NBA

Who will be the NBA’s next coach of the year?

Michael Dwyer/AP

No fewer than 10 names can be called candidates for NBA coach of the year. That many have presided over situations that require the steadiest of hands for one reason or another, whether it’s managing injuries, massaging egos, reinventing a culture or just merely being themselves.

For the purposes of this exercise, we’ve narrowed the field to five, focusing on four contenders for COY and ending with who should be the winner. So with all due respect to Houston’s Mike D’Antoni, Portland’s Terry Stotts, New Orleans’s Alvin Gentry, Golden State’s Steve Kerr and, of course, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, better luck next year.

Michael Dwyer/AP

Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

George Bridges/AP

Remember when Gordon Hayward suffered one of the most gruesome leg injuries you’ve ever seen five minutes into the first game of the NBA season? So does Stevens, who has been mixing and matching because of a torrent of health problems all season, yet his Celtics are at 53 wins and two games out of the top seed in the East. His most recent feat is to coax a six-game winning streak out of a makeshift roster that has seen some combination of six of its top eight players miss at least one game during that stretch.

George Bridges/AP

Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz

Rick Bowmer/AP

It can’t hurt Snyder’s cause that right after the Jazz lost the face of its franchise (Hayward), another emerged almost immediately in standout rookie Donovan Mitchell. But Snyder still had to keep his team on track and guide it through not just Hayward’s departure but an injury to Rudy Gobert, Utah’s anchor and one of the best defensive players in the league, who missed 26 games. The result is that the Jazz is primed to make the playoffs in the ultracompetitive West and can still finish its regular season in position to enjoy home-court advantage in the first round.

Rick Bowmer/AP

Nate McMillan, Indiana Pacers

Rick Bowmer/AP

Consider the case of McMillan, who showed up in time for the Pacers to lose one superstar in Paul George but in the process receive a rising star, Victor Oladipo, in exchange. No one predicted Oladipo’s explosive emergence upon returning to his old college stomping grounds but even fewer expected Indiana to figure into the Eastern Conference playoff picture at all, let alone challenge for the No. 3 seed. McMillan, who flamed out as a coach in Seattle and Portland and felt like a retread when the Pacers hired him to replace Frank Vogel after the 2015-2016 season, deserves plenty of credit.

Rick Bowmer/AP

Brett Brown, Philadelphia 76ers

Darron Cummings/AP

Here’s Brown, owner of a 75-253 record over his first four seasons, coaching the 76ers and Trusting The Process. This year, with Joel Embiid finally healthy (before last week’s unfortunate broken face) and rookie Ben Simmons channeling Magic Johnson, the Sixers have become a borderline force, with a legitimate shot at 50 victories while riding a 10-game winning streak into their first playoff appearance since 2012. That Brown was not only allowed to see The Process actually come to fruition but did so without losing his mind and is thus now able to enjoy the fruits of that labor makes him a real contender for COY honors.

Darron Cummings/AP

Dwane Casey, Toronto Raptors

Michael Dwyer/AP

Worthy as the other candidates are, Casey gets the nod. There’s been no real turmoil for him to navigate with the Raptors. But Casey did something arguably more challenging — he got a veteran team entrenched in a particular style to evolve and play differently. The Raptors are more well-suited to the current NBA and have the league’s best bench while DeMar DeRozan, their best player, is hitting at the highest effective field goal percentage of his career while attempting more than twice as many three-pointers as his career average. Toronto is two wins away from its most in franchise history. Give the award to Casey.

Michael Dwyer/AP