Most Overrated Coach in Every NBA Team's History
The mark of every great team is a great coach leading it from the sidelines. These men have such great basketball knowledge that they are reviled not only by their players, but by their fans. Yet, some coaches just seem to get a little too much credit than is duly deserved.
It appears that in each team's history, there is one coach who is popular, and very popular at that. Still, their one bug-a-boo is their inability to take the team to the next elite level despite being good at winning. One man who fits this mold perfectly is Flip Saunders (pictured), who always seemed to be stuck in first gear when with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
That being said, let's look back at each team's history and pick out their most overrated coach.
Atlanta Hawks: Lenny Wilkens
Lenny Wilkens is not a bad coach by any means. In fact, none of the men mentioned on this list are. The Hall-of-Famer is second on the all-time wins list with 1,332 and only trails Don Nelson.
Yet, despite having a 310-232 overall record during his seven seasons in Atlanta, Wilkens' performance in the playoffs was very disappointing. Over that span, his Atlanta teams went just 17-30 despite having talented players like Dikembe Mutombo and Steve Smith. He won just 28 games his final season and was replaced with Lon Kruger.
He may be a great coach as a whole, but his time in Atlanta is average at best.
Boston Celtics: Chris Ford
Picking an overrated coach for the Boston Celtics is tough because in the franchise's long history, so many coaches have led the team to a strong record. Thus, after trolling through the annals, the best choice for this slideshow is Chris Ford, who manned the team from 1990-1995.
Ford went 222-188 during his tenure in Beantown, which was pretty impressive considering how his years with the team featured the retirement of Larry Bird and the tragic death of Reggie Lewis. Despite this, Ford managed to bring the team to the playoffs consistently.
Yet, his playoff record was an average 13-16. More often than not, the Celtics had problems getting past the first or second round and following the 1994-1995 campaign, Ford was replaced with the forgettable M.L. Carr.
Charlotte Bobcats: Larry Brown
When Larry Brown was hired as coach of the Bobcats in 2008, the team was three years old and looking for a man who could help turn a young and inexperienced squad into a perennial contender. That being said, what were they thinking in hiring Brown? Throughout his career, he has had a penchant for favoring experienced veterans over young players, as evidenced by his benching of Darko Milicic in Detroit.
Overall, Brown did well in Charlotte. He led the team to its first postseason appearance in his second season, where they were swept out in the first round. Still, the man did not produce results quickly enough and was essentially forced out the following year, leaving the team with a coaching record of 88-104.
He is not a bad coach by any means, but his seeming inability to work with younger players makes him slightly overrated.
Chicago Bulls: Scott Skiles
The job of every head coach in any sport is to get the best out of the team with the talent at hand. When he was with the Chicago Bulls, Scott Skiles simply could not do that despite being the first coach since Phil Jackson to take the team to the postseason. These teams featured talented players like Luol Deng and Ben Gordon.
Yet, despite the talent and decent role players on the bench, Skiles could not get the Bulls past the second round of the playoffs and was fired 25 games into his fifth season in the Windy City. He left with a record of 165-172.
Sure, he helped the team get back to the postseason, but is he really due as much credit considering how Tom Thibodeau took the team from .500 to the best record in the NBA in just one season?
Cleveland Cavaliers: Mike Brown
I think I've figured out why Mike Brown is stomping his foot in this picture. He was the head coach in Cleveland for five years, posted an unbelievable record of 272-138, had one of the league's best players in LeBron James, and he STILL couldn't win a title? I'm sorry, but there's just something wrong with that equation.
Look up overrated Midwestern coach in the dictionary, and you'll definitely see this man's picture.
Dallas Mavericks: Don Nelson
Don Nelson may be the winningest coach in NBA history, but he's still extremely overrated. Despite his overall record of 1,335-1,003, the man has never coached a team to the NBA Finals.
His tenure in Dallas was no exception. While he was integral in the development of Steve Nash, Michael Finley and current Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki, his run-and-gun offense came at the sacrifice of tough defense and the team never truly reached its full potential.
Yet, when he stepped down in 2005, his replacement, Avery Johnson, led the team to the NBA Finals within a year. Thus, his respectable Dallas record of 339-251 just becomes another statistic.
Denver Nuggets: Doug Moe
A couple of months ago, I published a piece about each team's most underrated coach. For the Denver Nuggets, I chose Doug Moe considering how he was the man who led the Nuggets on some memorable playoff runs thanks to the sharp shooting of Alex English.
