Erik Spoelstra and 10 NBA Coaches Who Will Never Get the Credit They Deserve
We all know the great Phil Jackson and Pat Riley as the base coaches to know over the past two decades. Then there is the knowledge of the coaches who just plain stink, like Randy Wittman and P.J. Carlesimo who just aren't NBA coaches. With those two levels, there is an intermediary level which most coaches in the league find themselves at.
As Rodney Dangerfield use to say: "I can't get no respect." That is a quote that could at least partially sum up most of these coaches at this time to the public. There is no love fest going on by ESPN or NBA network for them and they aren't thought of when it comes to greatest. They have been around—with the exception of Spoelstra—for at least a decade and made their impact for better and worse. I'll let you be the judge with 10 coaches who will never get the respect they deserve.
10. Byron Scott
College: Arizona State
Win/Loss Record: 352-355 (.498)
Playoffs: 33-24 (.579)
Many people forget that Scott took the New Jersey Nets to consecutive Eastern Conference titles in 2002 and 2003. Albeit, the conference was as soft as tissue paper, there still was the recognition in taking a team to two straight Finals appearances.
He spent time in New Orleans which did not go as nice as planned, but now he will get a chance to reinvent himself as coach of the rebuilding Cavaliers. Albeit without LeBron James, Scott has a treacherous road to traverse his first season in Cleveland. The good fortune he has is that people are so devastated that LeBron left, that it doesn't matter how they play this year.
Scott himself was a 14-year pro that flourished under Magic Johnson running of Showtime during the 80's. With the amount of success he was involved with then and the continued success in the coaching ranks, he knows what's needed to succeed. The former Vancouver Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers player had one stellar season with the Hornets to go with his Nets teams when he went 56-26 and battled the Spurs in the Western Conference Semis.
He's not the most amazing coach as is revealed by his .500 mark as a coach overall. He is however a man who when given a solid team, can mold them into potential championship material. That is what goes by unnoticed with Scott.
9. Chuck Daly
College: Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
Win/Loss Record: 638-437 (.593)
Playoffs: 75-51 (.595)
Chuck Daly was the coach of the Dream Team of 1992 for those who need a refresher on the greatest team grouping of all-time. He was also a two-time NBA champion coach for the Detroit Pistons. He could have potentially been a three-time champion if not for Isiah Thomas' errant pass which Larry Bird stole towards a Dennis Johnson layup.
Back in the 90's he was given his due as he was ranked as a top 10 coach of all-time at the NBA at 50. It seems with the slight passing of time he has been forgotten for the great coaching he displayed of his years.
Daly didn't start his Head Coaching until the age of 51, but he made up for the time by building a strong team while coaching the Pistons. This despite the fact that he began his career 9-32 during his one year in Cleveland.
He built teams that strayed away from the passive, easy going league that David Stern envisioned. Instead, he implemented a game that was tantalizing to the keen observer and to those in passing. It was a rough and physical game that as much mentally draining as physical. Bringing in players like Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn was just part of what made Daly special as a coach.
He got his players to play his way and as a team under Isiah Thomas. Daly's mental toughness was relayed to his players when they reached their sprint toward greatness. He also was a guy who unabashedly would talk of the greatness of players on other teams. He was just an honest and winning guy.
8. Erik Spoelstra
College: Portland University
Win/Loss Record: 90-74 (.549)
Playoffs: 4-8 (.333)
It seems Spoelstra can already see the writing on the wall before he gets a chance to prove himself fully. Pat Riley is there just looking over his back to make sure that things stay on course. That has to be expected of course with the background of Niles.
Spoelstra has spent quite a bit of time working his way up through the Heat organization to get to where he is today. He set the record for win increases from the prior year for Rookie head coaches in 2008-2009.
He now is entering his third year with three big guns in his holster. Bosh, Wade and James should make defenses so nervous they can't spell the word. This will alleviate some of the frustrations for Spoelstra, but could also take away the credit he deserves. Riley is almost going to be commended for getting the players in the offseason—not Erik.
Spoelstra is in a tough situation where the spoils may go to the Heat, but in the end, he might just end up burned. For his part, he is still young and at worst, he will have a chance to reinvent himself at a new locale in the future.
7. George Karl
College: North Carolina
Win/Loss Record: 986-671 (.595)
Playoffs: 74-93 (.443)
George Karl is one of the greatest coaches that never gets credit for it. It's as simple as that. Karl at the tender of age of 33, began his coaching career with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He would steady the ship to a Playoff berth during his first year. He would then fiddle in mediocrity until he landed in Seattle.
During his six full seasons in Seattle, he would win no less than 55 games and had a best 64-18 record in 1995-1996. Too bad the Bulls would break the season wins record with a 72-10 record. Thus, leaving the Sonics out of Home court during the Finals.
Besides his Finals appearance in 1995-96, he has made the Conference Finals three other times with the Sonics, Bucks and Nuggets. He, like Jerry Sloan, has just not been able to capture that elusive ring the way Larry Brown was able to in 2003-2004.
Unable to ever win Coach of the Year, he will probably never see this award with his name across it. That being said, he has still been a great coach and competitor that fights as hard to beat cancer as he does his opponent on the court.
6. Scott Skiles
College: Michigan State
Win/Loss Record: 361-335 (.519)
Playoffs: 18-24 (.429)
Scott Skiles is an expressive man. That can be gathered by taking one look at his mug (Pic). Scott is not one of the greatest coaches ever; he is far from that achievement at this point. He is however, a coach that has been able to muster the most out of his players when other coaches would not have been able to.
