Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone was announced as a Coach of the Year finalist on Friday night along with Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers and Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks.
This is extremely well deserved for Malone who led the Nuggets to 54 wins and the second seed in the brutal Western Conference after failing to make the playoffs a year ago. Since Malone took over four years ago, the Nuggets have slowly, but consistently, grown into a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.
Malone was hired by Denver in 2015 and the Nuggets have improved record wise every year with him at the helm. In Malone’s first year as the Nuggets coach they won 33 games. In his second year, Denver won 40 games and ended up just one game outside of the playoffs. In his third season, Denver won 46 games and fell one game outside of the playoffs for the second-straight year. With 54 victories this past year, the Nuggets made their first playoff appearance in six seasons and advanced to the second-round for the first time since 2009.
Victories are one thing, but Malone has also done a tremendous job of changing the Nuggets culture. Before Malone accepted the head coaching position with Denver, the Nuggets franchise was near rock bottom. Now, they are perceived as one of the strongest cultures in the league currently and a large portion of that turnaround is thanks to Malone.
The winner of the Coach of the Year award will be announced on June 24th at 7pm MDT on TNT.