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NBA Power Rankings: Ranking the NBA's Best Second-Half Coaches

John FrielAnalyst IJanuary 2, 2017

NBA Power Rankings: Ranking the NBA's Best Second-Half Coaches

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    Being a coach in professional sports is one of the worst professions you could possibly have.

    The money is good, but the publicity is horrible. If your team is playing bad, it always comes down on the coach and how he's running the team. However, if the team is playing good, then it's because of the players stepping it up.

    Not once does the coach get any sort of credit. Perhaps if they immediately join the team and there's obvious improvement or if they have a long track record of success behind them they'll get credit.

    Otherwise, the coach is just that guy on the sideline in the suit yelling at the players and the referees making weird movements with his hands. It's no wonder why some of these coaches get far more angrier than the players. They know that if the team loses, the majority of the blame will be put on the coach for making some sort of wrong decision.

    That's just the risk these coaches take. They know they're getting thrown into the lions den when they take the job and it takes a strong mindset and an amazing understanding of the game to become successful. You don't see many coaches stick with one team for so long because the coach will always be the first one to go in times of turmoil.

    Think about it. If the Miami Heat suddenly lost 10 games in a row, who's going to be the first to go? LeBron James or Erik Spoelstra? Exactly.

    With that being said, we'll honor the coaches who always seem to come alive in the second half by power ranking each and every sideline leader.

(N/A) Mark Jackson

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    Tough to rank Mark Jackson's career as a second half coach when he hasn't competed in a second half of an NBA season.

    He hasn't been doing too bad of a job for the Golden State Warriors in his rookie year as an NBA head coach. He has the league's youngest team at 12-17 and four games out of the final spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

    The Warriors don't have many superstars outside of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, but Jackson is doing fine work with what he currently has.

29. Tyrone Corbin

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    There isn't much of a sample size to judge Tyrone Corbin on, aside from the dismal record he picked up last year in the absence of Jerry Sloan.

    Corbin took over once Sloan suddenly departed and only won eight of the 28 contests he was a part of. He easily has the worst second half record among current NBA coaches.

    The Jazz are currently 15-16 and last in the Northwest Division after a surprisingly good start. Corbin's going to have to prove to be a terrific coach in the second half of the season if he wants his team to make a significant playoff push.

28. Randy Wittman

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    Taking over Flip Saunders' former profession as Washington Wizards head coach, Randy Wittman might have just got himself the worst job in the United States.

    Seriously, I think there are Alaskan crab fisherman and coal miners who would rather work their jobs for another few years before they even think about taking the job as Wizards head coach. If a historically solid coach like Saunders couldn't get the job done, who expects Wittman to?

    Well, nobody is quite frankly. Wittman hasn't coached since he was the head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2008, where he would start the season 4-19 before getting fired. Prior to then, Wittman coached the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 62-102 record.

    Overall, Wittman's career winning percentage is in the low 30's. In other words, he hasn't been that good at his job. However, it's tough to blame him when he was coaching some awful Cavalier and Timberwolf teams.

27. Keith Smart

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    Keith Smart's entire coaching career has basically been relegated to being an interim coach.

    He was an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2002 before taking over and would eventually become the interim head coach for the Golden State Warriors after serving as an assistant under Don Nelson.

    Smart has since taken over the Sacramento Kings after the early firing of Paul Westphal. The Kings are currently at 10-22 and with no hope of making the postseason this year. It's highly doubtful that Smart will be able to lead his young and athletic bunch to the postseason.

    Once again, Smart has a small and pitiful sample size.

26. Dwane Casey

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    Another coach with too small of a sample size to truly rank any higher, Dwane Casey hasn't had much to boast as a head coach except for a short stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Have you begun to notice a pattern with bad coaches and the Timberwolves yet?

    Casey spent less than two seasons with the Wolves and compiled a 53-69 record with the first club he ever coached. Since his firing, he had served as an assistant head coach for the Dallas Mavericks and was even a part of the team from last year that won the championship.

    The Toronto Raptors must have seen something in him, as they proceeded to bring in Casey as their newest head coach. He currently has the team at an Atlantic Division worst 9-23.

25. Lawrence Frank

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    In his first ever coaching job, Lawrence Frank won the first 13 games of his career as a coach of the New Jersey Nets.

