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In this post, we will check out the top 10 best NBA coaches of all time.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has seen some of the greatest coaches in the history of sports. These coaches have not only won numerous championships but have also impacted the game and their players in countless ways.
Their knowledge, leadership, and ability to develop players set the standard for future coaches.
With so many legendary coaches, selecting the top 10 best NBA coaches of all time is no easy task. However, this list will attempt to do just that.
It will highlight the accomplishments of these coaches, including their championship victories and their contributions to the game of basketball.
From the iconic Phil Jackson, who won 11 NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, to the legendary Red Auerbach, who led the Boston Celtics to nine titles in the 1950s and 1960s, these coaches have cemented their place in NBA history.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 10 best NBA coaches of all time.
Table of contents
Top 10 Best NBA Coaches Of All Time
10 Jerry Sloan
Jerry Sloan, who passed away in 2020, is undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. Sloan spent over 20 seasons as the head coach of the Utah Jazz, leading the team to 16 playoff appearances, and two NBA Finals appearances.
His longevity and success with the Jazz are testaments to his coaching abilities and dedication to the game.
Sloan was known for his no-nonsense approach to coaching, emphasizing discipline, hard work, and team play. He was a master at developing players, getting the most out of his teams, and adjusting his game plans to fit his personnel.
His teams were always known for their toughness, defense, and unselfishness, which were all traits that he instilled in his players.
Sloan’s coaching career spanned from the late 1970s to the early 2010s, during which he helped shape the NBA into what it is today.
He coached some of the greatest players in NBA history, including John Stockton, Karl Malone, and Deron Williams. Under his leadership, the Jazz became a perennial playoff contender, consistently finishing near the top of the Western Conference standings.
In conclusion, Jerry Sloan’s legacy as one of the top-rated NBA coaches in history is secure. His success as a coach, his contributions to the game of basketball, and his impact on the Utah Jazz will never be forgotten. He was a true legend of the game and an inspiration to coaches and players alike.
9 Don Nelson
Don Nelson is widely considered one of the top 10 best coaches in NBA history. He had a remarkable career as a coach, spanning over three decades, with stints at Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Dallas Mavericks.
Nelson’s success can be attributed to his innovative coaching style, his ability to adapt to different playing styles, and his willingness to take risks.
One of the key reasons why Nelson is considered one of the top 10 best coaches of all time is his ability to adapt to different playing styles.
Throughout his career, Nelson coached teams with different strengths and weaknesses, and he was able to adjust his game plan to match the team’s strengths.
His teams were known for their fast-paced offense and innovative play-calling, which kept opponents guessing and often resulted in victories.
Nelson was also known for his ability to develop young players, and he played a crucial role in the development of several NBA stars.
Nelson’s innovative coaching style was another factor that contributed to his success. He was not afraid to take risks, and he often employed unconventional strategies that caught his opponents off-guard.
One of his most famous strategies was the “Nellie ball,” which involved playing small balls and focusing on offense rather than defense.
This strategy was particularly effective with the Golden State Warriors, who won the NBA championship in 2015, with Nelson’s influence still being felt on the team.
Finally, Nelson’s longevity as a coach is a testament to his abilities. He coached for over three decades, with a winning record in all but one of his seasons.
His success as a coach is a testament to his abilities and his longevity in the game. He will always be remembered as one of the all-time best NBA coaches to have ever graced the NBA.
8 Lenny Wilkens
Lenny Wilkens is widely regarded as one of the top 10 best NBA coaches of all time. He had an illustrious career in the league, both as a player and a coach.
As a coach, Wilkens had an incredible record, coaching for 32 seasons and winning 1,332 games, which ranks third on the all-time wins list.
He coached four different NBA teams, including the Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Atlanta Hawks. W
Wilkens led the SuperSonics to the NBA Championship in 1979 and was named the NBA Coach of the Year in 1994 while coaching the Hawks. He also led the US men’s basketball team to a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
One of the things that made Wilkens such a successful coach was his ability to adapt to his players and get the most out of them.
He was known for his calm demeanor and his ability to motivate his players without being overbearing. He was also a master strategist, known for his ability to adjust his game plan on the fly and make the most of his team’s strengths.
Wilkens was also a trailblazer in the NBA, as he was one of the first Black coaches in the league. He was a mentor and role model for many young coaches, and he paved the way for future generations of coaches of color in the league.
Overall, Lenny Wilkens’ contributions to the NBA as both a player and coach make him one of the most respected and successful figures in the history of the league, and one of the most successful NBA coaches ever.
