Coaching is what leads players to greatness. Without Pat Riley there is no Showtime Lakers, without Red Auerbach the Celtic franchise isn’t what it is today, and without Phil Jackson there is no Michael Jordan. But which one rises above the rest? Which one orchestrated the greatest teams in history? Which coach helped guide greatness? Let’s find out.
10. Red Holzman
Career:696 wins 604 losses Win%.535
Accolades:1969-70 Coach of the Year. 2x NBA Champion(’70,’73)
Holzman is without a doubt the greatest coach New York has ever seen. He won coach of the year honors and a championship in 1970 and another championship in ’73. Those Knick teams beat out the Los Angeles Lakers both times who were stacked with talent including Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, and Jerry West. Overcoming the odds in ’70 when Willis Reed made a heroic comeback in game 7 of the finals to win the championship.
9. Jerry Sloan
Career: 1221 wins 803 losses Win%.603
The pick & roll is the simplest play in basketball. Sloan perfected that play and used it for 22 years. He took a team to back to back Finals appearances in the 90s with Karl Malone and John Stockton. Sadly, they ran up against Jordan, nullifying Sloan’s best chance at ever having a ring. Later on the Jazz picked up Boozer and drafted Deron Williams to become a good team that had potential, but they kept running into the Lakers who went on to win championships. Despite that Sloan was able to hold a job in one place and do that for 22 years never really having bad years.
8. Jack Ramsay
Career:864 wins 783 losses Win%.525
Accolades:NBA Champion (’77)
Ramsay lead the Blazers with Bill Walton to a championship overcoming many odds. He was a GM for the Sixers for Wilt’s first championship. He later got the chance to coach and things just went from there. His teams’ offenses were always near the top and he made bad teams contenders. His impact on the league extended past that season though as he became a mentor to all players. Many were felt by his passing last year coaches and players throughout the league.
7. Chuck Daly
Career:638 wins 437 losses Win%.593
Accolades:2x NBA Champion (’89,’90)
Daly lead the “Bad Boy” Pistons to back to back championships. The team was about mentally taking down their opponents and physically draining them. He also was the coach of the ’92 Olympic team also, referred to as the “Dream Team”, and managed what was the greatest assembled talent basketball has ever seen.
6. John Kundla
Career:423 wins 302 losses Win%.583
Accolades:5x NBA Champion (’49-’50,’52-’54)
He was the coach of the Minneapolis Lakers and helped to create the first true dynasty. Kundla alongside the first true big man George Mikan won 5 championships in a 6 year stretch. Even though he had six Hall of Famers on those teams, you cannot deny his impact on the game. Everything about the post game started on his team and became the formula for success for the next 50 years.
5. Larry Brown
Career:1327 wins 1011 losses Win%.568
Accolades:Coach of the Year(’01) NBA Champion (’04)
If Larry Brown could have had like 4 or 5 championships I would have named him the greatest coach of all-time. The reason behind that is because he was the best at making the most of nothing. In the 2000-01 season he took a team that had Iverson and nobody all the way to the Finals and stole a game from the Los Angeles Lakers. He took the Detroit Pistons, who’s best player was Chauncey Billups (hardly a superstar talent), to a championship beating those same Los Angeles Lakers. Larry Brown was a perfectionist and strived for nothing less. He even took the Bobcats to their first Playoff appearance. Larry Brown will go down as one of the greatest basketball minds and teachers the sport has ever seen. He is the only coach to ever win a championship in both college and the pros. I wish he would stop trying to do something at SMU and step back up to the big leagues, but with his intolerance to owners, GMs and players getting money, that will more than likely not happen.
4. Pat Riley
Career:1210 wins 694 losses Win%.636
Accolades: 3x Coach of the Year (’90,’93,’97) 5x NBA Champion (’82,’85,’87,’88,’06)
Pat Riley guided the Lakers to become what we know they were in the 80s. He lead the team to 4 championships. He did not stop there though. He later lead the New York Knicks to be arguably the 2nd best team of the the entire 90s decade. Just seemed like a roadblock was always in their way. If it wasn’t Jordan and the Bulls it was Hakeem and the Rockets. Despite that they were a tough outing for any team and their series’ against the Bulls are still recalled today. Riley later (in 2006) led Dwayne Wade and Shaq to a championship beating the Dallas Mavericks in 6. Nowadays Pat Riley is trying to build a team from the front office in Miami to make up for the loss of LeBron James.
3. Greg Poppovich
Career:969 wins 445 losses Win%.685
Accolades:3x Coach of the Year (’03,’12,’14) 5x NBA Champion (’99,’03,’05,’07,’14)
Pop alongside Duncan created what we know of the Spurs today. Every fan wishes their team was like the Spurs. Players come in and do their job without any off-court drama. Pop had a losing season his first year in, but never looked back after that. After his first season he proceeded to have 16 seasons with over 50 wins and the only season he did not get 50 wins was in a lockout year where only 50 games were played. He led the Spurs to 5 championships and 6 finals appearances. Those are the only championships and appearances the Spurs organization has ever had. It’s crazy to think that Pop was very heavily criticized when he was the GM for the Spurs and fired Bob Hill and appointed himself as the head coach. I don’t think anybody is looking back on that decision as a bad one anymore.
2. Red Auerbach
Career:938 wins 479 losses Win%.662
Accolades:Coach of the Year(’65) 9x NBA Champion (’57,’59-’66)
His 9 rings and complete domination of the 60s led the Celtics to become the most historical franchise in the NBA. He did everything in the organization. He got Bill Russell, he got Bob Cousy, Heinson he got all of them. The man knew talent, and he knew how to use it. He had a record of 8 straight years with championships and was regarded as the greatest coach of All-Time undoubtedly without any competition for 30 years.
1. Phil Jackson
Career:1115 wins 485 losses Win%.704
Accolades:Coach of the Year(’96) 11x NBA Champion (’91-’93,’96-’98,’00-’02,’09-’10)
As much as I want to disputes this it’s very hard arguing with a guy who has 11 championship under his belt. I would love to see what Phil could do as a coach when he does not have a top 3 player in the league. Despite that he helped get Jordan and the Bulls over the hump and they became arguably the greatest dynasty in basketball ever. He also made Shaq and Kobe the most unstoppable duo of the early 2000s, and helped get Kobe the rings he needed to solidify his career without Shaq.