    It wasn't only an NBA record, but a sporting record for most consecutive wins for a first-time coach.

    Three years later, Frank was busy leading the Nets to infamy at a lowly 0-16. He would get fired two games before they would break the record for most consecutive losses to start an NBA season with 18.

    We're not sure what happened exactly, but the talent level probably had something to do with it. Frank was coaching the likes of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter when he set that record for most wins, while he coached Devin Harris and Brook Lopez in that miserable 2009-'10 season.

    Since then, Frank has been an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics and is currently the head coach for the 11-23 Detroit Pistons, winners of seven of their past 10.

    Judging simply by what he was able to accomplish in that short stint as head coach of the Nets in 2009, it's easy to say that Frank has trouble coaching teams with little talent and little guidance that he couldn't provide.

24. Kevin McHale

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    Another coach with a small sample size of coaching experience, current Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale could find himself a lot higher on this list if he continues leading this Houston Rockets squad above expectations.

    McHale doesn't have much coaching experience aside from a short stint in Minnesota as an interim in 2005 and once again in the 2008-'09 season. His time with the team as head coach was short lived after compiling a sub-.500 record.

    McHale now finds himself with a Rockets team that he currently has at a surprising 19-14, which is good enough for third in the tough Southwest Division and sixth in the Western Conference. He'll easily shoot way up on this list if he can continue to lead the Rockets in the right direction in only his first full season as a head coach.

23. Larry Drew

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    He proved his worth last season leading the Atlanta Hawks to a 44-38 record in his first ever season as an NBA head coach, but it's going to take a few more seasons for Larry Drew to find himself higher in these rankings.

    There simply isn't enough data or history for Drew to be ranked higher. Don't get me wrong now, because he did have a great first season with the Hawks. It's just going to take more than one second half in his NBA career for me to put him ahead of other established head coaches.

    Drew currently has the Hawks at 19-13, as he attempts to lead them to the postseason without their starting center in Al Horford.

22. Frank Vogel

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    Like Larry Drew and many other second year head coaches, Frank Vogel had a terrific first year as an NBA head coach.

    Vogel helped to resurrect the Indiana Pacers last season and would lead them to the eighth seed after compiling a 20-18 record with the sub-.500 team. They would lose in five games to the Chicago Bulls, but all but one of the games could be considered a blowout.

    After a great offseason and with the acquisition of several key players, Vogel has the Pacers at an impressive 20-12, which is good enough for fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers haven't seen this much success since the mid-2000's.

    Vogel proved last year that he was a stellar second half coach, but we're going to need a full season or two from him before we can accurately place him somewhere higher.

21. Vinny Del Negro

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    A coaching career that is about as average as they possibly come, Vinny Del Negro hasn't seen too much success up until this season with the Los Angeles Clippers.

    Prior to this year, Del Negro coached the Chicago Bulls to consecutive .500 seasons before getting relieved of his duties in the 2010 offseason.

    Del Negro would then get picked up by a Clippers team without much talent, but a lot of promise. He led the team to 32-50 in his first season, but will be expected of so much more with the current team he has.

    With Chris Paul and Caron Butler now on his roster, Del Negro has no more excuses for an average team.

20. Monty Williams

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    An assistant head coach for the Portland Trail Blazers from 2005 to 2010, Monty Williams certainly has a lot on his plate in his second season as head coach of the New Orleans Hornets.

    It was one thing last year when he had Chris Paul and David West, but not even Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach could lead this depressingly awful team to a much better record than the 7-25 mark they're currently at.

    Williams led last year's Hornets to the playoffs as a seventh seed after a 46-36 season, but will see his winning percentage significantly drop as he attempts to win games with arguably the worst roster in the NBA.

    Once again, it's tough ranking Williams as he only has one second half of a season of experience under him.

19. Lionel Hollins

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    A coaching career that started in 1985 as an assistant at Arizona State, Lionel Hollins has one second half in particular that will forever leave him in the memories of the Memphis Grizzlies short history.

    Last year, Hollins was coaching a Grizzlies team that would lose out on Rudy Gay during their race to the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Without Gay, the Grizzlies would surely be lost unless Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and the role players stepped up to fill in the void.

