NBA Power Rankings: Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and the 10 Best Head Coaches Ever
Coaching in the NBA may not be as important than coaching is to college players, but to become a great player, it is necessary to be coached on the many aspects of the professional game.
Coaches are not only important in their teaching of NBA skills and plays, but the experience and knowledge they give their players are invaluable to a team's success.
Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich are the two best coaches in the NBA today, and their past success as well as their knowledge of the game allows players to feel comfortable and trust them.
For the people who think coaching in the NBA is overrated, look at the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. Both have been re-invented with a superstar trio and have had different rates of success.
Doc Rivers was able to get Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to get rid of their egos and focus on winning the NBA championship right from day one.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has not been able to do the same and doesn't seem to have the full respect and trust of his players.
Coaching superstar athletes who make millions of dollars is hard to do; now let's look at the 10 best men to ever coach in the NBA.
Honorable Mention: Tex Winter
Who created the triangle offense that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have ran to perfection while winning multiple championships?
Tex Winter is the mastermind of the "triangle offense" and the real reason the Jordan Bulls and current Lakers have endured so much success, not Phil Jackson.
Over the years, Winter has not received the credit he has deserved for his contribution to some of the game's greatest teams, but earlier this year, the NBA announced he would be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
It's a well deserved honor for one of basketball's smartest men.
10) Jerry Sloan
Jerry Sloan did just about everything a coach can accomplish, except win an NBA championship.
Sloan is one of longest tenured coaches in league history, guiding the Utah Jazz for over 20 seasons. His teams were almost always playoff contenders, and twice he made the NBA Finals (1997 and 1998), both times losing to the Chicago Bulls.
Sloan led the Jazz to 16 consecutive winning seasons and 11 50-win seasons. In 2004, Sloan was voted the Sporting News Coach of the Year.
After resigning from the Jazz this season, Sloan closed a career that will one day be told in the halls of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
9) Lenny Wilkens
Lenny Wilkens is second all-time in most wins by an NBA coach, with 1,332 victories.
The 1993-94 NBA Coach of the Year was selected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1990 and was also selected as one of the 50 greatest NBA players ever in 1997.
Wilkens' 32 years as an NBA head coach is only surpassed by baseball's Connie Mack (52 years) among America's four largest professional sports.
8) Bill Fitch
Bill Fitch helped coach the Cleveland Cavaliers and their young squad in the 1970s and then took over as the Boston Celtics head coach and helped Larry Bird win his first NBA title
Fitch helped Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish make the Celtics one of the greatest teams ever. He was also crucial in the development of Celtics shooting guard Danny Ainge.
He was the coach of the year twice in his 22 seasons as an NBA head coach, winning the award in the 1975-76 and 1979-80 seasons.
After coaching the Celtics, Fitch took over the Houston Rockets and led them to a huge upset of the Lakers in the 1986 Western Finals before losing to his former Celtics players in six games during the 1986 NBA Finals.
7) Jack Ramsay
Jack Ramsay coaches 20 seasons in the NBA, winning 864 games.
He led the 1976-77 Portland Trailblazers to their first and only NBA championship in franchise history, beating the Philadelphia 76ers behind center Bill Walton's fabulous series.
Ramsay was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. After his retirement from coaching, Ramsay has remained close to the game, contributing to ESPN radio broadcasts among other things.
6) Red Holzman
Red Holzman guided the New York Knicks to their only championship seasons, 1970 and 1973.
Holzman was an NBA coach for 18 seasons, and his efforts in helping the Knicks win the 1970 Finals earned him the coach of the year award.
Holzman won 696 games during his career, and in 1969, he led the Knicks to 18 straight victories, the NBA record for consecutive victories at the time.
He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985.
5) Gregg Popovich
Gregg Popovich has coached the San Antonio Spurs to four NBA titles since he took over the team in 1997.
Popovich has led the Spurs to the playoffs every season he's coached them, with 106 wins and 69 playoff losses.
He had 736 career wins after the 2009-10 season and has led the Spurs to 57 more this season.
The 2002-03 coach of the year is one of the best teachers and tacticians in the NBA and has the respect of everyone in the NBA.
Popovich's coaching excellence will one day find itself in the Hall of Fame.
4) Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson has won more NBA titles than any coach in league history (11), but much of his success has come from lots of hard work by his assistant coaches and some luck.
Jackson took over the Chicago Bulls for the 1989-90 season after Doug Collins had done a wonderful job in making the Jordan, Pippen and Horace Grant Bulls teams perennial contenders.
