10 Best NBA Coaches

Did you ever wonder whether it is easy or difficult to train an NBL team? I mean the players are already the world’s best; what is there to teach them?

The NBA is the most popular basketball tournament in the world, no doubt to that. The tournament is highly competitive as all the best players assemble in the tournament. All the teams are filled with great players.

And that is why being an NBA coach is more difficult. You need someone who can manage, motivate, train, and keep balance among such talented players. So, let’s check on the 10 best NBA coaches of all time who were masters in their role.

Here Are The 10 Best NBA Coaches Of All Time

Coach Name Coaching Career
Phil Jackson 1989-2011
Red Auerbach 1946-1966
Gregg Popovich 1996-present
Pat Riley 1981-2008
Red Holzman  
Chuck Daly 1983-1999
Lenny Wilkins  
Larry Brown 1972-present
Don Nelson 1976-2010
Rudy Tomjanovich  

1. Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson

Full Name Philip Douglas Jackson
Date of birth September 17, 1945
Place of birth Deer Lodge, Montana, U.S.
Playing career 1967–1980
Coaching career 1989-2011
Career coaching record 1,155–485
  • NBA Champion: 11 times (1991–1993, 1996–1998, 2000–2002, 2009, 2010)
  • NBA All-Star Game head coach: 4 times (1992, 1996, 2000, 2009)
  • NBA Coach of the Year: 1 time (1996)

Deciding who is the greatest in any role is always a question of much confusion and contradiction. Different people come with different names as they have different perceptions to judge. But that is not the case when you talk about the greatest coach.

Who is the best coach in the NBA? The answer is supposed to vary from person to person as different people have different criteria to decide. But, it is the easiest question.

While making this list, we started by searching for the second-best coach as the greatest NBA coach of all time is Phil Jackson. No one will argue that.

Jackson had coached players like Jordan, Shaq, Pippen, and Kobe, four of the greatest NBA players of all time.

It shows how great of a coach Phil was! Besides, he is statistically very successful as well.

As a head coach, he worked with six different teams and won 11 titles, more than any other coach. Besides, he had been in the all-star game head coach four times and the NBA coach of the year in 1996.

Jackson won the NBA twice in his playing career and so he knew very well what he had to do to win the championship. Jackson’s teams were famous for running the triangle offense, which emphasizes ball movement, player movement, and floor spacing.

In addition, Jackson emphasized team communication and understanding, along with building a team culture. All these helped him create some of the most dominating teams in the history of the NBA. Hence, our number one pick is Phil Jackson.

2. Red Auerbach

Red Auerbach

Full Name Arnold Jacob “Red” Auerbach
Date of birth September 20, 1917
Place of birth Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
Playing career 1937–1949 (BAA/NBA)
Coaching career 1946–1966 (NBA)
Career coaching record 938–479 (66.2%)
  • NBA Champion: 9 times (1957, 1959–1966)
  • NBA All-Star Game head coach: 11 times (1952 – 1962)
  • NBA Coach of the Year: 1 time (1965)

If anyone comes close to Jackson’s success, then it is Red Auerbach. Actually, Red Auerbach had his tenure prior to Jackson. He won the NBA nine times as a coach and had been a part of the all-star game head coach for 11 times.

Before Jackson’s all-time greatest coaching career, Auerbach was regarded as the best coach of the NBA. However, he was surpassed by Jackson. Still, Auerbach’s contribution in making the Boston Celtics one of the most successful teams is beyond description.

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He led the team as the head coach for seventeen years and led them to nine NBA championship victories. In addition, the historic dominance of Boston happened under his management. The Celtics won eight consecutive NBA championships between 1959 and 1966.

3. Gregg Popovich

Gregg Popovich

Full Name Gregg Charles Popovich
Date of birth January 28, 1949
Place of birth East Chicago, Indiana, U.S.
Playing career 1972–1981 (ABA)
Coaching career 1988–present (NBA)
Career coaching record Regular season: 1299–568 (.696) Playoffs: 170–111
  • NBA Champion: 5 times (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014)
  • NBA All-Star Game head coach: 3 times (2005, 2011, 2013)
  • NBA Coach of the Year: 3 times (2003, 2012, 2014)
  • USA Basketball National Team head coach: 3 times

You cannot make the list of the 10 best NBA coaches without Gregg Popovich.  The man is a living legend, a myth that is true. He has been coaching young players for over five decades!

Yes, he has been doing this for fifty years now.

Yet after joining the San Antonio Spurs, the majority of his achievements came in the second phase of his career. He has altered the Spurs’ legacy and elevated them to the status of title favorites.

