It looks like one of sports most persistent curses has struck again. Fans know about the Madden Curse, where everyone on the cover of the Madden video game get hurt or has a terrible season. But do fans know about the curse of the NBA coach of the year award?
If reports and speculation is correct than Toronto's Dwane Casey will win the 2017-18 NBA coach of the year award, but guess what? The Raptors just fired Dwane Casey. If true, and Casey wins the award he will join a long list of successful NBA coaches who lose their job after winning the award.
Four of the last six award winners have been unscathed by this curse. But Gregg Popovich seems to be the one man exempt from this curse. He has won the award 3 times, and is still coach of the San Antonio Spurs. In fact, he is the only person to coach beyond 5 years after winning the award. He first won the award in 2003. Last years winner Mike D'Antoni and the 2016 winner Steve Kerr still have their jobs. The 2012 and 2014 winner is Popavich The 2015 winner, Mike Budenholzer recently joined the curse when was let go by the Atlanta Hawks 3 years after winning the award.
The awards first winner was St Louis Hawks coach Harry Gallatin. He would also become the awards first casualty, being fired a season and a half later.
Even great coaches cannot survive the curse, and many great names have fallen to it. The first Hall-of-fame coach to get the award was Boston's Red Auerbach in 1965, and year later he retired. Other greats to lose or change their job after winning the award include Don Nelson, who left the Bucks after winning it twice; Pat Riley who has won the award 3 times, once each with the Lakers, Knicks, and Heat. But Riley would lose those jobs within a two years of winning the award. Phil Jackson's lone award came in 1996, two years later he was out of a job in Chicago.
There are a lot of reasons why this curse may be so persistent. One is that it often goes to coaches who have turned their team around. A lot of times these teams are not as good as they might seem and severely overachieve. This leads to unreasonable expectations and when the coach cannot meet them, they are fired. This is what happened to Hubie Brown in Memphis and Del Harris in Los Angeles.
Another factor is free agency is constantly taking away players and the teams management either cannot or will not replace solid players. This is what happened with Budenholzer in Atlanta, and to Tom Thibodeau in Chicago.
Also, sometimes coaches are near the end of the coaching career and get the award. This is what happened with Auerbach in Boston and Layden in Utah. Both got the award when they were older and near the end of their careers.
Sometimes a team just underachieves and does not live up to its billing and someone has to pay the price. This usually happens in the playoffs, and its exactly what has happened to Casey in Toronto. The Raptors where the top seed in the East and the expectation was that the team would make the East final or NBA finals.
Other times better coaching opportunists come by and the coach leaves to coach a bigger market. This is what happened to Nelson in Milwaukee and Riley in all three of his stints.
But the biggest issue seems to be lack of patience by ownership and management of the teams. General managers are not going to fire themselves, so somebody has to pay the price and the coach is the obvious choice.
The curse isnít going to change anytime soon. The fickle nature of the NBA makes sure of that.
Coach of the year award winners