary Payton II hounding opposing ball-handlers and getting into passing lanes, Henry Ellenson raining it from deep, Nik Stauskas offering quality veteran leadership, or Matt Mooney and Morgan sharing the load as their facilitators, every player on the team knew their role and were able to shine as bright as the sun in an Arizona desert during the middle of July.
Although the talents of each of those players played a big part in the team’s success, a lot of credit still goes to Patrick Mutombo. That’s both through how he’s been able to build separate rotations with those players and also getting them to buy in. As Raptors Republic’s Andrew Damelin did a great job of describing in a piece from March, the team didn’t initially buy in, as issues with shot selection and giving up too many offensive rebounds were the two main issues that Patrick harped on when the 905 started the year at 4-3.
However, the tides turned and the 905 ended up finishing the year with a tremendous eight-game winning streak that vaulted them to be the kings of the G League. In my eyes, that ability to get a group of strangers that had only started playing with each other a few weeks prior to make a full 180-degree turn and buy in is a testament to the tremendous work that Patrick did as the team’s head coach.
Unfortunately for the team, a 127-100 defeat to the Delaware Blue Coats in the 2nd round of the G League playoffs prevented the 905 from ending the great season on a high note. However, that one defeat shouldn’t take away the great work that the 905 did during the prior 16 games from the regular season and their 1st round win over the G League Ignite.
In his first season as a head coach at any level of basketball, he was able to lead a team through a significant level of strife and put the pieces together that led to the Raptors 905 having the best offensive season in G League history. Those accomplishments are why Ridiculous Upside is proud to announce that Raptors 905 head coach Patrick Mutombo is our pick for G League Coach of the Year for the 2021 season.