With the Spurs, Popovich has five NBA titles to his credit. But the number is not enough to judge his legacy. He has contributed to the team’s history. Many young athletes, including Tony Parker, David Robinson, and Tim Duncan, have received his instruction.

Popovich is still tallying his victories as a coach, which currently stand at over 1200. In NBA history, he will always be regarded as a magnificent coach.

4. Pat Riley

Pat Riley

Full Name Patrick James Riley
Date of birth March 20, 1945
Place of birth Rome, New York, U.S.
Playing career 1967–1980 (NBA)
Coaching career 1981–2008, 2011–2016 (NBA)
Career coaching record Regular season: 1210–694 (.636) Playoffs: 171–111 (.606)
  • NBA Champion: 5 times (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2006)
  • NBA All-Star Game head coach: 9 times (1982 – 1985, 1988, 1992, 2004, 2005, 2006)
  • NBA Coach of the Year: 3 times (1990, 1993, 1997)

Pat Riley was the showman of the ‘80s. In his 24 years of coaching career, he had been a part of the Lakers, Heat, and Knicks. And, of course, there are five NBA championship wins by his name.

But most importantly, he was announced the NBA coach of the year three times in the 90s. And that is too when coaches like Jackson and Popovich were winning trophies, and Riley was not. Riley found most of the successes in his initial years as a coach.

The three times best coach surely deserves to be called one of the 10 best NBA coaches of all time. He recorded more than twelve hundred wins in his stats in contrast to only 694 defeats. Riley also holds the record for second-most wins in the playoffs with 171.

5. Red Holzman

Red Holzman

Full Name William “Red” Holzman
Date of birth August 10, 1920
Place of birth Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Playing career 1943–1954 (BAA/NBA)
Coaching career 1954–1977, 1978–1982 (NBA)
Career coaching record Regular season: 696–604 (.535) Playoffs: 47–50 (.485) 
  • NBA Champion: 2 times (1970, 1973)
  • NBA Coach of the Year: 1 time (1970)

If you are asked to make your list of the top 10 strongest teams in the NBA, perhaps you won’t have space for any version of the Knicks. They have been an underdog in the tournament since the beginning. But they also won the NBA, and that is too, twice in a span of four years!

And that unbelievable feat was achieved under the supervision of the late great Holzman. The man knew how to ignite a desire among the players. He could motivate the players better than anyone. He built a dominating Knicks within a very short time.

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The Knicks had their golden period in the 70s, thanks to the contribution of Holzman. They recorded consecutive 18-match victories. It is still considered one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history.

In 1970, Holzman received the honor of the best coach of the year. Holzman deserves to be on this list of the 10 best NBA coaches of all time for turning a mediocre Knicks into a champion.

6. Chuck Daly

Chuck Daly

Full Name Charles Jerome Daly
Date of birth July 20, 1930
Place of birth St. Marys, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Playing career 1949–1954 (Bloomsburg)
Coaching career 1969–1998 (NBA)
Career coaching record Regular season: 638–437 (.593) Playoffs: 75–51 (.595)
  • NBA Champion: 2 times (1989, 1990)
  • NBA All-Star Game head coach: 2 times (1991, 1992)
  • USA Basketball National Team head coach: 2 times

Chuck Daly had a long career as a coach in the NBA. For how many years? Well, he coached in the NBA for thirty eventful years. He led the Pistons to win back-to-back NBA championships in 1989 and 1990.

Daly competed for over a thousand matches as a coach and won 638 games, with a percentage of 0.593. Daly is one of the most beloved coaches in the NBA, and why shouldn’t he be? He had been a part of seven nine teams as a coach. However, his best time was with the Pistons.

Chuck Daly was born in 1930 and died at the age of 79 in Florida. But before his death, he ensured that people should not forget him. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 1994. His success in the NBA earned him the prestige of leading the USA Basketball national team as head coach twice.

With so much in his accolades, Daly is surely going to be remembered by fans for a long time ahead.

7. Lenny Wilkens

Lenny Wilkens

Full Name Leonard Randolph Wilkens
Date of birth October 28, 1937
Place of birth Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Playing career 1960–1975 (NBA)
Coaching career 1969–2005 (NBA)
Career coaching record Regular season: 1,332–1,155 (.536) Playoffs: 80–94 (.460)
  • NBA Champion: 1 time (1979)
  • NBA All-Star Game head coach: 9 times (1985 – 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995)
  • NBA Coach of the Year: 1 time (1994)

Lenny Wilkens is one of the most renowned and hard-working coaches in the NBA. Before joining as a coach, he also had 16 years of NBA career as a player. In 1969, his career as a coach began, and he continued to do so till 2005.

