The NBA recently released a list of the 15 greatest coaches to ever coach in the league as a part of the 75th Anniversary of the NBA. The list included current coaches, Steve Kerr for the golden state warriors, Doc Rivers for the Philadelphia 76ers, Erik Spoelstra for the Miami Heat, and Gregg Popovich for the San Antonio Spurs. The list also had legendary Pistons Chuck Daley who coached the infamous bad boy Pistons, the coach with the most wins in NBA history, Don Nelson, Coach with the second-most wins in league history, Lenny Wilkens, Jack Ramsay who led the Blazers to the championship in 1977, Celtics legend KC Jones who is one of two African American coaches that has won multiple NBA championships, Larry Brown – the only coach to win both an NCAA (college basketball) title and an NBA title and the Godfather himself Pat Riley. The stars of the list though, have to be the 2 coaches with the most championships in NBA history – Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson.
-Most fans would know Phil Jackson as the man that was responsible for leading the Chicago Bulls to 6 championships with the great Michael Jordan. He was a key piece to establishing the Bulls’ dynasty in the ’90s. He was also responsible for the 5 championships that the Lakers won in the 2000s, first with Shaq as the primary superstar and 2 with Kobe Bryant as the Lakers’ leader and franchise player. Phil Jackson was a genius when it came to coaching his players. He would always find ways to motivate them directly and indirectly.
Phil would always take the effort to understand the kind of player he was dealing with before determining how he would coach them. He also introduced practices like meditation and deep breathing to help teams develop their mentality and be ready to win when it mattered. He is known as one of the greatest coaches ever and has the most championships as a coach and player ever (11).
-Red Auerbach would be a lesser-known figure to the casual fan of basketball. But a basketball historian would know that Auerbach was the brains behind one of the greatest dynasties ever established – the Boston Celtics. Auerbach is responsible for 9 of the championships the Celtics won in the ’50s and ’60s and he continued as a General Manager and team President for the Celtics later on. As a GM he was also responsible for establishing the Celtics dynasty in the ’80s with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish to go against the showtime Lakers that had Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Auerbach is also known for his social progressiveness in a time when racism was at its peak. When a hotel said that black players weren’t allowed to stay there, Red left immediately to seek out accommodation elsewhere. He also appointed Bill Russell, another Celtics legend and a black player, as a player – cum coach in the ’60s, once he became the GM. He also drafted the first-ever black player in the NBA in 1950 – Chuck cooper with support from Celtics owner Walter A Brown. Red Auerbach is the man responsible for the 16 of the 17 championships that the Celtics won and the only championship he was not a part of was the 2009 championship won by the Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen, put together by GM Danny Ainge and coached by another top 15 coach – Doc Rivers.
-Before we get to the present-day coaches another coach that has impacted the NBA and brought the famous heat culture to existence in Miami is the Godfather, Pat Riley.
Pat Riley started his head coaching career for the Lakers in 1982 and lead the Showtime Lakers to 4 championships. He later went to New York but did not have the success he had at LA and eventually went to Miami and became a part of the Miami Heat organization in 1995. He became the President of the team and coached the team from 1995 to 2003 and then from 2006-2008 when he won his 5th championship as a head coach. There are amazing stories of how far coaches would go to motivate their players but Riley took it to the extremes. He once called all his players who were having a tough season and submerged his head underwater until he almost became unconscious. He told his players that they needed to have that level of determination to win and that to be a champion you had to be willing to give it you’re all. That was who Pat Riley was and he was the man that established the famed heat culture in Miami, to fight without giving up and work hard all day every day.
-The culture was maintained by current head coach Erik Spoelstra who won 2 championships in Miami with the infamous Big 3 of LeBron, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosch. Riley transferred the team to good hands and continues to be the President of the Miami Heat. The culture was even more evident this season when Miami was hit by injuries and still rose to the top spot in the east by having undrafted players play for them. The Heat are currently the top seed in the east under Erik Spoelstra and have finally gotten their stars back healthy. They are one of the teams that could potentially win the championship this season and a lot of it is due to the great coaching of Erik Spoelstra.
-Doc Rivers is most famous for his championship in Boston with the Big 3 of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett along with Rajon Rondo who proved to be an important piece to win their title.
Doc is one of the top ten winningest coaches in NBA history and he isn’t done yet. He is currently the Head coach for the Philadelphia 76ers and has done a great job considering the drama that the organization has gone through since the playoffs with point guard Ben Simmons sitting out the season. The 76ers are the 5th seed in the east and have the front runner for MVP in Joel Embiid leading them along with Doc and his coaching staff. Their success is a testament to how great of a coach Doc is. With the addition of James Harden, the 76ers are a powerhouse in the NBA. If Doc can manage to win a championship with this group, he will go down as the 3rd African-American coach to win multiple championships along with another top 15 coach – K.C Jones and Celtics legend Bill Russell.
-Steve Kerr should be one of the most famous coaches in today’s NBA. Kerr was responsible for the golden state dynasty and the 3 championships they won in 5 years. Kerr, a 5-time champion as a player took over the job from Mark Jackson in 2014 and has generated great results for the organization.
The Warriors are contenders for the championship again this season and are currently the 2 seed in the west. They have the second-best record in the league with only Phoenix having a better record than them. The Warriors winning the championship this season will be a great accomplishment for Kerr and will give him 9 rings as both a player and coach.
-Finally Gregg Popovich. A man is known for messing around with the media, sometimes even getting aggressive with them. He is also known as a no-nonsense coach in the locker room and would not hesitate to go off on players. Pop is a 5-time champion and could be the winningest coach in NBA history this season. He has 1330 career wins, just 5 away from tying don nelson who has won the most. Pop is most famous for creating the Spurs dynasty in San Antonio which began by drafting Hall of Famer Tim Duncan in 1997. From then on Pop went on to win 5 championships and racked up all those wins in his career. Despite being an extremely tough coach he always had his player’s respect and they were always willing to go to war for him. Being the president of the organization as well, pop drafted extremely well by bringing in talents like Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard and developing them into great players that could be key pieces on a championship team.
We might witness history this season with Pop breaking Don Nelson’s record and we will always remember him as a great leader of men when it is all said and done. A fun fact – Coach Pop has been around so long that he has even coached one of the top 15 coaches Steve Kerr and helped him win 2 championships.