    Hollins leadership played a key part, as he succeeded in making sure that his team didn't cower in the face of obscurity. The Grizzlies would make it to the playoffs thanks to a frantic finish and would set a historic path in the playoffs before losing in Game 7 of the semifinals.

    Prior to then, however, Hollins didn't have a strong coaching record. He was 18-42 in his first stint as a head coach with the Vancouver Grizzlies in 2000 and wouldn't take up another head coaching job until 2004. Excluding this season, Hollins is 117-150 in his career.

18. Alvin Gentry

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    It hasn't been too stellar of a career for current Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry.

    He had a brief and unsuccessful tenure with the Miami Heat before moving on to become the head coach of the Detroit Pistons. He would spent a three average seasons there before going to the Los Angeles Clippers and getting fired after three years.

    Since getting fired from the Clippers in 2003, Gentry has been the head coach of the Suns since 2008 and actually led them to the Western Conference Finals in only his second season after a 54-28 campaign.

    However, the loss of Amar'e Stoudemire is starting to affect his team, as his Suns are now at 14-19 and a few games out of the playoff race. It's going to take a huge second half from Gentry if he wants his team back in the postseason after missing out last year.

17. Tom Thibodeau

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    As I stated before, don't be getting offended if you find your teams' head coach near the bottom of this list. Even if they were great, like Tom Thibodeau was last year, they need a larger sample size that exceeds past one season.

    Trust me, I'm pretty sure Thibodeau will recover from me ranking him 17th in the league's top second half coaches.

    Thibodeau was an extremely deserving Coach of the Year last season, especially for it being only his first season as an NBA head coach. The 62-20 record he compiled was good enough for first in the NBA and was only the first time since 1998 that the Bulls were a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

    Thibodeau was able to achieve such heights because of the the defensive philosophy and hard work ethic he instilled into his players. Even though not many are standouts on the defensive end, Thibodeau preaches hard work and helping out in a team defense setting, which is leading the Bulls to the top of the conference once again.

16. Paul Silas

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    It's not fair to what the Charlotte Bobcats organization is doing to Paul Silas.

    Silas isn't that bad of a coach to be fair. He actually instilled some sort of offensive rhythm to a team that didn't know the meaning of it long before he arrived. In the time he had with the Bobcats last season, Silas established a solid 25-29 record with a sub-par roster.

    This year has been a complete and utter disappointment that just may result in Silas' firing. He doesn't deserve it at all, but it's usually the coach that is the first one to go when things aren't going well.

    Charlotte is 4-27 this year and it's mostly due to the fact that they have no offensive threats. With Corey Maggette replacing Stephen Jackson and the backcourt being in shambles, the Bobcats have no one to rely on for scoring purposes.

    We'll just judge his ranking on how well he did last year, which was actually pretty good for someone who coaches the Bobcats.

15. Byron Scott

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    You have to love the commitment that Byron Scott shows.

    Throughout last year's awful 19-63 season that Scott was forced to endure in his first year as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Scott never let it be known that his team wasn't good enough. If his team was losing games, he'd blame it on the overall effort before he ever judged the talent level of his players.

    If there's one thing you want from a head coach, it's one that believes in his players through and through. Scott's records might not be that great, especially with Cleveland, but it's key that he believes in his players and vice versa.

    Just look at the Cavs these days. They're not that bad even though they have nearly the same roster as last year plus Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson.

    Prior to coaching the Cavaliers, Scott was leading the New Orleans Hornets to some of their best seasons in franchise history. Once again, Scott helped to lead a team with limited resources to heights they had no right being at.

    It couldn't have been all Chris Paul, could it?

14. Scott Skiles

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    Much like another former Chicago Bulls head coach, Scott Skiles has also happened to have an extremely average career.

    He did manage to lead the Phoenix Suns to some solid winning seasons early in his career, but was fired in his third season after failing to capitalize in the playoffs. He would then spend a major part of his career in Chicago, where he would lead the team to as much as 49 wins before getting fired after a 9-16 start in the 2007-'08 season.

    Since then, Skiles has taken up residence in Milwaukee. It's tough to get excited about a team with no All-Stars and has one of the most inept offensive teams in the league, but Skiles must have done something at the end of the 2009-'10 season to get his team fired up.

