The coach is very undervalued in the game of basketball. This guy needs to not only come up with a strategy to win games, but he also needs to get his players to buy into his philosophy and system while also learning to trust each other on the court. There are very few coaches who are with one team for a long time, let alone last in the league for that matter. These guys here not only coached their teams to their fullest potential, but they also were able to do it when sometimes not having the best players. So here are the 5 best in my opinion to ever walk the sidelines.
5. Red Auerbach
- The famous Celtics coach was one of the pioneers of basketball strategy. Not only did he come up with the fast break and the concept of a sixth man, he also introduced the team-oriented approach. This approach, which was criticized at first, led to Auerbach winning 9 NBA titles in his career. He was a genius that saw potential in players like Sam Jones, JoJo White, and the great Bill Russell and drafted them even though there were still racial barriers everywhere. He also did his damage in the front office, as he was responsible for the resurgence of the franchise in the 80’s with moves like the drafting of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and the trades for Robert Parrish and Dennis Johnson.
4. Chuck Daly
- The head honcho of perhaps the most infamously famous bunch in NBA history, “The Bad Boys”. It takes some real coaching ability to get that group to not only win, but to do it the way they did it. Managing guys like Isaiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer was no small task, and Daly was the perfect fit for that team. He is most well-known for the famous “Jordan Rules” that gave Michael Jordan problems for a number of years. He was also known for being at the helm of the Dream Team in the 1992 Summer Olympics that took home gold in dominating fashion. Without a doubt one of the best player managers to ever coach.
3. Jerry Sloan
- Perhaps the best coach to never win a title, and that is a real shame. He had so many great teams, but they just couldn’t catch a break. I will give him credit as being the only coach to figure out how to consistently give the Bulls of the late 90’s trouble. His mind for both offensive and defensive strategy was uncanny and his knowledge of the pick & roll paved the way for the greatest pick & roll duo ever in John Stockton and Karl Malone. He was the head man in Utah from 1988-2011, which is unheard of. He is the longest-tenured coach in league history and he made the Jazz a powerhouse for almost 20 years.
2. Pat Riley
- The Great Pat Riley as he is called by many former players. Riley was responsible foe the “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980’s and then did a complete 180 and built the rugged Knicks of the early 90’s and the grinding Heat of the late 90’s. A master of getting players to commit to his system, Riley was known for being fantastic with big men, and it showed when he coached the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and Shaquille O’Neal. He was able to take home 4 titles with the Lakers and then 1 with the Heat, but he went to the finals 8 times over his career which is crazy for a coach.
- Phil Jackson
- The Zen Master! Without a doubt the greatest coach in league history. This guy was responsible for getting Michael Jordan to embrace the concept of teamwork, and MJ was notoriously difficult to coach at the time due to his lack of trust in his teammates. He is also famous for instituting the famous Triangle Offense of Tex Winter. Phil Jackson-coached teams were so good at sharing the ball and putting egos aside that it made everyone on the floor a threat to opponents. His unique style of leadership led him to winning 11 NBA titles, and all-time record for a coach. He won 6 in Chicago and 5 in LA. Let’s not forget that his team were able to “three-peat” three separate times!