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8.7k voters

The All Time Greatest NBA Coaches

Updated May 11, 2021 43.1k votes 8.7k voters 76.4k views78 items

List RulesThe greatest NBA coaches in history

It's no surprise that some of the best NBA players of all time go on to become some of the best NBA coaches ever, and this list of the all-time greatest NBA coaches is testament to that fact. These men helm some of the greatest sports franchises in the sports world and are able to consistently coach the best performances from their players.

What makes somebody the greatest NBA coach ever? That's a pretty subjective question to answer. Are the top NBA coaches the ones in charge of the NBA teams with the best defense? Or the NBA teams with the best offense? Are they the ones who can reign in a team of superstar athletes and get them to play nice together? Are the best NBA coaches the coaches with the best win-loss record? Or are the greatest NBA coaches simply the coaches with the most NBA championship rings?

Who is the best NBA coach of all time? You decide! Some of the NBA's famous basketball coaches on this list have been around longer than others, but the point of this list of the all-time top NBA coaches is to determine which NBA coach had the best run whether they were in charge of a team for 2 years or 20. If you don't see your favorite NBA coach on this list of the all-time best NBA coaches, make sure to add his name so he can vie for the top spot of the best NBA coach ever.
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  • 1
    3,928
    1,266

    Gregg Popovich

    San Antonio Spurs

    BirthplaceEast Chicago, Indiana

    5× NBA champion (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014)
    4× NBA All-Star Game head coach (2005, 2011, 2013, 2016)
    3× NBA Coach of the Year (2003, 2012, 2014)

  • 2
    3,240
    1,138

    Phil Jackson

    Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers

    BirthplaceDeer Lodge, Montana, United States of America

    11× NBA champion (1991–1993, 1996–1998, 2000–2002, 2009, 2010)
    4× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1992, 1996, 2000, 2009)
    NBA Coach of the Year (1996)

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    #61 of 163 The Smartest Professional Athletes#39 of 90 The Best New York Knicks of All Time

  • 3
    1,703
    599

    Red Auerbach

    Boston Celtics, Washington Capitols

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    9× NBA champion (1957, 1959–1966)
    11× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1957–1967)
    NBA Coach of the Year (1965

  • 4
    1,846
    682

    Pat Riley

    Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks

    BirthplaceRome, New York

    5× NBA champion (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2006)
    9× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1982, 1983, 1985–1990, 1993)
    3× NBA Coach of the Year (1990, 1993, 1997)

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    The Best Pat Riley Quotes#16 of 141 The Greatest Kentucky Basketball Players of All Time

  • 5
    930
    531

    Jerry Sloan

    Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls

    BirthplaceMcLeansboro, Illinois

    2x NBA Finals Runner-up (1997, 1998)
    .603% Career Winning Percentage

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    #84 of 175 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History#11 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time

  • 6
    940
    546

    Chuck Daly

    Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers

    BirthplaceSt. Marys, Pennsylvania

    2× NBA champion (1989, 1990)
    NBA All-Star Game head coach (1990)
    Head Coach of the 1992 "Dream Team"

  • 7
    702
    429

    Bill Russell

    Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics

    BirthplaceWest Monroe, Louisiana

    2× NBA champion (1968, 1969)

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    #287 of 1,316 The Best Athletes Of All Time#8 of 289 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

  • 8
    464
    293

    Lenny Wilkens

    Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    NBA champion (1979)
    NBA Coach of the Year (1994)
    4× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1979, 1980, 1989, 1994)

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    #62 of 161 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings#52 of 150 The Greatest Point Guards in NBA History

  • 9
    802
    541

    Larry Brown

    Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    NBA champion (2004)
    NBA Coach of the Year (2001)
    2× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1977, 2001)
    3× ABA Coach of the Year (1973, 1975, 1976)

  • 10
    1,319
    915

    Steve Kerr

    Golden State Warriors

    BirthplaceBeirut, Lebanon

    3× NBA champion (2015, 2017, 2018)
    NBA Coach of the Year (2016)
    2× NBA All-Star Game head coach (2015, 2017)

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    #6 of 20 The Best Three-Point Shooters in NBA History#6 of 32 The Best NBA Shooting Guards of the 90s