Yet, I'm sad to say that Moe's run-and-gun system also makes him the team's most overrated coach. In nine-and-a-half seasons in the Mile High City, he posted a respectable record of 432-357. Yet, in the playoffs, he was a less-than-average 24-37.
I understand how the Western Conference was full of extremely talented teams back then, much like it is now, but that playoff record is just unacceptable.
Detroit Pistons: Doug Collins
Doug Collins went 121-88 in two and a half seasons with the Pistons and like Skiles, he just couldn't get the best out of a roster that featured a fresh-out-of-college Grant Hill and a talented point guard in Stacey Augmon.
He never got past the first round of the playoffs and was fired 45 games into his third season.
Golden State Warriors: Don Nelson
Don Nelson had two separate stints with the Golden State Warriors, the first from 1988-1995 and the second from 2006-2010. In both stints, he was known for having teams that were all offense and little-to-no defense. In spite of his taking a No. 8-seeded team to the second round of the playoffs in 2007, the man just couldn't get it done here.
With the Warriors, Nelson posted a career postseason record of 14-21, which just won't cut it for a team looking to win a championship.
Houston Rockets: Tex Winter
I understand that Tex Winter is the great basketball mind who gave us the triangle offense, but it should be noted that his record as a head coach is fairly average. As a college coach, he made it to the Final Four twice. Yet, in the pros, his fortune was not as prosperous.
You see, Winter was the head coach of the Houston Rockets from 1971-1973. His record was an unimpressive 51-78. Thus, when push comes to shove, he is just another college coach who couldn't make it in the pros.
Indiana Pacers: Isiah Thomas
In a complete 180 from what he did during his tenure with the New York Knicks, Isiah Thomas actually did a pretty good job in his three seasons coaching the Indiana Pacers. He was instrumental in the development of young players like Jermaine O'Neal and Al Harrington and for a time, it looked as though the Pacers' progress could only go up.
Yet, whenever the playoffs rolled around, Thomas couldn't get the best out of his team. He went 5-10 in the playoffs during his tenure with Indiana and was eventually let go after his third-seed team was upset by the sixth-seed Boston Celtics in the first round. Thus, team management let him go, citing his inexperience as a head coach.
If you ask me, that was probably one of the best decisions made in team history.
Los Angeles Clippers: None
Ever since joining the league in 1970, the Los Angeles Clippers have been known for one thing and one thing only: losing. Only four of the coaches in the team's history have ever taken this embattled squad to the postseason, and they are all rated where they should be in regards to the team.
That being said, I cannot in good conscience pick one coach of this team as overrated. Those who succeeded with the team did not have much of a squad to work with, so they are underrated if anything. Thus, only time will tell to see where current coach Vinny Del Negro will rank among the others who have coached in Clipper-land.
Los Angeles Lakers: Jerry West
Jerry West is a perfect example of how just because someone was once a popular player with the team, that doesn't necessarily mean that they will be a good coach. The Los Angeles Lakers learned this the hard way from 1976-1979, when West coached the team to an overall record of 145-101.
While the regular season record was respectable, West just couldn't get it done in the playoffs. There, his record was a horrific 8-14. Despite this, however, fans continued to bow down to him because of the star he was as a player.
Can someone say "overrated and over-the-hill?"
Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Fratello
Known as "The Czar," Mike Fratello's reputation as a coach is certainly interesting. He has coached the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies, turning each team from pretender to contender in his time with them. Yet, Fratello's one bug-a-boo is that his teams simply could not get it done in the playoffs.
His time with the Grizzlies was no exception to this trend. He went 95-87 with them, but went a God-awful 0-8 in the playoffs. For his career, Fratello has gone 20-42 in the postseason for a bad percentage of .323.
That stat alone is probably why he has not received any calls about coaching vacancies since being fired from Memphis in 2006.
Miami Heat: Erik Spoelstra
His head-coaching career is only three seasons old, but I have no problem in saying that Erik Spoelstra is overrated. Prior to this season, he led the Miami Heat to consecutive third-place finishes as well as first-round exits in the playoffs. Then, that all changed once LeBron James and Chris Bosh came to town.
Simply put, and you can all impale my head on a stick for this later, I'm not giving any credit to Spoelstra for the Heat's success last season. My four-year-old godson could have been the head coach of that team and achieved the same results. To add insult to injury, Spoelstra still couldn't win a championship with his stacked team.
