Over 300 qualified men have attempted to be head coaches in the National Basketball League. Surprisingly, most of them didn’t last very long. In a league that devours coaches like Elizabeth Taylor goes through husbands, only a handful of them have managed to enjoy successful careers that span for more than ten years. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best NBA coaches of all time as we look at winning percentages, wins, impact on the game, and championships.
Lenny Wilkens – 53.6%, 1,332 – 1,155
It’s rather easy to dismiss Wilkens’ NBA record when it comes to coaching wins as he was surpassed by none other than Don Nelson, but that’s only due to longevity. Lenny Wilkens only had one title to show for a total of 32 seasons while coaching six different teams and had a total of 11 losing seasons which is 11 more than the famous Phil Jackson. It was Wilken’s unflappable and calm demeanour that allowed him to be such an extraordinary coach over the long term.
Don Nelson – 55.7%, 1,335 – 1,063
The new owners of the Golden State Warriors pushed Nelson out the door which is actually no surprise as the head coach is now 70 years old. Don Nelson never claimed a title during 31 seasons. However, he didn’t coach players like Bill Russel either. He did manage to do a sensational job with small line ups, including Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, and Tim Hardaway in Golden State. He was also the inventor of the ‘point forward’ concept which most teams utilise to this day.
Jerry Sloan – 60.3%, 1,221 – 803
Sloan managed to stay with Salt Lake City for longer than most owners in the NBA. He continued coaching the team for more than 22 years and only had one losing season where he never changed his no-nonsense, hard-edged style. His teams were always hard players and never avoided his coaching styles throughout the game.
Chuck Daly – 59.3%, 638 – 437
During his first debut as head coach, Daly managed to go 9-32 while coaching the Cavaliers which caused him to get fired halfway through the 1981/82 NBA season. Although he had a horrible start, he was placed in charge of the Pistons two years thereafter and never had a losing season in a total of 13 seasons while coaching in Orlando, New Jersey, and Detroit. He managed to win titles in 1989 and 1990 for the Pistons as helped the Dream Team of 1992 to avoid any unnecessary ego problems.
Larry Brown – 54.8%, 1,098 – 904
Although he is considered one of the biggest winners when it comes to basketball, with almost 1,500 victories as a head coach for both the NBA and ABA, Larry Brown looks permanently displeased. He always complains, frets, and frowns and no one can understand why. Well, he is undoubtedly a perfectionist. He is considered the greatest team builder and teacher and is the only coach to claim NBA and NCAA titles with the Kansas Jayhawks in 1988 and the Detroit Pistons in 2004.