    "Fear the Deer" became a craze in Milwaukee, as the team suddenly became one of the more volatile and dangerous teams to face in the second half of the season. However, injuries would derail the Bucks and they would lose in the first round of the playoffs.

    Skiles and the Bucks have been mediocre since.

13. Avery Johnson

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    Mostly remembered for the ultimate choke job in the 2006 NBA Finals, Avery Johnson is attempting to redeem his career as a reliable and capable second half head coach.

    We know Johnson can coach in the regular season. The postseason is the one that's giving him the most trouble. He led the Mavericks to at least 50 wins in the three full seasons he was the coach there and only once did they make it past the first round.

    The lone exception was in 2006 when his Mavericks failed to capitalize on a 2-0 series lead in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade would lead an onslaught that would give the Heat four consecutive wins and the title.

    Since being relieved of his duties in 2008, Johnson has taken the job of head coach for a young New Jersey Nets team that's lacking talent. Even with Deron Williams, Johnson can't seem to get this team over the hump, as they simply don't have the star power or players to make a significant push to the playoffs.

12. Stan Van Gundy

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    Allegedly chased out of the Miami Heat organization by Pat Riley after a poor start to the 2005-'06 season, Stan Van Gundy has since resided as head coach of the Orlando Magic.

    For some reason, Van Gundy has received a lot of flack in his time there. I say this is a surprise because Van Gundy's Magic teams have won at least 52 games in every year that he's been the head coach. In the playoff visits, the Magic would go as far as the NBA Finals before succumbing in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Van Gundy also led the Magic to the Conference Finals in the year after. Why he receives such labels as the "master of panic" I will never know.

    Stan has an unorthodox approach to coaching and it's brought nothing to a Magic team that wallowed in mediocrity for years. The only gripe I would have with him is the fact that his offense doesn't allow Dwight Howard to get as many touches as he deserves.

    Aside from that, however, Van Gundy has been a solid second half coach and NBA head coach overall.

11. Mike Brown

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    Sure Mike Brown is a great coach in the regular season, but how can you vouch for him in the postseason?

    Never mind that 66 percent winning percentage that Brown obtained in his years as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2005 to 2010. It's all well and good when you're leading your team to consecutive 60-plus win seasons, but it doesn't mean much when you can't do much when it matters most.

    Don't put the blame on LeBron James, either. He had an awful roster surrounding him that was nowhere near championship caliber and Brown wasn't helping to create adjustments when the going got tough deep in the playoffs.

    Brown was a stellar second half coach in the regular season, and that's why he's ranked this high. Otherwise, he hasn't been that great outside of a visit to the 2007 NBA Finals, where his team would get swept with ease by the San Antonio Spurs.

    He's now coaching an undermanned Los Angeles Lakers team with word already coming in involving player only meetings.

10. Scott Brooks

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    The 2010 Coach of the Year for good reason, Scott Brooks deserves just as much credit as Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook for the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Have we already forgotten how bad this team was before Brooks came in? When P.J. Carlesimo was leading the team, they had the look of a team as young as their age indicated. Durant was playing without direction and guidance and was basically a terrific scorer in the making with no leader on the sideline to help him.

    That's where Brooks enters. He went 22-47 in his first year with the team, but would recover with a 50-win season in only his first full year as an NBA head coach. Brooks would help lead the Thunder to the Conference Finals the very next year, as they would win 55 games in the regular season to obtain a fourth seed.

    Brooks now has the Thunder at 26-7 and with the No. 1 seed in firm grasp in the West. He's an excellent second half coach and it shows in how well the Thunder have performed in the playoffs in the short time he's been there.

9. Mike D'Antoni

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    Mike D'Antoni should be worshiping Jeremy Lin right about now.

    After all, he's the reason why he still has a job as head coach of the New York Knicks. Prior to Lin's unbelievable run, the Knicks fanbase was crying for changes, with D'Antoni being the start. His offensive philosophy wasn't working, as Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire couldn't work together in rhythm to consistently score points.

    Once Lin came around, however, those thoughts were quickly dispelled of as the Knicks are now a .500 team with a playoff berth sure to come.

