5. Frank Vogel: The Pacers are 26-17, good for fifth in the East, and has played a tough schedule. Indiana getting all the way to second in the East isn’t out of the question.
6. P.J. Carlesimo: Don’t laugh. The Netropolitans were 14-14 under Avery Johnson. But under the oft-maligned Carlesimo, Brooklyn is 12-2 and has become a force in the East. Can an interim coach win the award? If the answer is yes, P.J. zooms up this list.
7. Vinny Del Negro: Often discounted while coaching the Bulls and even the Clippers, Del Negro has led the Clippers to great heights all season. At 32-11, they are contenders for the best record in the league.
8. Terry Stotts: The Blazers looked to be mired in the lottery. Instead, Portland is 21-21 and fighting for a playoff berth.
9. Gregg Popovich: Sort of like LeBron James, the idea of not giving the award to Pop every year is really just humanitarian. He’s the NBA’s best coach, and the ageless Spurs are 34-11, right on the heels of OKC for the league’s best record.
10. Larry Drew: The Hawks traded away Joe Johnson and got better. Some could see that coming. But 24-18? Atlanta will not be an easy playoff out.