Even if he does win a championship with his superteam, he'll still be called overrated just because of the help he got thanks to the free agent market.
Milwaukee Bucks: Del Harris
You were expecting Don Nelson again? He was considered for this spot, but the fact that he was able to turn the Bucks into contenders again following the departure of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar saved him. Instead, this honor goes to Del Harris.
The man took over following Nelson's departure in 1987 and in four seasons went 191-154. Yet, like so many of Nelson's teams, Harris's Bucks squads were men used to an up-tempo offense with little defense. As a result, Harris went an abysmal 6-15 in the playoffs, getting past the first round just once.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Flip Saunders
Flip Saunders coached the Minnesota Timberwolves from 1995-2005 and to date, he is the only head coach in the history of the team to make the playoffs. Yet, as much as I hate to say it, Saunders is still the team's most overrated coach.
Sure, he was instrumental in turning the 'Wolves into contenders during his tenure with the team, but consider this. In the eight full seasons that Saunders coached the Timberwolves, his team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs a whopping seven times. His playoff record in Minnesota was a surprisingly unimpressive 17-30.
He fared better once he was hired by the Detroit Pistons, but the fact that he had so much talent in Minnesota and had so much trouble getting past the first round is something that just shouldn't have happened.
New Jersey Nets: Lawrence Frank
Lawrence Frank first took over the Nets on an interim basis in 2004 and immediately won 13 games in a row. The team was fresh off an appearance in the NBA Finals, so most of the talent was still intact.
Frank did a good job with the team as a whole, but still underachieved in the postseason. Keep in mind, these were teams that featured guys like Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter and Jason Kidd playing together. Yet, once Kidd was traded back to Dallas, the house of cards appeared to fall.
In Frank's fourth and fifth full seasons with the team, the Nets did not even make the playoffs despite bringing in young talent like Brook Lopez to work the middle. The man from Teaneck, New Jersey just couldn't get the best out of the roster he was dealt and began the 2009 season with 16 straight losses before being fired.
Even worse, his career playoff record was an average 18-20 as Frank's teams never got past the second round.
New Orleans Hornets: Dave Cowens
Dave Cowens is one of the few exceptions to my general rule that great players don't necessarily make great coaches. Yet, in two-plus seasons with the then-Charlotte Hornets, the former center for the Boston Celtics actually did a decent job. In his brief tenure south of the Mason-Dixon line, Cowens went 109-70 with teams that featured Glen Rice, Vlade Divac and Anthony Mason.
Yet, like most teams in the Eastern Conference in the 1990s, Cowens just couldn't get enough out of his team so that they could get past tougher teams like the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks. He left Charlotte with a playoff record of 4-8, truly a shame given the talented teams he had to work with.
New York Knicks: Mike D'Antoni
As much as I like the guy, I'll be the first to admit that Mike D'Antoni is overrated. The man is in the same league as Don Nelson in that he sacrifices defense for a high octane and up-tempo offense and while he has seen his share of success, he still has never been to the NBA Finals.
Such is the case with his three seasons as Knicks head coach. D'Antoni has gone an underwhelming 103-143 and was swept out of the playoffs last season despite having three of the most talented players in basketball on his team: Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
I understand that injuries played a role in the team's playoff demise, but the fact that it took D'Antoni that long to get to the playoffs plus the addition of a star player is kind of ridiculous. Remember, in Phoenix, he took guys like Shawn Marion and Leandro Barbosa, two players the fans knew next to nothing about, and turned them into household names.
That being said, why couldn't he have done the same during his first couple of seasons in New York?
Oklahoma City Thunder: George Karl
George Karl coached the Thunder back when they were known as the Seattle SuperSonics, and he had some great teams to work with. Thanks to talent that included dominating power forward Shawn Kemp, pesky point guard Gary Payton and a genuine freak of nature in Detlef Schrempf, Karl posted an astounding record of 384-150 in six-and-a-half seasons, even making the NBA Finals in 1996.
Yet, Karl was beset by a curse that had plagued many-a-coach before him. When it came time to compete in the playoffs, his teams just choked. With the Sonics, his playoff record was 40-40, a perfect .500.
Considering the talent that he had to work with, the fact that he couldn't get them to consistently take it to the next level in the playoffs is just sad.
Orlando Magic: Stan Van Gundy
Stan Van Gundy was hired as head coach of the Orlando Magic in 2007 and despite leading the team to an NBA Finals appearance in 2009, he has succeeded in turning his squad into one of the most predictable ones in the league. Forget his 222-106 record in the regular season and 30-24 mark in the playoffs. Van Gundy is simply overrated.