    D'Antoni has always been a successful coach, aside from his rookie year with Denver and his first year with Phoenix, and he can attribute that to players fitting in his system. With pick-and-roll players like Steve Nash and Stoudemire on those Suns teams that constantly contended for a championship, D'Antoni was considered as one of the greatest offensive minds in the NBA.

    Unfortunately, defense was D'Antoni's downfall in the playoffs. It worked for him in the second half of the NBA season when his team was still running while others were wearing down, but it simply wasn't a good strategy in attempting to match up offense with defense.

8. Erik Spoelstra

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    Erik Spoelstra started his coaching career in 2008 when he was handed over the reins to a Miami Heat team that was begging to get back on the right track.

    After that 15-67 record the year before, anything would have been a sign of improvement. With Pat Riley stepping down and giving the head coaching job to assistant coach Spoelstra, it truly showed just how committed a legend like Riley was to a young guy who had never coached a day in his life.

    It wasn't too bad of a decision either, as "Spo" led an unbalanced roster to 43 wins and the playoffs. He'd then lead them to an impressive 47 wins the next year, but would ultimately bow out in the second round of the playoffs.

    Two years after he started coaching, Spoelstra found himself at the head of a team that included the likes of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. It took a little bit longer than anticipated for him to get things going, but things eventually started to click as he led the team to the NBA Finals before bowing out in six games.

    This year, Spoelstra is a Coach of the Year candidate, as he has his Heat team at an NBA best 26-7. The second half has always been his time, as he usually has his Heat teams ready and rested for the beginning of the playoffs.

7. Nate McMillan

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    Let these stats tell you about how quality of a coach Nate McMillan is:

    McMillan took over for the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2005-'06 season. They finished 21-61 and last in the Northwest Division.

    The next year, McMillan's Blazers won 32 games. The year after, they won 41. Then they won 54 and won the division. Then a slight regression started as the Blazers won 50 and 48 games over the next two seasons.

    Take note that those years of regression came when All-Star Brandon Roy was hurting and the Blazers were left scrambling for a leader until LaMarcus Aldridge stepped up.

    McMillan doesn't have the numbers of a great coach, but he does have the right mindset and philosophy. The Blazers have been ridden with bad luck for decades and it's struck them once again with the retirement of Roy and the continuing saga of Greg Oden's knees.

    Not once has McMillan offered up an excuse for his teams play, as he always has his players giving 110 percent each and every time they're on the floor.

    He has yet to make it past the second round in his time with Portland, but has done a stellar job at keeping this team afloat in a tough Western Conference.

6. Doug Collins

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    The Philadelphia 76ers weren't supposed to be this good.

    In fact, it was argued on whether or not they would even make it. They still had no scorer to lead the way and a bunch of role players who could hardly fit the bill, outside of an All-Star in Andre Iguodala, who is a stellar defender and a streak shooter.

    In two years, Doug Collins has completely changed the outlook of this team. He's using Iguodala as a defender first and an offensive threat second, going deep into his bench and utilizing a well-balanced approach to every game. To show just how balanced they are, take note that Louis Williams is the leading scorer at 16 points per game off the bench.

    The 76ers aren't a bad offensive team. They're just extremely well led thanks to a coach who finally knows what he's doing and knows how to lead a team the right way.

    Collins has been a .500 coach for the majority of his career, but has usually come alive in the second half in order to strengthen his teams for the postseason. It was most evident last year when his .500 Sixers tested the Miami Heat in all but one game of their first round matchup that ended in five games.

5. Rick Carlisle

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    The man who coached the reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks to their first title in franchise history, Rick Carlisle does not get nearly the attention and recognition that he deserves.

    After all, those guys on the sideline are obviously doing something. The Mavericks didn't go from first round disappointment to the NBA Finals in the span of a season simply because they added a strong defensive mind in Tyson Chandler. Obviously, Carlisle was doing something right this time.

    Having his players buy into the defensive philosophy that Chandler was throwing out there was a start. By adding defense to the equation and utilizing it to its fullest potential, the Mavericks became a lot stronger and a lot more confident on the defensive end.

    With Carlisle buying into defense and transitioning it to the entire team, the Mavericks were finally able to secure a title after a decade's worth of close-calls.

    In his nine-year career, Carlisle has led six teams to at least 50 wins and has missed the playoffs only once.

