Los Angeles Lakers: Best Head Coaches of All Time
Mike D'Antoni confirmed he would be making his first appearance as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets. The official debut came more than a week after he was acquired.
Let's take a look at how D'Antoni, the 24th head coach in Lakers history, compares to the team's former coaching greats.
10. Mike Brown
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Yes, we're starting with the recently fired Mike Brown, who only coached the team for a little over a season. But in that one year, admittedly the Lakers did see some success.
Let's look at the facts: Brown won 59 percent of the total games he coached. In his only full season, he led the team to the second round of the playoffs before losing to the eventual Western Conference Champions in 2012. Also, despite losing key players in the offseason and not having a full training camp to prepare for the 2012 season, the Lakers still managed to win over 62 percent of their games that year.
Statistically speaking, he did his job.
9. Bernie Bickerstaff
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Give the guy some credit.
He's the man that saved the Lakers from total oblivion early in the season by turning a 1-4 start into a 4-1 improvement.
The team reached the .500 mark because of him. In all honesty, the Lakers could have been undefeated under Bickerstaff had the team closed out a three-point fourth quarter lead against the San Antonio Spurs in his third game.
Also, Bickerstaff now owns the Lakers' best winning percentage at 80 percent.
Too bad Lakers fans won't get to see him as the man in charge any longer; his post-game press conferences were extremely amusing.
8. Mike Dunleavy
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He was only with the Lakers for two seasons, but the team did enjoy a nice number of wins in that time.
The Lakers won nearly 62 percent of their games and even made a trip to the NBA Finals, beating the top-seeded Trailblazers in the Western Conference Semifinals. That team would eventually lose to Michael Jordan's Bulls, but not before going on a great playoff run.
Dunleavy may not have been one of the Lakers' most memorable coaches, but his short stint certainly helped Los Angeles transition into the next era of greatness.
7. Fred Schaus
He was the Lakers' first head coach after they moved to Los Angeles. He was a pretty good one, too.
During his seven-year stint, the Lakers went to the NBA Finals four times in five years. Although he was unable to win a title himself, he did assemble a great Lakers team that eventually went on to take the championship in 1972.
Schaus coached from 1960-67 and won 56 percent of the games he headed.
6. Paul Westhead
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Younger fans may not remember him, but he led Magic Johnson to his first championship in 1980.
His relationship with Johnson was not as smooth as some people might suspect, though, and allegedly was fired by Jerry Buss because of a feud he had with Magic.
Despite his exit, his record as a head coach does speak for itself.
He won a ring with the Lakers and he went on to win 111 out of 161 games. For those of you keeping track, that's a 68 percent winning percentage, which is even higher than Phil Jackson's overall percentage.
His departure may have been a tough one, but his success with the team should merit some credit.
5. Del Harris
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What a great run Harris had during his stint with the Lakers. Although he was unable to bring home a championship, the Lake Show did see a great amount of success in the years leading up to the Kobe and Shaq dynasty.
Fans are a bit conflicted when thinking about Harris. Some credit him for paving the way for Jackson's success with the superstar duo. Others criticize him for not being able to pull through in the playoffs. But no matter how conflicted fans feel about him, he did have some great years with the team.
The Lakers won 224 games in his five seasons as coach. He even went on to win the 1995 Coach of the Year award. That's something only two other Lakers coaches managed to do.
4. Bill Sharman
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Bill Sharman: one of only three Lakers head coaches to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Sharman led the team to its first championship in Los Angeles after numerous attempts. What an amazing run it turned out to be. The Lakers went on to win a record 33 straight games that year and beat the New York Knicks decisively in the NBA Finals. He also went on to win the Coach of the Year award that same season.
His overall record with the team was 246-164.
3. John Kundla
He was the coach of the Lakers' first dynasty.
In the 1950s he led the Lakers to five championship along side George Mikan. With 390 victories, he is just behind Phil Jackson and Pat Riley in the win column.
This guy simply paved the way for the franchise with his outstanding success.
His accomplishments with the team could very well have lasted a lot longer, but he chose to stay in Minnesota after the Lakers moved to Los Angeles.
For his early success in the NBA, Kundla was even named one of the 10 greatest coaches in NBA history.
2. Pat Riley
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For years, he was considered the greatest Lakers coach of all time, and some still consider him to be the best. After all, he won 73 percent of the games he coached with the team, a number higher than even Phil Jackson with the Lake Show.
His dynasty with Magic, Kareem and Worthy was truly outstanding. All they did was win. His teams reached the NBA Finals a staggering seven times during his stint, resulting in four NBA titles—two of which came against the Lakers' bitter rival the Boston Celtics.
Although he was unable to win a title in his final year as the head coach, he did manage to win his first Coach of the Year award in 1990.
1. Phil Jackson
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Even if you discount his time with the Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson would still be considered one of the best if you just look at what he did in Lakers Land.
The Zen Master led the Lakers to seven NBA Finals and five championships, which are both records for a Lakers head coach. He also holds the team record for most wins with 610 and most playoff victories with 181.
Fans may have been disappointed to learn that Mike D'Antoni was picked over Jackson, but Phil did more than enough to fulfill his legacy in his time in LA. There was no need to add to it.
The greatest coach of all time is also the greatest head coach in Lakers history.