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8.6k voters

The All Time Greatest NBA Coaches

Updated August 6, 2020 46.3k votes 8.6k voters 75.4k views76 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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  • Gregg Popovich1
    4,175
    1,289

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceEast Chicago, Indiana

    Teams ManagedSan Antonio Spurs

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    #1 of 13 The Best Spurs Coaches of All Time, Ranked#8 of 24 Best Chicago Bulls Coaches of All Time

  • Phil Jackson2
    3,379
    1,191

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceDeer Lodge, Montana

    TeamsNew York Knicks, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets

    More Phil Jackson 

    #57 of 163 The Smartest Professional Athletes#38 of 90 The Best New York Knicks of All Time

  • Red Auerbach3
    1,775
    623

    Red Auerbach

    Dec. at 89 (1917-2006)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

  • Pat Riley4
    1,931
    716

    Pat Riley

    Age: 75

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceRome, New York, United States of America

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns

    More 

    The Best Pat Riley Quotes#72 of 232 The Best White Players in NBA History

  • Jerry Sloan5
    966
    547

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceMcLeansboro, Illinois

    TeamsChicago Bulls, Chicago Bulls, Baltimore Bullets

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    #89 of 175 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History#12 of 73 The Greatest Chicago Bulls of All Time

  • Chuck Daly6
    978
    577

    Chuck Daly

    Dec. at 79 (1930-2009)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceSt. Marys, Pennsylvania

  • Bill Russell7
    730
    444

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceWest Monroe, Louisiana, United States of America

    TeamsBoston Celtics, Boston Celtics

    More Bill Russell 

    #8 of 786 The Top NBA Players Of All Time#1 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time

  • Lenny Wilkens8
    485
    298

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    TeamsPortland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Seattle Supersonics, Seattle Supersonics, St. Louis Hawks

    More Lenny Wilkens 

    #65 of 161 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings#56 of 150 The Greatest Point Guards in NBA History

  • John Wooden9
    404
    142

    John Wooden

    Dec. at 100 (1910-2010)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceGregg Township, Hall, Indiana, United States of America

    More 

    #182 of 432 The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History#455 of 874 Big Grid relations

  • Larry Brown10
    843
    576

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

    Teams ManagedSMU Mustangs men's basketball

    TeamsDenver Nuggets

  • Steve Kerr11
    1,394
    970

    Steve Kerr

    Age: 55

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceBeirut, Lebanon

    Teams ManagedGolden State Warriors

    TeamsChicago Bulls, Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns

    More Steve Kerr 

    #38 of 227 The Greatest Offensive Players in NBA History#30 of 32 The Best NBA Shooting Guards of the 90s

  • Jerry West12
    222
    92

    Jerry West

    Age: 82

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceChelyan, West Virginia, West Virginia

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Lakers

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    #343 of 583 The Greatest Entertainers of All Time#4 of 107 The Greatest Lakers of All Time

  • Larry Bird13
    444
    252

    Larry Bird

    Age: 64

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceWest Baden Springs, French Lick Township, Indiana, United States of America

    TeamsBoston Celtics, Boston Celtics, Indiana State Sycamores men's basketball

    More Larry Bird 

    #178 of 210 Celebrities Who Should Run for President#37 of 105 The Most Influential Contemporary Americans

  • Don Nelson14
    618
    441

    Don Nelson

    Age: 80

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceMuskegon, Michigan

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards

  • Rick Carlisle15
    744
    549

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceOgdensburg, New York

    Teams ManagedDallas Mavericks

    TeamsBoston Celtics, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets

    More Rick Carlisle 

    #3 of 15 The Best Pacers Coaches of All Time, Ranked#4 of 31 The Best Pistons Coaches of All Time, Ranked

  • Erik Spoelstra16
    632
    414

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceEvanston, Illinois

    Teams ManagedMiami Heat

    TeamsPortland Pilots men's basketball

    More Erik Spoelstra 

    #1 of 6 The Best Miami Heat Coaches of All Time, Ranked#1 of 6 Best Miami Heat Coaches of All Time

  • Mike Krzyzewski17
    483
    163

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, United States of America

    Teams ManagedDuke Blue Devils men's basketball

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    #29 of 150 Athletes You Didn't Know Were Conservative#2 of 68 The Best Current College Basketball Coaches

  • Rudy Tomjanovich18
    393
    310

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceHamtramck, Detroit, Michigan

    TeamsHouston Rockets

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    #9 of 46 The Greatest Michigan Basketball Players of All Time#101 of 135 The Best Small Forwards of All Time

  • K. C. Jones19
    345
    246

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceTaylor, Texas

    TeamsBoston Celtics

  • Brad Stevens20
    290
    49

    Brad Stevens

    Age: 44

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceIndianapolis, Indiana

    Teams ManagedBoston Celtics

    More 

    #2 of 31 The Best NBA Coaches Right Now#8 of 124 The Greatest College Basketball Coaches of All Time

  • Doc Rivers21
    893
    879

    Doc Rivers

    Age: 59

    NationalityAmerican

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois

    Teams ManagedPhiladelphia 76ers

    TeamsPhiladelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks

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    #27 of 27 The Best '90s Point Guards#7 of 126 The Best NBA Buys for the Money

  • Jack Ramsay22
    233
    174

    Jack Ramsay

    Dec. at 89 (1925-2014)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Mike D'Antoni23
    374
    247

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceMullens, West Virginia

    TeamsSt. Louis Hawks, Kansas City Kings

  • George Karl24
    557
    542

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplacePenn Hills, Pennsylvania, United States of America

  • Jeff Van Gundy25
    364
    314

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceHemet, California