7 Larry Brown
Larry Brown is undoubtedly one of the best NBA coaches of all time, with a remarkable career spanning over five decades.
Brown began his coaching career in 1972 and has since coached nine different NBA teams, including the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, and New York Knicks.
He is renowned for his impressive tactical skills and ability to get the best out of his players, which has led to multiple accolades and a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
One of Brown’s most notable achievements is leading the Detroit Pistons to the 2004 NBA Championship. He masterfully coached the team to a stunning upset victory over the heavily-favored Los Angeles Lakers, who had four future Hall of Famers on their roster.
Brown’s Pistons were known for their relentless defense, teamwork, and discipline, which were all hallmarks of his coaching style. Brown’s ability to mold a group of talented players into a cohesive and effective team is a testament to his skills as a coach.
He also ranks third in NBA history with 100 playoff victories, behind only Phil Jackson and Pat Riley. Brown has been named Coach of the Year in 2001 with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Brown’s ability to connect with players and get them to buy into his system is what sets him apart from many other coaches. He has a reputation for being demanding and tough on his players, but also for being a teacher and mentor to many of them.
Some of the greatest players in NBA history, such as Allen Iverson and Chauncey Billups, credit Brown with helping them become the players they are today.
His contributions to the game of basketball have earned him a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame and will be remembered for generations to come. Larry Brown is number 7 on our list of top-ranked NBA coaches in history.
6 Steve Kerr
Steve Kerr is undoubtedly one of the best NBA coaches of all time. He has led the Golden State Warriors to three NBA championships in just four seasons and has built one of the most successful teams in NBA history.
Kerr is known for his excellent leadership skills, innovative coaching strategies, and his ability to get the best out of his players.
Kerr’s record as a coach speaks for itself. In just five seasons as a head coach, he has already won three NBA championships.
Kerr’s ability to create a winning culture and instill confidence in his players has made him one of the most respected coaches in the game.
Kerr has been credited with popularizing the “death lineup,” a small-ball lineup that features five skilled players who can shoot, pass, and defend. This lineup has been instrumental in the Warriors’ success, and it has forced other teams to adapt to keep up.
Kerr understands what motivates his players and how to get the best out of them. He is not afraid to challenge them, and he sets high standards for his team.
As a result, his players have a deep respect for him and are willing to give their all on the court.
His innovative approach to the game, his excellent leadership skills, and his ability to get the best out of his players have made him one of the greatest NBA coaches ever. Kerr’s record speaks for itself, and his impact on the game will be felt for many years to come.
5 Chuck Daly
Chuck Daly is undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. He led the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990, becoming the first coach to win consecutive titles since Red Auerbach in 1968 and 1969.
Daly’s Pistons were known for their tough, physical style of play, often referred to as the “Bad Boys.” He was able to get the most out of his players, including stars like Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Dennis Rodman. Daly’s success with the Pistons earned him a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994.
In addition to his success with the Pistons, Daly had a long and illustrious coaching career that spanned over 13 seasons. He also coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Jersey Nets, and Orlando Magic, leading each team to the playoffs during his tenure.
Daly was a master strategist, known for his ability to make adjustments during games and series that would swing the momentum in his team’s favor.
His calm demeanor and ability to connect with his players made him a respected and beloved figure in the NBA coaching community.
Overall, Chuck Daly’s legacy as one of the top 10 best NBA coaches of all time is well-deserved. His ability to get the most out of his players, make strategic adjustments, and connect with people on and off the court set him apart as a coaching legend.
4 Pat Riley
Pat Riley is undoubtedly one of the top 10 best NBA coaches of all time. Born in New York City in 1945, Riley played college basketball at the University of Kentucky before being drafted by the San Diego Rockets in the 1967 NBA draft. However, it was his success as a coach that truly set him apart from his peers.
Riley began his coaching career with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981 and quickly made a name for himself as a master of strategy and tactics.
In his first season as head coach, he led the Lakers to the NBA championship, the first of five he would win with the team. He would also win a championship with the Miami Heat in 2006, cementing his status as one of the greatest coaches of all time.
One of Riley’s most significant contributions to the game was his invention of the “Showtime” Lakers, an offensive style of play that emphasized fast breaks and spectacular dunks.
This style of play made the Lakers one of the most exciting teams in NBA history and helped to revolutionize the game of basketball.
In addition to his success on the court, Riley is also known for his motivational skills and his ability to get the best out of his players.
He famously coined the phrase “no rebounds, no rings,” emphasizing the importance of hard work and teamwork in achieving success.
His legacy continues to influence coaches and players alike, and his innovative style of play will be remembered for generations to come.