4. George Karl

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    It's tough to believe that George Karl was once an NBA player.

    Karl's playing days might have only lasted five years, but his coaching career has stood the test of time, as he has been coaching since 1980. He's been all over the world as a coach, as he has coached as far east as Madrid and as far west as Oakland. No matter where he's been, however, Karl has always seen success.

    He plain knows how to coach the game. He always gets the best out of his players, especially in time for the playoffs, knows how to run an efficient offense while also keeping the defense tight and secure and has always had the respect and loyalty of the numerous Hall of Fame players who have walked to the court with him.

    This is a coach who has led the likes of Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Ray Allen and Carmelo Anthony. Every one of those players got to at least the Conference Finals when Karl was coaching. While Karl has yet to win an NBA championship, he still has plenty of time as he attempts to lead a well-balanced Denver Nuggets team to possible upsets come playoff time.

    Karl hasn't had a losing season since 1988.

3. Rick Adelman

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    It would be absolutely insane to say that Rick Adelman has had anything less than a Hall of Fame career.

    Ignore the fact that he's never won a championship. There are a lot of quality coaches out there who have never won an NBA title. However, there aren't many who have a 61 percent winning percentage in 20 years worth of coaching.

    Adelman has been one of the most consistent coaches in the history of the game. He's only missed the playoffs four times, has led two teams to 60 or more wins and 11 teams to at least 50 wins. He made it to the NBA Finals twice, both with the Portland Trail Blazers, but failed to come away with a championship.

    Currently coaching the Minnesota Timberwolves to their best record since the days of Kevin Garnett, Adelman has always seemed to get the best out of his players. From Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter in Portland to Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic in Sacramento, and even to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming in Houston, Adelman has always seen success  from the teams he has coached.

    He's always seemed to get the best out of his players once the second half of the season arrives, which helps to explain why all these teams make deep playoff runs once they make it in.

    Take a look at what he's doing with the Timberwolves. The team that struggled to win 17 games last year now has 16 wins.

    What can Adelman do for you?

2. Doc Rivers

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    Say what you will about Doc Rivers being handed a great team, it still takes a great deal of leadership to corral those huge ego's in order to win a championship.

    Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce might have all had a comfortable niche when they arrived, but they didn't just win 65 games and a championship in their first year together solely because of chemistry. They can also thank Rivers for instilling a defensive philosophy and thus creating one of the strongest defensive units you'll ever see in the NBA.

    In the 2007-'08 season, the Celtics were nearly impossible to score against consistently. They had the strong defenders, but they also had a great defensive mind working behind the scenes. Rivers knew how to coach a strong defense as well as an efficient offense that worked by passing the ball and having players move.

    That's the type of play you get from a coach who used to be an All-Star point guard.

    As for being a second half coach, just go ahead and take a look at that 2010-'11 Celtics team. Many were convinced that their time had come, but Rivers managed to have them rested and ready in time for the postseason, where they would go on to come a few minutes away from an NBA championship despite a slow start to the season.

1. Gregg Popovich

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    Once Phil Jackson left the game for good, Gregg Popovich took the throne as the NBA's top coach.

    And it's not even close. Popvich not only wins the award for most creative spelling of the name Greg, but also has the NBA hardware to back up a surefire first ballot Hall of Fame career.

    Since he started coaching the San Antonio Spurs in 1996, Popovich has brought home four NBA titles and has given reason to small market teams everywhere that they have no excuse to not win titles. Outside of Tim Duncan and David Robinson in those early years, Popovich never had star-studded talent—he just knew how to play the game right and how to win.

    Take a look at Popvich's team and you won't see too many All-Stars. You have Duncan, Robinson and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker later on, but who else? Avery Johnson and Mario Elie? Fabricio Oberto and Michael Finley? These are role players who could barely crack the rotation on most teams, yet they played huge parts on a number of championship teams.

    Popovich knew how to utilize his role players better than any coach we've ever seen, and we're even seeing it this year. Without Manu Ginobili for the majority of the year and Tim Duncan's health regressing, Popovich has the Spurs near the top of the West with nothing but Tony Parker and a few young role players leading the way.

    Sometimes it's not all about talent. Having the right leader on the sidelines could do a lot more than you can imagine.

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