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The Most NBA Championships Won By A Head Coach And Executive Together

The Most NBA Championships Won By A Head Coach And Executive Together

When a franchise goes through a change, the head coach and executive are usually paired together. Their partnership goes a long way in shaping the roster and finding the players to make a team that can bring home championship hardware. Not all relationships work, which is why we see coaches fired after three years of futility. Sometimes, it is worse and the entire administration is wiped clean as the franchise looks for a clean start.

Winning in the NBA is hard enough. Winning more than once is sometimes an impossible task. Having a working relationship is an important part of a championship culture. When you have an executive and coach that finds success together, then it feels like clockwork as the new season sets in with championship expectations. Some coaches and executives make it look easy.

When looking at the most championships won by a head coach and executive, we looked at the working relationship between two people. Red Auerbach is not included on this list by himself because nine of his 14 championships saw him as the head coach and executive together. Being the head coach and executive at the same time was not entirely uncommon. The same goes for Red Holzman, who won the 1970 and 1973 titles with the New York Knicks. Gregg Popovich won a title in 1999 with the Spurs as the head coach and executive titles.

While Auerbach won 14 championships as a coach and executive, we look at the ultimate pairings between two people. Auerbach does make an appearance on this list once he relinquished his head coaching duties. Altogether, he was a pretty great executive, too. These other individuals were pretty solid as well.

These are the most championships won by a head coach and executive together.

Bill Russell And Red Auerbach - 2 Championships (Boston Celtics)

Championships Won: 1968, 1969

Russell took over as a player/coach for the Celtics when Auerbach took to the front office in 1966. After Russell’s first season, the Celtics lost to the 76ers in the Conference Finals. The following year, the Celtics went 54-28 and were second in the division. The team fought to the NBA Finals, where they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2. Most of the team’s core was intact from the previous years, with John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Satch Sanders, and Russell together. The only major move made was drafting Mal Graham in the draft.

The following year, the Celtics saw their record drop to 48-34 in the regular season, but the team managed to find a way to repeat as champions. The Celtics drafted Don Chaney, who would be a part of the core that won in the 70s. Boston won the Finals in seven games as their defense led the way. Russell, Sanders, and Havlicek all made the All-Defensive Team.

Tom Heinsohn And Red Auerbach - 2 Championships (Boston Celtics)

Championships Won: 1974, 1976

Auerbach served as an executive of the Celtics for 34 years. Some of his successful moves in the 70s included drafting Dave Cowens and Paul Westphal. Both players were an integral part of the team’s championship runs in 1974 and 1976. With John Havlicek taking over as the face of the franchise, the Celtics remained one of the best teams in the league.

The addition of Heinsohn was a double move by Auerbach. He was someone he could trust. It was Auerbach that drafted him in 1956 with the No. 6 overall pick. He was also the pick to replace Bill Russell as the coach in 1969. Heinsohn enjoyed nearly a decade of success with the Celtics as the team’s head coach.

Chuck Daly And Jack McClosky - 2 Championships (Detroit Pistons)

Championships Won: 1989, 1990

Starting in 1979, Jack McCloskey had aspirations of bringing a championship to the Pistons. In 1981, it was McCloskey that drafted Isiah Thomas with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft. In 1982, he made a move to acquire Bill Laimbeer. Then in 1985, he acquired Rick Mahorn via trade and drafted Joe Dumars. Daly was hired as the coach of the Pistons in 1983 and the rest was history.

The Pistons made the NBA Finals in 1988, 1989, and 1990, winning two titles. The trade for Mark Aguirre in 1989 was a key move in helping the team get over the hump. Daly embraced the role of the “Bad Boy” Pistons. Altogether, this was the right fit for all parties involved, which is why this was a championship marriage.

Rudy Tomjanovich And Bob Weinhauer - 2 Championships (Houston Rockets)

Championships Won: 1994, 1995

Weinhauer's tenure was an obscure one, to say the least. He took over as the General Manager of the Houston Rockets on April 29, 1994. The Rockets would go on to win the NBA Finals in 1994. Weinhauer wouldn’t make his first move as an executive until June 1994, when he selected Albert Burditt in the second round of the draft.

With that said, Weinhauer made a huge move that helped the team win the 1995 championship. That was when he traded Otis Thorpe and a first-round pick for Clyde Drexler and Tracy Murphy. The move for Drexler was extremely helpful in the Rockets' repeating as champions. While this relationship was short-lived, it helped the Rockets win two titles.

Erik Spoelstra And Pat Riley - 2 Championships (Miami Heat)

Championships Won: 2012, 2013

Pat Riley, the coach, was a legend, but the executive version is right up there as a top success. Riley had a feeling about coach Erik Spoelstra and it ended up being the right call. In the summer of 2010, Riley made the impossible happen by landing LeBron James, and Chris Bosh, and re-signing Dwyane Wade. After the team failed to win the championship in 2011, people around the country called for Riley to come back down and coach, but he never wavered on Spoelstra.

Spoelstra kept the group together and won two championships after four appearances in the Finals from 2011 to 2014. Some of the key moves by Riley included signing Ray Allen and Chris Anderson. The Heat made the Finals again in 2020 and was one game away from this season. This partnership has been thriving since 2008 and could look to move up this ladder one day.

Pat Riley And Jerry West - 3 Championships (Los Angeles Lakers)

Championships Won: 1985, 1987, 1988

In the 80s, Pat Riley and Jerry West were a solid team. The Lakers were already champions in 1980 and 1982, which was before West took over as General Manager. Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were already the future, but West made moves that allowed the Lakers to continue to succeed. That started in 1983 when the Lakers took James Worthy with the No. 1 overall pick, as well as the 1983 trade that brought in Byron Scott.

