Best NBA Coaches in History


Posted: June 23, 2020

Updated: June 23, 2020

  • Larry Brown led 8 different teams to the playoffs
  • Red Auerbach, the “Godfather of NBA” won 9 titles with Boston Celtics
  • Phil Jackson, the coach of legendary Chicago Bulls won 11 titles in total

It is the most famous basketball league in the world, with the best players and lots of money involved. To be a coach of an NBA team requires persistence, strength and good leadership skills in order to be successful in the league. We find all these characteristics in the best NBA coaches in history, who all lead their teams to championship titles. 

Like we mentioned regarding football, it’s not easy to manage such big characters that we can find in the NBA. To make a real team from different stars is a challenging task, not to mention the pressure from the owners, fans and the media. The following coaches all managed iconic teams from Chicago Bulls to Los Angeles Lakers, used new techniques and achieved historical successes in the strongest league of the world.

7. William Red Holzman in the best NBA coaches in history

Holzman was the coach of the New York Knicks between 1967 and 1982. The team was one of the best in the 70s, winning two NBA titles in 1970 and 1973. Holzman was a great player first, playing for Rochester Royals which won the NBL, the National Basketball League in 1945 then the NBA championships in 1951. Later he moved to the Milwaukee Hawks where he started his coaching career. But he reached his biggest successes with the Knicks. Like his 18-game win streak with the team which was a record that time. 

Best NBA Coaches in History
Best of the best.

6. John Kundla

We have one of the first great coaches of the NBA next, who won six championships as the head coach of Minneapolis Lakers between 1947 and 1959. The team was the best team in the Basketball Association of America. Also in the National Basketball League which were the predecessors to the NBA. Then Lakers won four more titles with Kundla in the NBA which was founded in 1949. He has great players, like Clyde Lovelette and George Mikan in his team, who were all voted to the Hall of Fame later. But Kundla himself was a great coach, as he made the first NBA dynasty of the team. Later he continued his career as the coach of University of Minnesota for 10 seasons. He was voted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. 

5. Larry Brown

Larry Brown is the only coach in history to win the NCAA and the NBA title with his teams, Kansas Jayhawks in 1988 and Detroit Pistons in 2004. Kansas are still in the favorites to win the 2021 NCAA Championship with the odds of 15.00.  He also led 8 different teams to the NBA playoffs which is another record. Despite all of these great results, Brown was never satisfied as a perfectionist. He changed his teams frequently which didn’t make him too popular, but no one could argue with his successes. He managed teams like San Antonio Spurs or Los Angeles Clippers, but he spent the most, 6 seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers. The team got to the final of the 2001 NBA season, after Brown was voted as the Coach of the Year. 

Best NBA Coaches in History
Cream of the crop.

4. Pat Riley

The three-time winner of the Coach of the Year Award, Pat Riley has won five championships with his teams. Four titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s and one with Miami Heat in 2006. Riley is the first sports figure to win a championship as a player, assistant coach, head coach and as an executive. He started his career as a player and won the NBA title with Lakers in 1972. He became the assistant coach then the head coach of the team in 1981. The Lakers was one of the best NBA teams of all time with players like Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Riley started to work with the New York Knicks in 1991, and reached the NBA final with the team in 1994. In 1995 he became the coach of Miami Heat and won his last title with them in 2006. 

3. Gregg Popovich

Gregg Popivich has been one of the best NBA coaches in history with leading his team, San Antonio Spurs to five NBA titles. He has been at the club since 1996. It also means he is the longest tenured active coach in the NBA as online sportsbooks news in the US were reporting. Popovich broke many records during his years with Spurs. Like the record of the most wins in the NBA or the most consecutive winning seasons. 

He became friends with Larry Brown and worked with him  first at Kansas than at Spurs between 1988 and 1992. In 1994 Popovich became the general manager of the team. Then he named himself as a head coach in the 1996/97 season. Which was a good decision just like the signing of Tim Duncan who has become the team’s best player. Popovich was also named as the head coach of the US national team, but didn’t achieve such successes with them. What’s more the team finished only in 7th place on the last World Championship in 2019, which is their worst results on a major event. Online gambling sites in the US are hoping for a better result in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. 

2. Red Auerbach

Red Auerbach is called the “Godfather of the NBA”, who spent 30 years with the Boston Celtics. He didn’t only win 9 titles in 11 years, but also installed new tactics and mentality in the sport. He focused on defense in an age when offense dominated the strategy. Auerbach also discovered fast break as a tactical weapon. And invented the concept of the role player and the sixth man. Though the Celtics had great players like Bill Russell, they became champions as a result of their great team work.  Auerbach signed the first African-American player, Chuck Cooper in 1950. He also hired Bill Russell as the first Afro-American head coach in 1966.  After his retirement as a coach in 1966, he became the president of the club until his death in 2006.   

1. Phil Jackson

Who else could win the list though, as the manager of legendary Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson. He won six championships with the Bulls between 1989 and 1998, then five more titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. With his 2 titles as a New York Knicks player he got 13 total NBA titles. Jackson certainly had the best players at both teams, from Michael Jordan to Scottie Pipen and Kobe Bryant. Still his result is outstanding after making champions from Bulls in three consecutive years between 1991 and 1993 and 1996 and 1998. The team achieved the first three-peat since the Boston Celtics’ success.

Jackson could continue his great winning streak with his new team, Los Angeles Lakers as well in 2000. His former team is the favorite to win the NBA championship this season with the odds of 2.90 on Bovada. As a coach Jackson was known for his use of triangle offense. Also about his holistic approach to view different systems as wholes. After his retirement in 2011 he was the president of New York Knicks until 2017. 

You can discover more about Bovada Sportsbook here.

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