  • 11
    597
    417

    Don Nelson

    Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors

    BirthplaceMuskegon, Michigan

    3× NBA Coach of the Year (1983, 1985, 1992)
    2× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1992, 2002)

  • 12
    430
    254

    Larry Bird

    Indiana Pacers

    BirthplaceWest Baden Springs, French Lick Township, Indiana

    NBA Coach of the Year (1998)
    NBA All-Star Game head coach (1998)

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    #144 of 213 Celebrities Who Should Run for President#159 of 362 The Greatest Entertainers Of All Time

  • 13
    219
    99

    Jerry West

    Los Angeles Lakers

    BirthplaceChelyan, West Virginia

    .589% Career Winning Percentage

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    #5 of 107 The Greatest Lakers of All Time#2 of 22 The Best NBA Point Guards of the 60s

  • 14
    609
    394

    Erik Spoelstra

    Miami Heat

    BirthplaceEvanston, Illinois

    2× NBA champion (2012, 2013)
    NBA All-Star Game head coach (2013)
    NBCA Co-Coach of the Year (2017)

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    #2 of 32 The Best NBA Coaches Right Now#1 of 6 The Best Miami Heat Coaches of All Time, Ranked

  • 15
    711
    518

    Rick Carlisle

    Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers

    BirthplaceOgdensburg, New York

    NBA champion (2011)
    NBA Coach of the Year (2002)
    NBA All-Star Game head coach (2004)

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    #91 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time#6 of 15 The Best Pacers Coaches of All Time, Ranked

  • 16
    382
    298

    Rudy Tomjanovich

    Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets

    BirthplaceHamtramck, Detroit, Michigan

    2× NBA champion (1994, 1995)
    NBA All-Star Game head coach (1997)

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    #9 of 46 The Greatest Michigan Basketball Players of All Time#99 of 135 The Best Small Forwards of All Time

  • 17
    339
    233

    K. C. Jones

    Washington Bullets, Boston Celtics

    BirthplaceTaylor, Texas

    2× NBA champion (1984, 1986)
    5× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1975, 1984–1987)

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    #72 of 77 US Men’s Olympic Basketball All-Time Dream Team#20 of 179 The Best NBA Players From Texas

  • 18
    847
    828

    Doc Rivers

    Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois

    NBA champion (2008)
    NBA Coach of the Year (2000)
    3× NBA All-Star Game head coach (2008, 2011, 2021)

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    #27 of 27 The Best '90s Point Guards#59 of 126 The Best NBA Buys for the Money

  • 19
    531
    506

    George Karl

    Denver Nuggets, Cleveland Cavaliers

    BirthplacePenn Hills, Pennsylvania

    NBA Coach of the Year (2013)
    4× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1994, 1996, 1998, 2010)

  • 20
    226
    165

    Jack Ramsay

    Philadelphia 76ers, Buffalo Braves

    BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania

    NBA champion (1977)
    NBA All-Star Game head coach (1978)

  • 21
    351
    299

    Jeff Van Gundy

    New York Knicks, Houston Rockets

    BirthplaceHemet, California

    NBA All-Star Game head coach (2000)
    .575% Career Winning Percentage

  • 22
    356
    237

    Mike D'Antoni

    Houston Rockets, New York Knicks

    BirthplaceMullens, West Virginia

    2× NBA Coach of the Year (2005, 2017)
    2× NBA All-Star Game head coach (2007, 2018)
    NBCA Co-Coach of the Year (2017)

  • 23
    279
    57

    Brad Stevens

    Boston Celtics

    BirthplaceIndianapolis, Indiana

    NBA All-Star Game head coach (2017)
    .564% Career Winning Percentage

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    #15 of 124 The Greatest College Basketball Coaches of All Time#3 of 17 Best Boston Celtics Coaches of All Time

  • 24
    233
    217

    Hubie Brown

    Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks

    BirthplaceHazleton, Pennsylvania

    2× NBA Coach of the Year (1978, 2004)
    ABA champion (1975)

  • 25
    275
    269

    Rick Adelman

    Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State Warriors

    BirthplaceLynwood, California

    3× NBA All-Star Game head coach (1991, 2001, 2003)
    .582% Career Winning Percentage