Skyforce Head Coach Named NBADL Coach of the Year
The third major postseason award of this historic Skyforce season goes to Dan Craig. He was named the NBA Development League Dennis Johnson Coach of the Year.
It is an honor that is determined by a vote from NBA D-League head coaches. Win-loss record is what first jumps out in the accomplishments for the team as the 40-10 regular-season record is the best in league history.
Throughout the course of the season Craig has expected his players to focus on “Championship habits” and getting “one percent better every day” in order to improve as players. However, teams win games and “respecting the opponent” while “playing with humility” were hammered home during this past campaign.
Each player was put in a position to where they could succeed with multiple obstacles to navigate and found ways to thrive. Forward Jarnell Stokes earned NBA D-League Most Valuable Player honors, forward DeAndre Liggins won his second NBA D-League Defensive Player of the Year award and guard Briante Weber earned GATORADE Call-Ups to the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat.
Those players deservedly draw the most headlines for their accomplishments, but other members should be lauded for being the next man up when opportunity arrived. Guard Bubu Palo stepped in for veteran Tre Kelley after the latter chose to take an overseas opportunity in Turkey. Center Keith Benson continued to consistently produce whether in a starting or reserve role based upon the matchups presented. Center Nigel Spikes in a reserve role can claim a part in a handful of late-game runs that turned losses into wins. Rookie forwards Greg Whittington and Jabril Trawick can also be tabbed with stepping up in crucial moments this season. Meanwhile Rodney McGruder has flourished into a dual threat player worthy of an NBA Call-up.
The success began early in the season by winning 22 of 24 games from November 21 through January 29. Only once did Sioux Falls suffer a losing streak with a three-game skid from January 30 to February 5.
Sioux Falls had 10-game (December 18 – January 12) and nine-game (March 4-25) winning streaks, and won 11 of its last 13 games to secure the NBA D-League Central Division title. The team also went a league-best 22-3 at home.
Three times Craig was the NBA D-League Coach of the Month (December, January and March/April). Their prowess on both ends of the floor bear out in the numbers as the Skyforce held opponents to a league-low 98.1 points per game while setting franchise records for fewest points allowed and lowest opponents field goal percentage (.441) also shooting a league-best 49.3 percent from the floor.
A first-year head coach in Sioux Falls, Craig joined the Skyforce following 12 seasons with the Heat, the team’s NBA parent club. Craig served as head coach of Miami’s NBA Summer League team for the past three years and was the Heat’s assistant coach/director of player development during the 2014-15 season.
The NBA D-League Coach of the Year award is named for the late Hall of Famer Dennis Johnson, a star NBA guard and NBA D-League coach. During his playing career with the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and Seattle SuperSonics, Johnson won three NBA titles, played in five NBA All-Star Games and was named to the All-Defensive First Team six times. He was in his third season coaching in the NBA D-League when he passed away in 2007.
Craig will receive the Dennis Johnson Coach of the Year trophy prior to the Skyforce’s Eastern Conference Finals game against the Canton Charge on Sunday, April 17. Tip-off is set for 6:00 PM ET on ESPNU.