He has been coaching for a decade now and the jury is still out on him. That's understandable since he still has time to push his view one way or the other. My gut feeling is that he will be around for a while and will continue to be a solid coach. A solid coach though, stays under the radar and unfortunately doesn't ever get the full deserved recognition.
5. Nate McMillan
College: North Carolina State
Win/Loss Record: 410-395 (.509)
Playoffs: 12-16 (.429)
Nate has been doing his thing in the league for a decade now and is running as strong now as he was at the beginning. He was given a porous team when he took the reins in Seattle as he had to win over Gary Payton who he backed up in Seattle. Going through the trade of Payton and acquiring of Ray Allen, he was able to lead the Sonics to a surprising 52-30 record in the 2004-2005 season.
This would lead to him going to Portland the next season to rebuild the Blazers as the Sonics decided to fold in early preparations to become the Thunder. His start would be rough his first season in Portland 21-61, but he would retool Portland as he did Seattle.
He has struggled to keep the Blazers together amid a mounting amount of injuries. With all the frustrations, he still has a solid team that could compete with the best if Greg Oden can stay healthy.
McMillan just comes off as a guy who will do his job professionally and quiet. Even with success, it will seem as if you can only see him and not get a vision of winning. That is what will probably be associated with Nate McMillan.
4. Rick Adelman
College: Loyola Marymount University
Win/Loss Record: 902-577 (.610)
Playoffs: 79-78 (.502)
Rick Adelman has had some demoralizing defeats in his coaching career. The Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the 2008-2009 Playoffs, the inability to stop Jordan in the 1992 Finals and of course the Western Conference Finals with the Kings against the Lakers in 2002. These all have added to the frustration that is Rick Adelman. He is a solid coach who wins over 60 percent of his games and is over .500 in the playoffs.
He has found success with three of the four franchises he has latched on with and all without having a true All-Star Center (Kevin Duckworth and Vlade Divac made the All-Star team under his watch) on his side. Adelman hasn't won 900 games just for being lucky, he has put the time in to get the results.
He probably doesn't get the respect he deserves because, like most of the others on this list, he hasn't won when it mattered. His unlikely loss to the Lakers in the 1991 playoffs could be called in to question. Then there is the most deadly vote with Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
Adelman had a chance to supplant Jackson for a time and put himself as the top dog in the game. A chance to truly spread his wings. Let's be realistic as well—the Kings weren't going to lose the New Jersey Nets. Rick would have had his title and forever been immortalized by the basketball gods. That didn't happen and he is very mortal and forgotten or devalued by most basketball heads.
3. Red Holzman
College: City College of New York
Win/Loss Record: 696-604 (.535)
Playoffs: 58-48 (.547)
William "Red" Holzman should be the coach that all future Knicks Head Coaches are placed up against. This was the man who was finally able to lead the Knicks to their only two titles under him in 1970 and 1973. He also took them to the Finals in 1972.
Now he is one of the 10 winning coaches of all-time and won Coach of the Year in 1969-70 so he has had credit.
The question is: Is it enough? No.
He has not reached a level that is truly indicative of the expectations he put into Knicks' fans over thirty years ago. He was able to put together a solid core led by Willis Reed and Walt Frazier to two titles that linger to this day in New York.
New York has been the Mecca of street ball, but not the NBA. If it weren't for Holzman, Spike Lee would have absolutely no pride to show in his Knicks love. That's true for many others seeing that the only other title came when Dr. J was playing for the Nets in the ABA.
This might seem very narrow minded to think of the Knicks exclusively here, but they have the best arena in the NBA and haven't had a banner to fly high in those rafters since 1973. It should be agreed upon that Holzman is underrated.
2. Jerry Sloan
College: University of Evansville
Win/Loss Record: 1190-780 (.604)
Playoffs: 98-104 (.485)
Sloan could easily be the most overlooked coach in NBA history just because he hasn't won an NBA title. Take this into account before you miss or dismiss Sloan: he has had only one losing season since he took over the Jazz in 1988-89. Consistency could easily describe what Sloan has accomplished during his years in Utah.
Sloan started slow in Chicago with the Bulls for three years as a young pup in his 30's. Seven years later, he would take the reins in Salt Lake City and forever change the mindset of the Jazz. During his time in Utah, he would enjoy back-to-back Finals appearances with 64-18 and 62-20 season records.
He's still going strong at 67 and one can only wonder how much longer he is going to hold his position. We all know Stockton-to-Malone, but Sloan can take part in the construction of this form. Sloan has been overlooked as any coach in how great he has been.
1. Gregg Popovich
College: Air Force
Win/Loss Record: 736-362 (.670)
Playoffs: 106-69 (.606)
Many might want to disregard this vote for Popovich already getting enough credit and that he has Tim Duncan at his side. I agree that Tim Duncan has been huge and the main reason he can call himself a title holding coach. I will also admit that I have never been a fan of Popovich and that to me is the biggest credit I can pull towards his undervalue.
I don't like the way his teams play the game— slow, methodical and with the flopping ever present. I can't stand that every time I have legitimately rooted against them, they stick it to me. The fact that he is able to draft these unknown international players and make studs out of them also gets to me.
With all of these negative aspects, from my view here, comes the reality—he's a proof, top championship coach that ranks with the best of them. He has four titles under his belt which very few can claim and has done this while breaking dynasty ties (2000-2002 Lakers) and stopping dynasties from starting (2004-2005 Pistons).
He has won two-thirds of the games he has coached in the regular season, as his consistency over the past 14 years has shown. He has won the coach of the year once (2002-2003), but as I much as I dislike him, he deserves at least one more.