Who are the best NBA coaches in history?
Read on to find out the most successful head coaches in the league.
The National Basketball Association (NBA), over the decades, has witnessed fantastic, superb play on the court to which players take the credit for.
However, top basketball stars wouldn’t emerge with phenomenal performances without a bench tactician’s coordinating experience — a coach.
The quality, sense of direction, experience, as well as game mathematical ability of a coach shape and reflect on the final performance and output of a team.
It is an integral and essential part of every successful basketball team.
The history of the league has shown some of the greatest head coaches ever to have graced the game.
In this article, we have taken an extensive look at the top 10 best coaches in the NBA, ranked based on the performances.
Table of Contents
The Best NBA Coaches In History
10. Don Nelson
Although he never won an NBA title, Nelson still rivals among the top head coaches in the league.
As of 2021, Nelson remains the coach with the most wins in the history of NBA, with a total of 1,335 wins.
Nelson turned several losing franchises into basketball powerhouses, including the Milwaukee Bucks.
He is responsible for one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history when he led 8th seeded Golden State Warriors to pull the shocker against first seed Dallas Mavericks, a franchise he once coached.
Nelson was awarded NBA Coach of the Year thrice and named in the Top 10 greatest coaches in the NBA by Fox Sports.
9. Red Holzman
Holzman is one of the few individuals in the basketball world to have won the NBA title both as a player and a coach.
He spent a large chunk of his coaching career with the New York Knicks.
Holzman guided the franchise to two NBA titles resulting in his been named NBA Coach of the Year in 1970.
He was a well-known coach to two NBA All-Star teams and is evidently among the 10 greatest coaches in NBA history.
8. John Kundla
Kundla was the first head coach of the Minneapolis Lakers, where he made a major impact and achieved his coaching career’s peak.
He guided the Lakers to four NBA titles in a 12 season stint with the franchise.
In 1959, when the Lakers relocated to Los Angeles, he took on coaching Minnesota until his retirement in 1968.
Kundla was also a coach for four All-Star teams, an incredible feat that earns him a spot on this list of the best NBA coaches.
7. Larry Brown
Brown is one exceptional coach who wins in almost every franchise he coached.
He has several records to his credit, including being the only coach to lead eight different teams to the playoffs and coaching two different franchises in a season.
Brown is also the only head coach to win an NBA title and NCAA men’s basketball title.
He was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2001 and served as Head Coach to two All-Star teams.
6. Lenny Wilken
One of the stunning facts about Wilkens is his inductions into the Hall of Fame.
Three times he was inducted as a player, as a coach, and as an assistant coach for the US 1992 Olympic team.
He has one NBA title to his credit, which he won as head coach of the Seattle Supersonics.
Wilken was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1979 and has an Olympic gold medal to his portfolio, which he won with the 1996 US Olympic team as head coach.
Following his retirement, Wilkens had a record total of 1,132 wins, the second-highest in NBA history.
5. Chuck Daly
Daly is famously known for his Stella performance in the 1992 Olympics, where he guided team US to a gold medal in basketball.
He also achieved considerably in the NBA and shot the Detroit Pistons to the stars when he arrived at the franchise, leading them to the playoffs in his entire time with them.
Daly also aided the franchise to two consecutive NBA titles.
He was named head coach of the 1990 NBA All-Star game.
Daly’s achievements as a coach are worthy of placing him among the best ever in the league.
4. Pat Riley
In the span of his coaching career, Riley led five NBA title teams, including the Lakers, who helped win the title two consecutive times, the NBA’s first consecutive title win in 19 years at the time.
He was the brain behind the trade deal that landed Shaquille O’ Neal in Miami.
Riley was named NBA Coach of the Year on three occasions, and All-star coach nine times.
He is undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches the NBA has ever seen.
On June 2012, Riley was awarded the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement by the NBA coaches association.
3. Gregg Popovich
The longest tenure serving head coach in the NBA, Popovich, has inputted outstanding performance that helped San Antonio Spurs trophies.
Having once led the Spurs to at least 50 wins in 20 straight seasons, he happened to help them reach the playoffs in every season he coached them.
And most significantly, he guided the franchise to five NBA title wins, becoming one of five coaches to have won the title at least a record five times.
He won the NBA Coach of the Year award three consecutive times and was head coach to the All-star team four times.
Popovich still coaches the Spurs presently and also the franchise’s president.
2. Red Auerbach
Auerbach did the impossible when he led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA titles in a decade.
Eight of those nine titles were won consecutively.
By the time he retired, he had a record 938 wins, the most win by a coach at that time.
He won more NBA titles with the Celtics after retirement as an executive to the franchise.
All together, Auerbach won a whopping 16 titles of the franchise’s total record 17 title wins, making him among the most successful coaches in the league’s history.
Auerbach won the NBA Coach of the Year once and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
1. Phil Jackson
Jackson arguably is the most successful and greatest coach in NBA history, with a total of 13 NBA rings.
He surpasses Red Auerbach’s record of nine wins as he won a record 11 NBA title in his career as a coach and two as a player.
Jackson led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles and won another five in his stint with Los Angeles Lakers.
He was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1996, and named head coach of the NBA All-star team on four occasions.
In 2007, Jackson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
You’ll Also Like
There you have it, our ranking of the best NBA coaches of all time.
Head coaches, no doubt, holds a vital role in a team squad.
Let us know your thought concerning this ranking in the comments section below.