To be perfectly blunt, the only reason that the Magic have even been successful under Van Gundy is because the offense he employs is so easy: give the ball to Dwight Howard because he is nearly impossible to defend.
If Howard does indeed depart Orlando via free agency or a trade, then Van Gundy's lack of coaching ability could be exposed.
Philadelphia 76ers: Larry Brown
Larry Brown's status as the most overrated coach in the history of the Philadelphia 76ers is tragic because if you think about it, it is really not his fault at all. He did a fine job with the team, even taking them to the NBA Finals in 2001. His only problem was that his star player was Allen Iverson, and the man had a horrible attitude.
More often than not, Iverson's shoot-first mentality clashed with Brown's more conservative and defensive approach and thus the team's performance suffered. Brown posted a respectable record of 255-205, but was just 28-30 in the postseason.
Thus, given the teams he had to work with while in Philly, it can be argued that the wins he accumulated were not the direct result of his coaching, but of Iverson's great scoring skills.
Phoenix Suns: Mike D'Antoni
Just how he is overrated with the New York Knicks, Mike D'Antoni was just as overrated during his tenure with the Phoenix Suns. Sure, he was instrumental in turning the team into a high-scoring squad that regularly contended in the playoffs, but he did so at the expense of the defense being subpar.
His regular season record in the desert was a phenomenal 253-136, but his postseason record was an average 26-25. One can only imagine what his coaching resume would look like if his teams ever played solid defense.
Portland Trail Blazers: Mike Dunleavy
Mike Dunleavy was not a bad coach during his four seasons in Portland. He made the Conference Finals twice and genuinely got the best out of his team. Yet, he is overrated in the fact that he just couldn't get over that one last hurdle, famously blowing a double-digit lead against the eventual-champion Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
The man went 190-106 in the Rose State, but his playoff mark was an average 18-18.
Sacramento Kings: Rick Adelman
It's no secret that Rick Adelman's eight seasons in Sacramento were the golden years of the franchise. Yet, at the same time, they weren't exactly anything to write home about either. In those eight years, Adelman's teams only got past the second round of the playoffs once.
Don't get me wrong. The Kings were a great team and one of my favorites to watch on TV when Adelman was coach, but the fact that he couldn't get enough out of them to get to the NBA Finals is what gives him the overrated brand here.
The 395-229 regular season record is impressive, but his 34-35 playoff mark is much worse than it should actually be.
San Antonio Spurs: John Lucas
John Lucas coached the Spurs for a season and a half, posting a 94-49 record thanks to a starting lineup that featured David Robinson, Dennis Rodman and Sean Elliott. Yet, Lucas was one of many coaches in history who suffered from the disease known as chokeritis once the playoffs started.
In 14 playoff games, Lucas went just 6-8. That's just unacceptable considering how well-rounded the Spurs were at the time.
Toronto Raptors: Lenny Wilkens
Lenny Wilkens was overrated during his time with Toronto in the same way that Stan Van Gundy is overrated with the Magic. So much of the team's offense relied on one player in Vince Carter that their overall performance suffered as a result.
In just three seasons north of the border, Wilkens went 113-133 and an average 8-9 in the playoffs.
Utah Jazz: Jerry Sloan
It really pains me to say it, but Jerry Sloan is not only the most overrated coach in the history of the Utah Jazz, but he is also up there in the general history of basketball. He coached the team for 23-plus seasons, having a great tandem in Karl Malone and John Stockton most of the time, and his teams were just average in the playoffs.
His overall record of 1,127-682 is impressive, but the fact that he went just 96-100 in the postseason is just puzzling due to the talent he had to work with for so many years.
Washington Wizards: Eddie Jordan
Eddie Jordan is definitely due his fair share of credit for helping get the Wizards back to the postseason, but the fact that he couldn't do much once they got there is beyond me. Keep in mind, Jordan had a top forward in Antawn Jamison and a decent guard in Gilbert Arenas (when he was healthy, at least), and yet the Wizards still had trouble getting past the first round.
On top of that, Jordan's teams weren't that good in the regular season. He left DC with a below-average record of 197-224 and his playoff record was a horrific 8-18.
I'm sorry, but to have two of the game's best scorers and not utilize the rest of the players around them is just not the right way to coach a team. Thus, why keep reminiscing about Jordan?