In 1996 the league announced the 10 best NBA coaches ever. It’s hard to argue with this list, even years later.
Here are the ten, in no particular order, and some of their achievements.
Anyone who has watched the NBA in the last 20 years knows how significant Jackson’s coaching impact has been.
What’s interesting is that after he was named to this list, he won eight more NBA titles. Another interesting tidbit; Jackson only won a single Coach of the Year award, in 1996, the same year this list was announced.
Before Jackson came along, Auerbach was essentially the deity of coaches; the coach all NBA coaches aspired to be. When he retired as an NBA coach, his 938 wins and nine NBA championships were the most in NBA history.
His success after his coaching career ended continued as a member of the Celtics front office/management, winning an additional seven titles, which meant he was a part of 16 championships in 29 years.
Fitch was a former Marine drill instructor turned basketball coach, making his way through several college coaching jobs before becoming a successful NBA coach for 25 years.
Fitch won 944 games (fifth most in history) and a title with the Celtics in 1980-81.
Daly is famously known for assembling and guiding the Detroit Pistons “Bad Boy” championship squads of 1990 and 1991. His tough style of coaching was carried onto the court by his players.
Daly was also the coach of the greatest team ever assembled, the gold medal winning 1992 USA basketball “Dream Team.”
Red coached the Knicks from 1967 to 1982 and won titles in 1970 and 1973, with Phil Jackson playing on both squads.
Holzman won NBA championship as a player and as a coach. His 613 wins as coach for the Knicks is the most in team history.
Nelson has won the most games in NBA history as a coach, winning a total of 1,333 games. “Nellie” was a three time NBA Coach of the Year winning the award in ’83, ’85 and ’92. His exciting style of play was called “Nellie Ball” which featured an up-tempo attacking offensive game plan. Like the famed Warriors trio of RUN TMC – Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin.
His most lasting contribution to the game, which is still employed to this day, is the creation and institution of the “Point Forward” role which relied on a forward to fulfill the typical role of a point guard.
Kundla was the first coach in the history of the Minneapolis Lakers, who would eventually move to Los Angeles.
He teamed up with the first dominant big man in NBA history, George Mikan, to win the NBL title in 1948, before merging with what would become the NBA the following season and winning five titles in six years.
Riley won five NBA championships as a coach, and an additional one as assistant coach, plus one as a player. Since the list was announced, Riley has won titles with the Miami Heat as an executive.
His is the first person in NBA history to win a title as a player, head coach, assistant coach and as an executive.
“Dr. Jack” won 864 games as a head coach and an NBA title in 1977 with the Portland Trailblazers and Bill Walton. When he retired he has won teh second most games in NBA history.
Wilkens retired as the all-time winningest coach with 1,332 wins and held the record from 1994 to 2010. Wilkens coached the Seattle Supersonics to a title in 1979 and was named Coach of the Year in 1994.
Wilkens took over a struggling Cleveland Cavs franchise in the 80’s and made them one of the best teams in the NBA, though they could never beat the Chicago Bulls, losing to them twice in the Eastern Conference Finals.