The NBA announced three finalists for the 2018-19 Coach of the Year award via Twitter on Friday night, and the Nuggets’ Michael Malone is among them. Malone is joined by Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks and Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers. The league will announce the winner on June 24th, when the 2019 NBA Awards air on TNT at 7:00 pm MST.
When Denver hired Malone in June of 2015, the Nuggets had won just 30 games the season prior. The 2018-19 Nuggets were propelled to 54 wins by their continuity, but for much of Malone’s tenure, the doors to his locker room were revolving ones. Players came and went, but Malone and his young core improved with each season. They won 33 games in his first year—then 40, then 46, then 54.
Those 54 wins are particularly impressive. Injuries to crucial players marred the Nuggets, a team built around one of the youngest cores in the league and a rotation that featured two former G League players. But they rose above it all and advanced to the second round for the first time in 10 years. Malone is a deserving candidate, and his evolution from a coach on the hot seat to a fan favorite was one of the better subplots of the season.