Introducing: The Best NBA Coaches in History


There have been many great NBA coaches over the years, and some are still coaching today, while others have retired.

Here is a list of the 10 best NBA coaches of all time, based on their achievements and success in the league.

Top 10 Best NBA Coaches

Pat Riley

Born: 20 March 1945
Career record: 1219-694 (.636)
Playoff record: 171-111 (.606)
All-Star Games coached: 9
Coach of the Year awards: 3
Championships: 5
Teams coached: Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers

Often called “The Godfather” in NBA circles, Riley managed to take complete control over the Miami Heat after a noisy and messy power struggle in 1995.

Starting as a player and just a short time assistant coach, Riley managed to climb the ladder of success, having his glorious career moment during the ’80s as the head coach of the “Showtime” Lakers.

As a result, Pat Riley’s coaching career expanded for almost three decades, glorifying his name as one of the best coaches in NBA history. 

Phil Jackson

Born: 17 September 1945
Career record: 1155-485 (.704)
Playoff record: 229-104 (.688)
All-Star Games coached: 4
Coach of the Year awards: 1
Championships: 11
Teams coached: Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls

An absolute NBA legend, Phil Jackson’s rings number outpasses every other NBA coach to this day.

Winning a total number of 13 championships (2 of them won as a player of the New York Knicks)- he classifies among the best win percentage NBA coaches in the league’s history.

The Bulls have won the most championships in history with Phil Jackson and one of the best NBA players and famous gambling addict Michael Jordan.

Related: What is the hand size of Michael Jordan?

Gregg Popovich

Born: January 28 1949
Career record: 1349-707 (.656)
Playoff record: 170-141 (599.)
All-Star Games coached: 3
Coach of the Year awards: 3
Championships: 5
Teams coached: Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and US National Basketball

Gregg “Pops” Popovich is the most consecutive winning seasons coach, with 22 full seasons as head coach for the San Antonio Spurs. He’s one of the best records head coaches NBA has ever seen.

The SA Spurs – Greg Popovich contract partnership is one of the best NBA combinations, making Gregg one of the longest active sports coaches in USA national leagues and the NBA.

Erik Spoelstra

Born: November 1 1970
Career record: 664- 460 (.591)
Playoff record: 96-65 (.596)
All-Star Games coached: 1
Coach of the Year awards: /
Championships: 2
Teams coached: Miami Heat

A relatively young coach, he has managed to win 600 consecutive games with a single team, making him one of the six coaches in NBA history that managed to achieve this.

He is so devoted to the team he even married one of the former Miami Heat cheerleaders, Nikki Sapp

He also has the rumoured title to be “the best defensive coach in NBA.” However, a big influence in his career had the like Lebron James and Dwayne Wade, which also are among the players with the biggest Nba shoe deals.

In 2019, Erik Spoelstra’s contract with the Miami Heat was extended for four more years, worth $3 million.

Related: The hottest NBA players

Rick Carlisle

Born: October 27 1959
Career record: 866-751 (.536)
Playoff record: 63-70 (.474)
All-Star Games coached: 1
Coach of the Year awards: 1
Championships: 1
Teams coached: New Jersey Nets, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks

The contract between Rick Carlisle and Mavericks was terminated as of June 17, 2021, after Rick decided to step down from his function, despite having two more years included in the contract as a coach.

But being one of the best NBA coaches at the time, he wasn’t “jobless” for long – in less than a week, on June 24, Rick signed a contract with his previous team, the Indiana Pacers, as their head coach, weighing $29 million, for four years.

Don Nelson

Born: May 15 1940
Career record: 1335-1603 (.557)
Playoff record: 75-91 (.452)
All-Star Games coached: 2
Coach of the Year awards: 3
Championships: /
Teams coached: Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks

Age: 81

Active years: 1962 – 2010

Status: Retired

Teams coached: Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks.

With 1,335 games won in regular seasons, Don Nelson is an NBA legend, standing for “the winningest” head Coach of all times.

The “Don Nelson NBA era” lasted for almost half a century, with more than 30 years of coaching, making him one of the best NBA coaches of all time.

Related: Best Young players in the NBA

Brad Stevens

Born: October 22, 1976
Career record: 354-282 (.557)
Playoff record: 38-40 (.487)
All-Star Games coached: 1
Coach of the Year awards: /
Championships: /
Teams coached: Boston Celtics

At the start of the 2007-2008 season, Stevens, with his 31 years, was the second-youngest coach in Division I.

Though young, his motion of defence and offence playing style made him famous in a short period, climbing the ladder of success and becoming one of the NBA’s best of the best – and he’s still got many years ahead of him.

Turning down a $70 million contract and staying with the Celtics proves his dedication and appreciation of his team.

Mike Budenholzer

Born: August 6, 1969
Career record: 435-294 (.597)
Playoff record: 55-44 (.556)
All-Star Games coached: 2
Coach of the Year awards: 2
Championships: 1
Teams coached: San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks

Naming Budenholzer as their head coach in 2018, the Milwaukee Bucks saw their rise under his leadership, which resulted in them winning the championship in 2021.

Before entering the big league, Budenholzer was a basketball player in Denmark and Scotland.

Mike Budenholzer’s coaching style is consistent and tactical, which led to the team winning the championship shortly after he started coaching. 

Related: What does Bonus mean in the NBA?

Doc Rivers

Born: October 13, 1961
Career record: 1048-741 (.586)
Playoff record: 104-100 (.510)
All-Star Games coached: 3
Coach of the Year awards: 1
Championships: 1
Teams coached:
Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers

Don Rivers is one of the best black coaches NBA has ever seen, earning his 945 career win, surpassing Bill Fitch for the tenth position on the all-time coaching regular-season win list.

He’s currently the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, starting in October 2020. He signed a 5-year contract worth $40 million, which shows he’s one of the biggest “hot shots” names in NBA basketball coaching at the moment.

Steve Kerr

Born: September 27 1965
Career record: 433-207 (.677)
Playoff record: 93-34 (.732)
All-Star Games coached: 2
Coach of the Year awards: 1
Championships: 3
Teams coached: Golden State Warriors

Steve Kerr has won many titles in his short coaching career and is still the coach of one of the most valuable sports teams in the world the Golden State Warriors.

Steve Kerr has eight rings – three as a coach and five as a player. After his retirement as a player with the San Antonio Spurs, he became a broadcaster, commentator and website contributor.

He has accomplished so much in such a short time, proving his greatness as a coach.

Related: NBA facts and statistics

Final Thoughts: Can We Choose The Best?

So many wins, different coaching styles, and great teams and legends have passed through the “veins of NBA”, and so much talent is still present, as you can see from this Best NBA Coaches list.

Many big players are now starting their coaching careers, showing great talent and adding freshness to the all-time favourite coach legends.

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