Coach of the Second Trimester

February, 27, 2014
2/27/14
7:27
PM ET

Coach of the Second Trimester: Jeff Hornacek, Suns


You've heard me register the same woe-is-me moan for years now: Coach of the Year voting always attracts the deepest and most challenging crowd to break down.

But don't worry. You won't hear that whine this time.

Toronto's Dwane Casey, Chicago's Tom Thibodeau and Charlotte's Steve Clifford are all winning games in the Eastern Conference at a how-is-that-possible rate. Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks and San Antonio's Gregg Popovich boast gaudy win totals despite the various injuries their teams have endured. And Portland's progress under Terry Stotts continues to be eye-catching even when you factor in the Blazers' February slump.

This race, though, is largely a non-race with one Trimester to go. The 2013-14 Coach of the Year trophy, with 20-odd games remaining in the regular season, is Jeff Hornacek's to lose.

It doesn't matter which worthy contenders you wish to nominate. The successful likes of Dallas' Rick Carlisle and the Los Angeles Clippers' Doc Rivers aren't even being talked about because of what Hornacek is pulling off with a group we're all pretty much guilty of projecting to be in Orlando-and-Philly territory.

Even in the Suns' 27 games without marquee offseason acquisition Eric Bledsoe, they're 14-13 despite fielding a lineup filled with role players and castoffs. The Suns' current three-game losing streak is being portrayed in some precincts as the first reliable sign that the Desert Cinderellas are finally poised to implode ... but be advised that Suns MVP Goran Dragic's freshly sprained ankle contributed mightily to two of the three defeats.

And Bledsoe is expected back reasonably soon.

So ...

If Phoenix indeed does continue to falter and finally slips out of the West's top eight, as know-it-alls like me have been expecting for weeks, perhaps that opens things up for one of the coaches in charge of the Eastern Conference surprise teams has a shot.

But if the Suns hang onto a playoff spot in a season where they were widely presumed to have a 20-win ceiling? Hornacek will trump Casey, Thibodeau, Clifford and anyone else you want to pitch when the official COY votes are tabulated.

Finishing ninth in the West with a winning record, frankly, might be enough.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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