The question is simple: Who is the greatest coach in the NBA ever? This answer certainly varies as we all have a bias toward certain teams we like. But even with this bias, we can still agree that there are certain coaches that are better than others. So today, we are going to find out who the best coach ever was.
In my mind, the top four coaches of all time are Gregg Poppovich, Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, and Red Auerbach. Pat Riley coached the Showtime Lakers, Phil Jackson was a part of the 2000 Lakers Dynasty and the Michael Jordan Era, Gregg Poppovich and Tim Duncan led the Spurs to 5 titles, and Red Auerbach, who was the coach for the Boston Celtics 60s dynasty. These are the 4 coaches I am going to rank, and at the end, I will give my reasoning for who I think is the best coach of all time. Make sure to comment down below if you think I left out a coach.
#4: Greg Poppovich
Greg Poppovich is an incredible coach, and led the Spurs to nearly 2 decades of playoff appearances, winning 5 championships with the organization. He has coached many hall-of-famers, and many soon-to-be Hall of Famers, including Tim Duncan, Manu Gnobili (soon-to-be), Kawhi Leonard (after career to be), Tony Parker (soon-to-be), David Robinson, and Dennis Rodman (for two years). During the Spurs dynasty, he made draft steals and coached second round picks and late first round picks to NBA greatness. Their dynasty is often overlooked in NBA history. Gregg is still a coach in the NBA today, though the Spurs aren’t doing to well right now, so his career could potentially end on a sour note. But as great as he is, he couldn’t match these next three coaches.
#3: Red Auerbach
Now I know that big Celtics fans aren’t going to like Red Auerbach being #3, but hear me out. Auerbach won 9 titles with the Boston Celtics as a head coach(and 7 others as an executive), but when the dynasty started in the 60s, there were 15 teams in the NBA! 15! That’s half of the teams that are in the NBA now. Not to mention, Bill Russell was one of the first of his kind, being a 7’0″ shot blocking center. He had no competition on either end, and dominated his way to 11 championships, with Wilt Chamberlain being the only obstacle. Aside from that, the 1962-1963 championship one by the Celtics had 9 Hall-Of-Famers on the roster! 9! So yes, Red Auerbach was an incredible coach, but I don’t think he would be considered quite the coach he is if he didn’t have multiple Hall-Of-Famers on a team that only had 14 others to compete with. I rest my case.
#2: Pat Riley
Pat Riley won 5 championships as a head coach, and 1 as an assistant coach. He coached the “Showtime Lakers,” that featured Hall-Of-Famers Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and James Worthy. He helped revolutionize the game of basketball with the incredible pace of the Lakers, and pushed them to their limits. Now this may sound somewhat impressive on the surface, but how hard Pat Riley truly made his players work is unbelievable. Byron Scott, a member of the Showtime Lakers, was coached by Pat Riley, and reflects upon his time as a head coach with the New Jersey Nets. In his autobiography Slam Dunk Success, he says, “I came in strong, probably a little too strong, but that’s all I knew at the time. I came from the Pat Riley school of coaching, so I went in with an iron fist right away and had guys throwing up and damn near falling out of training camp just doing in LA what we’d called the easy run.” Yeah, Pat Riley made his players work so hard that his version of easy was the Nets (one of the worst teams at the time) version of cruxifixction! And I mean, it clearly worked. Oh, and he also led the Miami Heat to a championship in 2006, giving Dwayne Wade and Gary Payton their first rings, and Shaq his fourth.
#1: Phil Jackson
Yes, Phil Jackson is #1. I think we all saw this coming, but just in case you didn’t, let me give you a little background on him. He’s an 11-time NBA Champion as a head coach, and he is the coach with whom Michael Jordan won 6 championships. He also coached Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal to a three-peat in Los Angeles, and then was with Kobe when he won two championships in 2009 and 2010. Not only did Phil Jackson have an incredible offensive scheme that won multiple championships, he molded All-Star players into Hall-Of-Famers! And the job of a head coach is to coach the team to wins, mold young players and have them live up to the fullest of their potential, and make the game-plan. There is no doubt that he’s a winner, he molded quite a few young players into MVPs, and he created the triangle offense. This is why, in my mind, Phil Jackson is the greatest coach ever.
Let me know if you think I accidentally snubbed any coaches in the comments below, and as always, have an awesome day!