In his 32 seasons long career, he had many successes, including becoming NBA champion in 1979 and being the coach of the year in 1994. And that’s not all. He was also in the all-star game head coach for nine times.

You may feel that he did not win many championships, which is true, but Wilkens had won many matches. In fact, he has the second most wins in the NBA by his name as a coach. With a total win of 1332 in the NBA, he tops the chart.

Wilkens also won the Olympic gold medal, not once but twice. Moreover,  Wilkens gave the NBA some great players like Dominique Wilkins, Patrick Ewing, and LeBron James. His contribution and success in the NBA will be cherished in years to come for sure.

8. Larry Brown

Larry Brown

Full Name Lawrence Harvey Brown
Date of birth September 14, 1940
Place of birth Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Playing career 1967–1972 (ABA, NBA)
Coaching career 1972–present (NBA, NCAA, other)
Career coaching record Regular season: 1,327–1,011 (.568) Playoffs: 100–93 (.518)
  • NBA Champion: 1 time (2004)
  • NBA All-Star Game head coach: 4 times (1992, 1996, 2000, 2001)
  • NBA Coach of the Year: 1 time (2001)

Larry Brown has had 57 years of experience in coaching.  However, his coaching career in the NBA lasted for 26 years, and he holds the third position for most wins in the NBA. How many matches did he win? 1327 in total. Just five matches less than Wilkens.

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Unanimously, Brown is considered a legendary basketball coach in the United States. He groomed players in different levels of the game, from college to the NBA, and has won many championships, including the NBA in 2004.

Brown is known for his emphasis on defense and teamwork. He has gained a reputation for getting the most out of his players and developing them into well-rounded, complete players.

One thing so special about Larry Brown is that he had worked with various teams. He has coached a variety of teams throughout his career, from perennial contenders to struggling franchises. Brown made a name for himself by turning around struggling teams and getting them to play at a high level.

No reason; Larry Brown is one of the best NBA coaches in the history of the NBA.

9. Don Nelson

Don Nelson

Full Name Donald Arvid Nelson
Date of birth May 15, 1940
Place of birth Muskegon, Michigan, U.S.
Playing career 1962–1976 (NBA)
Coaching career 1976–2010 (NBA)
Career coaching record Regular season: 1,335–1,063 Playoffs: 75–91 
  • NBA Coach of the Year: 3 times (1983, 1985, 1992)

Why is Don Nelson in this list without winning any NBA championships in the NBA as a coach? Well, it is a little unfortunate that the man who won five NBA championships as a player did not win any as a coach. However, he deserves to be on this list, as he tops the list of most wins in the NBA.

Yes, with a total win of 1335 games in the NBA, Nelson holds the record for most wins in the NBA. His coaching career began in November 1976 when he was hired by the Milwaukee Bucks. He coached the team for many years and then moved on to join the Golden State Warriors.

Nelson has a track record of developing players and maximizing their potential. He is credited with helping to develop players like Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, and Chris Mullin, among others.

In addition, Nelson’s coaching style was adaptable to different teams and situations. He was able to succeed with both young and experienced teams, and he was able to adapt his strategies to fit the strengths of his players.

Because of his contribution and dedication to the game, Don Nelson takes his position among the 10 best NBA coaches of all time.

10. Rudy Tomjanovich

Rudy Tomjanovich

Full Name Rudolph Tomjanovich Jr.
Date of birth November 24, 1948
Place of birth Hamtramck, Michigan, U.S.
Playing career 1970–1981 (NBA)
Coaching career 1992–2003, 2004–2005 (NBA)
Career coaching record Regular season: 527–416 (.559) Playoffs: 51–39 (.567)
  • NBA Champion: 2 times (1994, 1995)
  • NBA All-Star Game head coach: 2 times (1995, 1996)

Rudy Tomjanovich is a modern-day coach who knows how to win very well. Under his coaching, the Houston Rockets won two back-to-back NBA championships. Because of his modern approach to the game, he was assigned as the head coach of the 2000 US team.

What was special about him? Tomjanovich had the ability to develop players and help them reach their full potential. He was instrumental in the development of Hakeem Olajuwon, who became one of the best centers in NBA history under Tomjanovich’s guidance.

With more than 500 wins as a coach in 13 years, Rudy Tomjanovich secured his position amongst the 10 best NBA coaches in history.


This was our list of the 10 best NBA coaches of all time. Judging by their contribution, dedication, and success, they deserved to be on the list. They helped the NBA get so many great players and made the sport more interesting and competitive. They will be remembered for their significant role for many, many years.

Golam Muktadir is a passionate sports fan and a dedicated movie buff. He has been writing about both topics for over a decade and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with his readers. Muktadir has a degree in journalism and has written for several well-known publications, including Surprise Sports.


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