Budenholzer wins coaching honor, and it shouldn’t have been close

Mike Budenholzer finished with 67 first-place votes to Steve Kerr’s 56. (Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images)

Mike Budenholzer finished with 67 first-place votes to Steve Kerr’s 56. (Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images)

Steve Kerr is a really good coach. A team, even one as talented as Golden State, doesn’t go 67-15 unless the head coach knows what he’s doing. But it’s clear Kerr has done the second-best coaching job in the NBA this season and it’s stunning the vote for coach of the year was so close.

The award went to the Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer, as it should have. The Hawks went 60-22 in the regular season, a more than slight improvement over last year’s record of 38-44. There was no significant change in the roster, save having Al Horford for an entire season. Kerr, who finished a relatively close second in the voting, inherited a team that went 51-31 the year before and finished 67-15.

The Hawks’ won-loss percentage jumped from .463 to .732 — 269 points. The Warriors’ won-loss percentage jumped from .622 to .817 — 185 points.

The Hawks have a backcourt of Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. Very good. The Warriors have a backcourt of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Crazy good.

Danny Ferry built this team but Budenholzer has made every player better and got all of them to buy into a share-the-ball, pace-and-space system. The Hawks don’t have anybody close with the star power of Curry but still finished fourth in the league in scoring (102.5 points) and  second in assists (25.7).

But according to the voting, Budenholzer finished with 67 first-place votes to Kerr’s 56. There were 130 ballots cast (5-3-1 scoring system), and Budenholzer finished with 513 points to Kerr’s 471.

Seven voters did not place either Budenholzer or Kerr in first: San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich had three first-place votes, Boston’s Brad Stevens two, and Milwaukee’s Jason Kidd and Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau one each.

One voter, Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, left Budenholzer off of his ballot completely. His ballot: Popovich, Kerr and Stevens in that order.

So Mike Budenholzer hasn’t done one of the three best coaching jobs in the NBA this season according to Ding? File this one under the world’s great mysteries Maybe if the Hawks had won 61 games, Budenholzer would’ve warranted a third-place vote.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is among a number of major newspapers that does not allow its writers to vote for awards, except the Hall of Fame.

Atlanta broadcasters with votes were Andre Aldridge of Fox Sports South (Budenholzer, Kerr, Kidd), Bob Rathbun of Fox Sports South (Budenholzer, Utah’s Quin Snyder, Kerr) and Steve Holman of the Hawks’ radio network (Budenholzer, Kerr, Kidd).

There obviously are conflicts of interest among many voters. Holman works for the Hawks. Aldridge and Rathbun are employed by a team broadcast partner. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s Jim Barnett is in his 30th year broadcasting Warriors games. Dell Curry, who works for Fox Sports Carolina, is the father of Golden State’s Steph Curry. But the hope in situations like this is that perceived biases balance each other out.

To see every voter's ballot, click here

Here’s the voting breakdown:

Coach, Team                                      1st                       2nd                3rd                Pts
Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta                67                 58                 4                 513
Steve Kerr, Golden State                      56                 61                 8                471
Jason Kidd, Milwaukee                       1                   5                   37                 57
Brad Stevens, Boston                           2                   4                   28               50
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio              3                   —               23                38
Kevin McHale, Houston                      —                   —                  13               13
Tom Thibodeau, Chicago                    1                   1                    2                   10
Quin Snyder, Utah                               —                   1                    4                    7
David Blatt, Cleveland                         —                   —                   3                  3
Doc Rivers, L.A. Clippers                    —                   —                   2                 2
Terry Stotts, Portland                          —                   —                   2                  2
Rick Carlisle, Dallas                            —                   —                    1                   1
Dwane Casey, Toronto                        —                   —                   1                   1
Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix                       —                   —                  1                   1
Monty Williams, New Orleans             —                   —                1                   1