The 10 Greatest Coaches in NBA History

It’s often said in sports that no team is a great team without an elite coach who holds it all together and dishes out the key advice when it matters. Throughout NBA history, there have been dozens of coaches who could easily fit this bill, and while it might be the big names out on the court who get most of the limelight, we will be looking today at the top 10 greatest coaches in NBA history, and how they made their mark so triumphantly on one of the great American sporting leagues.

#10 – John Kundla

A Hall of Fame inductee and an early pioneer of the sport, John Kundla is a no-brainer for this list. The NBA is a sports market with colossal global appeal, and is one of the most prominent betting markets in the US and abroad. When John Kundla won the inaugural NBA over 75 years ago, he forever etched his name in the history books.

Despite the fact there are only three of the original NBA teams left, the dominant success of the industry, streaming sites and in-play betting are in a different dimension to the primitive leagues of the early 1950s. That said, Kundla’s teams cleaned up – getting to seven consecutive finals and winning five – making him a true titan of the game.

#9 – Larry Brown

The mark of a truly great coach is somebody who can perform when his back is against the wall. Larry Brown, renowned for getting the best out of poor teams, was among the finest man-managers in the NBA. He holds the impressive distinction of being the only NBA coach to join an illustrious list of great NCAA coaches who have also won a college basketball championship.

#8 – Red Holzman

Holzman is a name you immediately associate with the Knicks. He coached some of the best teams, and his two championship-winning sides in the early 1970s are considered as among the greatest Knicks teams. His commitment to the Knicks as an out-and-out New Yorker has immortalized him in the eyes of the fans.

#7 – Rudy Tomjanovich

A phenomenal player and an even greater manager, Rudy could do it all. A five-time NBA All-Star player and a double champion and All-Star coach, he is widely renowned as a tactical maestro, and often flies under the radar when discussing the greatest coaches in NBA history – but he deserves to be right in the mix.

#6 – Jerry Sloan

“The Original Bull” took the Utah Jazz to 15 consecutive playoff finals, and without the sheer generational talent of Michael Jordan and the Bulls, Sloan might have got his hands on only one or two championships as Jazz coach. Only Sloan and Gregg Popovich can boast over a thousand wins while coaching one NBA team.

#5 – Lenny Wilkens

With a coaching career that spans five decades, Wilkens’ longevity on the sideline is matched by few of his peers. An Olympic gold medal-winning coach in 1996, and having coached over half a dozen teams throughout his career, Wilkens is a true legend of the game.

#4 – Gregg Popovich

Popovich could be a lot higher on this list – the truth is, there isn’t much that actually separates the top four. Given that he has three Coach of the Year Awards, an Olympic gold medal and more NBA wins than any other coach in history, “Coach Pop” is without doubt one of the greatest ever to do it.

#3 – Pat Riley

Pat Riley lives and breathes basketball and is a bona fide legend of the LA Lakes and Miami Heat. Despite his unbelievable achievements as a coach, you can make a good case for his legacy branching into so many other facets of the sport – you won’t find a list of the top NBA coaches of all time without Pat on it.

#2 – Red Auerbach

Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson are the two pillars of NBA coaching. Known for his iconic cigar smoking and tenacity, Red has nine titles and over 930 wins as an NBA coach – surpassed only by Jackson. He continued to be revered even after moving from coaching into a more background role, helping steer the Boston Celtics through an incredible run.

#1 – Phil Jackson

While some might argue that Jackson was blessed with a truly remarkable talent in his squad, fine-tuning them was another skill entirely. He pioneered the approach to man management and brought out the best in the mercurial Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the talismanic Dennis Rodman, as detailed a few years ago in Netflix’s The Last Stand. Jackson then coached the LA Lakers in the same manner and mentality, culminating in 11 titles, which no other coach has ever reached.