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8.5k voters

The All Time Greatest NBA Coaches

Updated August 6, 2020 47.5k votes 8.5k voters 74.9k 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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  • 1
    Gregg Popovich
    4,332
    1,291

    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#9 of 24 Best Chicago Bulls Coaches of All Time

  • 2
    Phil Jackson
    3,443
    1,217

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceDeer Lodge, Montana

    TeamsNew York Knicks, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets

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    #19 of 107 The Greatest Lakers of All Time#56 of 163 The Smartest Professional Athletes

  • 3
    Red Auerbach
    1,808
    634

    Red Auerbach

    Dec. at 89 (1917-2006)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

  • 4
    Pat Riley
    1,969
    740

    Pat Riley

    Age: 75

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceRome, New York, United States of America

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns

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    The Best Pat Riley Quotes#17 of 141 The Greatest Kentucky Basketball Players of All Time

  • 5
    Jerry Sloan
    993
    547

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceMcLeansboro, Illinois

    TeamsChicago Bulls, Chicago Bulls, Baltimore Bullets

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    #88 of 175 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History#78 of 213 The Best White Players in NBA History

  • 6
    Chuck Daly
    993
    596

    Chuck Daly

    Dec. at 79 (1930-2009)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceSt. Marys, Pennsylvania

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    #5 of 13 The Best Magic Coaches of All Time, Ranked#2 of 31 The Best Pistons Coaches of All Time, Ranked

  • 7
    Bill Russell
    747
    447

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceWest Monroe, USA, Louisiana

    TeamsBoston Celtics, Boston Celtics

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    #311 of 433 The Most Important Leaders in U.S. History#1 of 133 The Best Boston Celtics of All Time

  • 8
    Lenny Wilkens
    499
    303

    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#1083 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time

  • 9
    Larry Brown
    862
    592

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

    Teams ManagedSMU Mustangs men's basketball

    TeamsDenver Nuggets

    More Larry Brown 

    #639 of 769 The Top NBA Players Of All Time#43 of 51 The Greatest UNC Tar Heels Basketball Players of All Time

  • 10
    John Wooden
    408
    141

    John Wooden

    Dec. at 100 (1910-2010)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceGregg Township, Hall, Indiana, United States of America

  • 11
    Steve Kerr
    1,432
    1,006

    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

  • 12
    Jerry West
    225
    88

    Jerry West

    Age: 82

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceChelyan, West Virginia, West Virginia

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Lakers

  • 13
    Larry Bird
    454
    254

    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

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    #158 of 198 Celebrities Who Should Run for President#34 of 105 The Most Influential Contemporary Americans

  • 14
    Rick Carlisle
    767
    563

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceOgdensburg, New York

    Teams ManagedDallas Mavericks

    TeamsBoston Celtics, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets

  • 15
    Don Nelson
    628
    463

    Don Nelson

    Age: 80

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceMuskegon, Michigan

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards

  • 16
    Mike Krzyzewski
    494
    161

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, United States of America

    Teams ManagedDuke Blue Devils men's basketball

    More Mike Krzyzewski 

    #29 of 150 Athletes You Didn't Know Were Conservative#6 of 10 Highest-Paid College Basketball Coaches

  • 17
    Erik Spoelstra
    642
    434

    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

  • 18
    Rudy Tomjanovich
    404
    322

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceHamtramck, Detroit, Michigan

    TeamsHouston Rockets

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    #9 of 46 The Greatest Michigan Basketball Players of All Time#103 of 135 The Best Small Forwards of All Time

  • 19
    K. C. Jones
    349
    256

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceTaylor, Texas

    TeamsBoston Celtics

  • 20
    Brad Stevens
    301
    50

    Brad Stevens

    Age: 44

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceIndianapolis, Indiana

    Teams ManagedBoston Celtics

    More 

    #2 of 30 The Best NBA Coaches Right Now#8 of 124 The Greatest College Basketball Coaches of All Time

  • 21
    Jack Ramsay
    238
    181

    Jack Ramsay

    Dec. at 89 (1925-2014)

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplacePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania

  • 22
    Doc Rivers
    925
    909

    Doc Rivers

    Age: 59

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois

    Teams ManagedLos Angeles Clippers

    TeamsNew York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Hawks

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    #49 of 150 The Greatest Point Guards in NBA History#27 of 27 The Best '90s Point Guards

  • 23
    Mike D'Antoni
    386
    245

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceMullens, West Virginia

    TeamsSt. Louis Hawks, Kansas City Kings

  • 24
    George Karl
    575
    565

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplacePenn Hills, Pennsylvania, United States of America

  • 25
    Jeff Van Gundy
    378
    323

    NationalityUnited States of America

    BirthplaceHemet, California