The combination of Johnson, Worthy, and Abdul-Jabbar was a big three that was hard to take down. With Riley as the coach, the Lakers didn’t just rely on one player. Each member of the big three won a Finals MVP in 1985 (Abdul-Jabbar), 1987 (Johnson), and 1988 (Worthy). West would win other championships as an executive, but with a head coach, this was his most significant amount.

John Kundla And Max Winter - 4 Championships (Los Angeles Lakers)

Championships Won: 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953

Winter was the first executive for the Lakers, and it was his move of hiring John Kundla as the team’s first head coach. With the No. 11 pick in the 1949 Draft, he drafted Vern Mikkelsen, who would be a perfect fit next to George Mikan. Another top move was in the 1952 draft when he selected Clyde Lovellette. These moves would pave the way for the Lakers to win four championships in the early stages of the NBA.

Kundla would win five championships as the coach of the Lakers, but one of those came with Mikan as the executive. Mikan briefly retired from the NBA before playing one final season. Winter stepped down in 1953 with aspirations of chasing a professional football team.

Phil Jackson And Mitch Kupchak - 4 Championships (Los Angeles Lakers)

Phil Jackson And Mitch Kupchak - 4 Championships (Los Angeles Lakers)

Championships Won: 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010

Kupchak entered a dream scenario. The Lakers already had Jackson as the team’s head coach and Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant came off leading the Lakers to the 2000 championship. Jerry West was the executive for the team that season, but stepped away after winning, handing off the keys to Kupchak. The Lakers would win two more titles to complete the three-peat, but it was Kupchak that navigated through rough waters to help the Lakers pick up two more championships later in the 2000s.

That included the 2004 trade of O’Neal to the Heat. That also included navigating through a time when Bryant threatened to leave the Lakers. In response, Kupchak made moves like drafting Andrew Bynum, re-signing Derek Fisher, and trading for Pau Gasol. The Lakers would make the NBA Finals from 2008 to 2010, winning back to back in 2009 and 2010.

Gregg Popovich And R.C. Buford - 4 Championships (San Antonio Spurs)

Gregg Popovich And R.C. Buford - 4 Championships (San Antonio Spurs)

Championships Won: 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014

Altogether, Popovich has won five championships, but one of those titles came when he was operating as the executive. When Popovich was an executive, he drafted Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick in 1997, Manu Ginobili with the No. 57 pick in 1999, and Tony Parker with the No. 28 pick in 2001. Those three picks alone helped transform the Spurs for years to come.

R.C. Buford did not start running the Spurs until 2002, but his first order of business was signing Ginobili to a multi-year contract. Buford had some other significant moves in his career, such as drafting Leonardo Barbosa in 2003. Other prominent moves include drafting Tiago Splitter, signing Danny Green, and flipping George Hill for Kawhi Leonard and Davis Bertans. Not to mention, Buford was able to keep the band together in the team’s big three for all of those years. Not all dynasties will stay together, but the Spurs found a way to keep their winning bunch together.

Steve Kerr And Bob Myers - 4 Championships (Golden State Warriors)

Steve Kerr And Bob Myers - 4 Championships (Golden State Warriors)

Championships Won: 2015, 2017, 2018, 2022

Myers won the Executive of the Year Award in 2015 and 2017 for good reason. While Myers might have inherited Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson from the past regime, he made his moves to separate himself. In 2012, in his first draft, Myers drafted Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Draymond Green. Then, in 2013, he acquired Andre Iguodala and hired Steve Kerr in 2014. Once Kerr was brought in, the team won its first championship in 2015 and Curry became the league MVP.

After falling short in 2016, despite winning an NBA-record 73 games in 2016, the Myers found a way to land Kevin Durant, which helped the team land two more titles in 2017 and 2018. However, 2022 has to be the most special because it was the original core that won it. Not to mention, draft selections Kevon Looney and Jordan Poole were big contributors, while the trade for Andrew Wiggins also paid off. Altogether, all the moves that were made were all major factors in the team winning all four championships.

Phil Jackson And Jerry Krause - 6 Championships (Chicago Bulls)

Phil Jackson And Jerry Krause - 6 Championships (Chicago Bulls)

Championships Won: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998

While Michael Jordan and Jerry Krause had their differences, one cannot deny the work that Krause did as an executive. That included trading for the draft rights to Scottie Pippen in 1987. Two years later, he drafted Stacey King and B.J. Armstrong hired Phil Jackson as the head coach. Among other deals, Krause completed signing Steve Kerr, and Ron Harper, and trading Will Perdue for Dennis Rodman straight up.

Every working relationship can develop wear and tear, but this relationship helped the Bulls land six championships, which included two separate three-peats. The Bulls effectively built around Jordan and Pippen and made the Bulls the best teams in the 90s, if not one of the greatest dynasties ever. With Jackson’s offense and Krause’s moves, the Bulls were a national treasure during this decade.

Longevity Is The Key To Successful Dynasties

If you go back and time, look at the most successful dynasties. In the 80s, the Lakers enjoyed three championships with a long partnership between Riley and West. In the 90s, six titles came with Jackson and Krause. In the 2000s, it was the Spurs with Popovich and Buford. As of late, it is the Warriors with Kerr and Myers. Look to the beginning of the NBA when the combination of Kundla and Winter set the business model early. The franchises that struggle are the ones that cannot find consistency in their business structure. The ones that have success are the ones that have little turnover at the top.

The coaches and executives that stay together are likely the ones that are enjoying the most success. What we are witnessing right now with the Warriors could be history. If the Warriors can repeat as champions next season, we will be looking at the second-most successful pairing of coach and executive in NBA history. The way the Warriors are structured right now, there is potential that Kerr and Myers could make a run at Jackson and Krause. 


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