Most Overrated Coaches in NBA History
Though fans love basketball because of the players, they're always sure to give the coach his due credit. In some cases, however, some of the men manning the sidelines aren't always people who should be showered with praise.
Don't get me wrong. The Phil Jacksons and Red Auerbachs of the coaching world are phenomenal at what they do (or did) and deserve all of the compliments they receive. I mean, let's be serious. A combined 20 championships is nothing to sneeze at.
Then, you have your Mike D'Antoni-type coaches, whose teams look great on paper but can't seem to bring the trophy home.
Still, I'm a generous man and believe that everyone should get credit for something, so here are the men I've deemed to be the most overrated coaches in NBA history.
No. 9: Jerry Sloan
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Though Jerry Sloan kicks off this list, he is the least overrated of those who will be mentioned. He coached the Utah Jazz for just over 23 years and turned the franchise into a perennial contender. In doing so, he turned Karl Malone and John Stockton into Hall of Famers.
Still, given how much time he spent with the Jazz, Sloan's resume isn't exactly what one would call incredible. Impressive, yes. Outstanding, not so much.
Sloan's teams gave him a 1,221-803 record in the regular season, but struggled in the postseason. There, they went just 98-104, including two losing trips to the NBA Finals.
With how long Sloan has been in the coaching game, one would think that he would have a bit more to show for his experience.
No. 8: George Karl
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Like Sloan, Karl is overrated because of how much his teams have struggled in the playoffs.
In a coaching span that has lasted over two decades, he has only been out of the first round eight times and has never taken home a championship ring. On top of that, he has only been past the first round of the playoffs only once since 2003.
His 1,074-731 regular season record is decent, as the teams he has coached were often ones that he turned into contenders out of nothing. Still, his 78-101 playoff record just screams underachievement.
No. 7: Mike Brown
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On paper, Brown is a good coach. He has winning records in both the regular season and the playoffs and at just 42 years of age, his career on the sidelines is far from over.
Still, we're talking about a man who helped turn the Cleveland Cavaliers into contenders on the back of superstar LeBron James. In his five years with the team, Brown made it to the NBA Finals once and lost.
Play the blame game all you want, but the job of a coach is to help his team win and bring the trophy home. Brown had the best player in the league on his team when he was trying to do that in Cleveland, and he couldn't get the job done.
Given how he was fired after a season in which he went 61-21, I think that's all the evidence we need.
No. 6: Mike D'Antoni
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D'Antoni is an offensive coach and while his teams may be fun to watch, they aren't the best by any means. The man seems to think that the key to winning a championship lies in simply outscoring the other team, but the adage says it all: offense wins games, defense wins championships.
As a result, D'Antoni's teams in both Phoenix and New York have been great at putting points on the board, but not much else. Though he's been to the conference finals twice, his teams' flaws are often quickly exposed.
No. 5: Stan Van Gundy
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On paper, Van Gundy appears to be a good coach. In years spent with the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, he has gone 371-208 in the regular season and 48-39 in the playoffs, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009.
I know my next statement is going to offend those loyal to the recently fired Orlando coach, but he isn't the reason his teams did so well.
More often than not, Van Gundy's success has come from having the right players at the right time. Be it having Shaquille O'Neal in Miami or Dwight Howard in Orlando, his players were the reason the team won, not him.
Seeing as how the Miami Heat went on to win a championship the same year he resigned from them, just 21 games into the season, I think the writing's on the wall for this guy. We can only hope that if he gets another coaching job, he proves that he can win without depending on a superstar.
No. 4: Mike Fratello
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Mike "The Czar" Fratello had a respectable coaching career that saw him run the sidelines for the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies. In Memphis, he finally turned the team from constant lottery dwellers into legitimate playoff contenders.
Still, while he went 667-548 during the regular season, the postseason was Fratello's bugaboo. Once every game mattered, his teams fell apart. In playoff games, he went an abysmal 20-42 and has not had a coaching job since being fired from Memphis in 2007.
No. 3: Lenny Wilkens
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It pains me to include Wilkens on this list, as he is a basketball icon and was once the winningest coach in NBA history. In 1979, he led the Seattle SuperSonics to their one and only NBA championship and went on to coach for 31 years over the span of five different decades.
That being said, the reason for why Wilkens appears here is simple. While he is one of the most respected coaches in the game, he never won another championship besides the one in Seattle and only went to the conference finals twice since then.
Sure, he has 1,332 wins, but his 1,155 losses also make him the losingest coach in basketball history. Given his 80-98 postseason record, my best guess is that his coaching style never evolved in the same way as the game of basketball itself.
No. 2: Don Nelson
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With a career record of 1,335-1,063, Nelson is the winningest coach in NBA history. In 32 years manning the sidelines, the man has spent time with Milwaukee, Golden State, New York and Dallas and brought his fast-paced style of offense with him.
Yet, much like D'Antoni, Nelson's teams sacrificed defense for the sake of a quick game that saw lots of points go on the board. In all of his years of coaching, he never once went to the NBA Finals and only made the Conference Finals four times.
As of 2010, when his second coaching stint with the Golden State Warriors ended, his playoff record was an underwhelming 75-91.
No. 1: Flip Saunders
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If there's any coach that deserves some flak for choking in the playoffs, it's Saunders. His Kevin Garnett-led Minnesota Timberwolves made the postseason eight years in a row, but only got past the first round once.
He then moved onto the Detroit Pistons and in each of his three years there, the team made the conference finals and lost in six games each time. I won't even go into his forgettable tenure with the Washington Wizards.
The facts are simple. Yes, Saunders is a great basketball mind and his approach to the game is one that works with this generation of players. Still, those Pistons teams he coached were stacked, so how did he not get to the NBA Finals at least once?