Collins was replaced with Jackson right when the Bulls started winning titles, then Jackson joined the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2000 season in a similar situation, taking over for Del Harris after he readied Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant for playoff success.
Jackson's famous offensive strategy, the "triangle" offense, was not even his idea like many believe it is. The idea was made by his longtime assistant Tex Winter, who was Phil's assistant with Chicago and Los Angeles.
To be fair, Phil is a very good motivator and handles star players very well. You cannot win 11 NBA titles without being a very good coach.
But with many of his titles coming with teams who were already talented enough to win a championship, Jackson cannot be the best coach ever.
There are a few coaches that have had similar playoff success as Phil, but there are several who have done a better job teaching and developing their players into championship teams.
3) Pat Riley
Pat Riley is a great coach because he can manage any type of team and lead them to success.
Riley's Lakers teams of the 1980s were finesse, run-n-gun teams that killed teams with their effective fast break. But his New York Knicks and Miami Heat teams of the 1990s were very physical teams who dominated the paint and played exceptional defense.
Riley's demanding approach helped the Lakers be able to play at a high gear in May and June, when other teams were tiring.
He was also an excellent teacher and was very good at making in-game adjustments.
In 2006, Riley took over the Miami Heat, coming down from the front office to replace coach Stan Van Gundy. Riley led the Heat to the NBA Finals that season, where they won the title in six games over the Dallas Mavericks.
Riley's ability to have great success with any type of team, in three very different eras, makes him better than Phil Jackson. He also was a better teacher than Jackson and created the "Showtime" style the Lakers are known for, and that worked well with the type of players they had such as Magic Johnson.
He won five NBA titles as a coach and reached the 800 win mark faster than any coach ever in 1996.
He finished his career with 1,210 wins and four NBA Coach of the Year awards.
2) Chuck Daly
Chuck Daly's teams were incredibly difficult to play against due to the fact he demanded they play very physical, give tremendous effort and play unbelievable defense.
Daly guided the Detroit Pistons from an average team in the early 1980s to back to back championships in 1988-89 and 1989-90.
His title winning Pistons teams were some of the hardest working, best defensive teams ever. Their physical style of play was too much for most teams to handle.
His teaching was instrumental to Isiah Thomas' development, and Daly was also a major reason Dennis Rodman was such a good rebounder.
Daly commanded respect from his players and opponents alike.
He also coached the greatest basketball team ever, the 1992 Olympic gold medal winning "Dream Team" that dominated the Barcelona games with stars such as Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson.
Daly won 638 games in his career, and his Pistons squads had winning records in 11 of 13 seasons.
Daly was able to take his Pistons teams to new heights each season, helping them overcome the Celtics and Lakers, who for years were the only teams standing in their way of a championship.
1) Red Auerbach
Red Auerbach is the greatest coach in NBA history and led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA championships, including a professional sports record eight in a row from the 1959 season through the 1966 season.
Auerbach was also the Celtics general manager and scout while he was a coach, not only teaching his players but trading for and signing them, too.
Auerbach is the best teacher and motivator the game has ever seen and always demanded his players play a team-first game.
He won his ninth and final NBA title at the age of 48, a young age to retire at in today's NBA.
Red was a head coach for 20 seasons, amassing 938 wins and winning the 1965 Coach of the Year award.
Red would create relationships with his players that allowed the team to have a great level of trust amongst them, and no player.coach relationship was greater than Red and Bill Russell.
With Russell as his defensive stopper and team leader, Red built basketball's first and most impressive dynasty, then hired Russell as the first ever African-American coach in NBA history.
Auerbach was also the first coach to use the term "sixth man" and coached Celtics legend John Havlicek to be the best sixth man ever, and later, the team's starting small forward and perhaps the franchise's greatest scorer.
He believed every team should have a bench player that could contribute at the level of a starter, something that was not common in the 1950s and 1960s.
Auerbach led the Celtics to 99 playoff victories in a time when the playoffs had fewer rounds, and some rounds had fewer games than they do today. Not every round in his era was a best of seven series.
Red's coaching and his preparation made his Celtics players believe they could win every game they played, and his tactics and strategies were ahead of their time and remain a large part of the NBA today.
Red didn't draft the best players every year; he drafted players who he thought he could coach into champions, and that gave the effort needed to win season after season.
Few coaches have had the success Red has had, and none have shared the same success with general manager and scouting duties that Red was responsible for.
As the best NBA coach ever, it's no wonder why the NBA's Coach of the Year award is named after Red Auerbach.