3 Gregg Popovich
Gregg Popovich is widely regarded as one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time, with a career that has spanned more than three decades. He has won five NBA championships, all with the San Antonio Spurs, and has consistently led his teams to the playoffs year after year.
Popovich’s success is due in large part to his ability to adapt to changing circumstances, whether it be through his innovative offensive and defensive schemes or his willingness to develop and trust young players.
One of Popovich’s greatest strengths as a coach is his ability to develop talent. He has been instrumental in the development of players such as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, all of whom went on to have illustrious careers under his guidance.
Popovich has an eye for talent and knows how to get the best out of his players, regardless of their background or experience. This has allowed him to consistently build successful teams, even when faced with significant roster turnover.
Another hallmark of Popovich’s coaching style is his focus on team play and unselfishness. He has long preached the importance of playing for each other and putting the team’s success ahead of individual accolades.
This has led to a culture of selflessness and teamwork in San Antonio that has been a key part of the team’s success over the years.
Popovich has also been known to take bold risks when it comes to his coaching decisions, whether it be benching a star player or shaking up the starting lineup.
Perhaps most impressively, Popovich has consistently maintained his success over an incredibly long period of time. He has been coaching in the NBA since 1988 and has been the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs since 1996.
During this time, he has won five NBA championships, and been named the NBA Coach of the Year three times. His longevity and sustained success are a testament to his incredible coaching ability and his dedication to his craft.
Whether he is coaching future Hall of Famers or young up-and-comers, Popovich’s impact on the game and his players cannot be overstated.
2 Red Auerbach
Arnold “Red” Auerbach is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
As a coach, he led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA championships during his 20-year tenure with the team, cementing his place as one of the all-time greats.
Auerbach’s impact on the game of basketball extended far beyond his success on the court, as he revolutionized the way teams approached the draft, traded players, and scouted opponents.
One of Auerbach’s greatest strengths as a coach was his ability to develop young talent. He famously drafted Bill Russell in 1956, a move that would transform the Celtics into a dominant force in the NBA for years to come.
Auerbach also played a key role in the development of other Hall of Famers, such as John Havlicek, Bob Cousy, and Dave Cowens.
His emphasis on teamwork, defense, and unselfish play became hallmarks of the Celtics’ style of basketball, and his teams were known for their toughness and resilience.
Auerbach’s success on the court was matched by his influence on it. He was one of the first coaches to scout players internationally, recognizing the potential of players from Europe and South America long before they became household names in the NBA.
Auerbach’s contributions to the game of basketball earned him numerous awards and accolades, including induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a coach and an executive.
As a coach, he led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA championships, and his innovative approach to the game helped transform the way teams approached the draft, traded players, and scouted opponents.
Auerbach’s influence extended far beyond the court, as he was also a pioneering figure in the development of international talent and a skilled negotiator who always seemed to come out ahead.
For these reasons and more, Auerbach is widely regarded as one of the top 10 best NBA coaches of all time.
1 Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is a mastermind who has led his teams to a record 11 NBA championships during his coaching career.
Jackson’s success has been attributed to his exceptional ability to create a winning team culture, manage egos, and make tactical adjustments in games.
Jackson is also known for his unique coaching style, which is often referred to as the “triangle offense.” This system is based on a three-player motion offense that emphasizes ball movement, spacing, and unselfish play.
The triangle offense was a key factor in Jackson’s success, as it enabled his teams to consistently generate high-quality shots and dominate their opponents. The offense has been emulated by many other coaches in the NBA and has become a staple of modern basketball.
Another key aspect of Jackson’s success is his ability to manage egos and personalities. Jackson coached some of the most dominant and high-profile players in NBA history, including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Scottie Pippen.
Despite the egos and strong personalities of these players, Jackson was able to create a cohesive team environment where everyone was focused on winning.
He was a master at identifying each player’s strengths and weaknesses and putting them in positions to succeed.
Finally, Jackson’s success can be attributed to his ability to make tactical adjustments in games. He was known for his ability to make strategic substitutions and call timeouts at critical moments in games.
He was also adept at identifying and exploiting his opponent’s weaknesses, making adjustments to his game plan as needed to secure victories.
Jackson’s success as a coach is a testament to his ability to think on his feet and adapt to changing circumstances.
In conclusion, Phil Jackson is undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. His record of 11 NBA championships is a testament to his exceptional coaching ability, tactical knowledge, and ability to manage personalities.
He has left an indelible mark on the sport of basketball, and his legacy will continue to inspire coaches and players for generations to come.
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