During the 70 years of the NBA’s existence, we were able to witness great teams and their coaches. Some of them were teaching solid and effective defense, while the others incredible offense. It is simply impossible to tell exactly that Coach “X” is the best coach ever because… Every one of them had his own vision of the game, way of coaching and willingness to succeed. We want to share with you our top 10 coaches in the history of the NBA.
10. Jerry Sloan – 2x NBA Finals
Through 4 years he worked with Chicago Bulls, but he is mainly known as the head coach of Utah Jazz. During his work with the Stockton & Malone duo (1988-2003), he never missed the playoffs! The only thing they have been desperately looking for was the NBA title. Despite having two chances for the trophy in 1997 and 1998, Jazz lost both NBA Finals to Chicago Bulls. Sloan got to the Western Conf. Finals once more in 2007, but failed to beat the Spurs.
9. Don Nelson – 3x Coach of the Year
Mostly remembered as a head coach of Golden State Warriors (1988-1995, 2006-2010) and Dallas Mavericks (1997-2005). While being a head coach and vice-president of the “Dubs”, he was working with Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, Latrell Sprewell and Chris Webber. In 2007 his Warriors made probably the biggest upset in NBA history, beating the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks, who were favorites to win the NBA Championship.
8. George Karl – 1x NBA Finals, 1x Coach of the Year
Most fans recognize him as the coach of the 1990s Seattle Supersonics. He led them into two Conference Finals, and one NBA Finals in 1996. Later on, he worked with Milwaukee Bucks. He lost the East Finals in 2001 against 76ers. His last success occurred in the 2012-2013 season when he was awarded the Coach of the Year award. Despite receiving the first award in his career, his Nuggets fell to the Golden State Warriors in 6 games.
7. Doc Rivers – 1x NBA Title, 2x NBA Finals, 1x Coach of the Year
One of only two active coaches on our list. During his first year as a coach, he led Orlando Magic to 41-41 record and won the Coach of the Year award. Forming the “Big 3”in Boston helped him reaching the top of the NBA. Celtics crushed the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, giving Rivers his first title. Lakers got their revenge two years later. In 2013 Rivers became the head coach of Los Angeles Clippers.
6. Larry Brown – 1x NBA Title, 3x NBA Finals, 1x Coach of the Year
For his first major success, he had to wait over 36 years of coaching. Finally in 2000-2001, as the coach of Philadelphia 76ers, he received Coach of the Year award and reached the NBA Finals, but was not able to beat the Lakers. Finally, as a head coach of Detroit Pistons, Brown reached Finals two times in a row and won his first NBA title.
5. Chuck Daly – 2x NBA Title, 3x NBA Finals
Coach of the “Bad Boys” from Detroit. During 9 years with the Pistons, Daly led them to 3 straight NBA Finals, and back-to-back NBA titles. In 1992 he was the head coach of “Dream Team” at Olympic Games in Barcelona.
4. Pat Riley – 5x NBA Title, 9x NBA Finals, 3x Coach of the Year
Head coach of the “Showtime” Lakers, 1993-1995 NY Knicks, and 1995-2008 Miami Heat. He led three different teams to the NBA Finals, two of them have won the NBA championship. Knicks lost Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals against Rockets. After the worst season in his coaching career, Riley officially retired. He is the president of Miami Heat.
3. Gregg Popovich – 5x NBA Title, 6x NBA Finals, 3x Coach of the Year
The best NBA coach of the last 20 years. 5-time NBA champion, 4-time All-Star Game head coach. His Spurs have not missed the playoffs since the 1996-1997 season, when David Robinson was injured and Tim Duncan was playing in the High School. In the last 4 season, Spurs have reached 60+ wins 3 times. Will “Pop” lead them to another great season?
2. Red Auerbach – 9x NBA Title, 11x NBA Finals, 1x Coach of the Year
Head coach of famous 1960s Celtics team. He led Boston to 11 NBA Finals and 9 NBA titles. Coach of the Year Award was named “Red Auerbach Trophy”. Celtics honored him by retiring jersey with number 2.
1. Phil Jackson – 11x NBA Title, 13x NBA Finals, 1x Coach of the Year
Lord of the Rings, Zen Master…the most successful coach of all-time. He has worked with the best players in the NBA history (Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone). Led 1990s Chicago Bulls to 6 NBA titles and 2000s Lakers to 5 NBA titles. If we would count only his active coaching years, he won 6 straight NBA championships from 1996 to 2002 (retired in 1998, signed by Lakers before 1999-2000 season). In 2014 Jackson became NY Knicks president. After a huge amount of problems inside the team, Knicks announced their decision to part ways with Phil Jackson.