Popular coaches earned a spot on our list of the best coaches in the NBA. Popular coaches as achievements and coaching leadership must be considered the best in league history. Check out 10 popular NBA coaches.
Coaches' records include being the only coach to have led different teams to the playoffs and led during the season. The coaches helped the team win back-to-back NBA championships.
The 10 most popular NBA coaches of all time
1. Don Nelson
Nelson, who has 1,335 wins, remains the best coach in NBA history through 2023. He remains a top-tier coach in the league, despite never winning an NBA championship. Nelson helped transform several failed teams into powerful basketball teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks.
He caused the biggest surprise of all time when he led his Golden State Warriors eighth seed against his former coach, the Dallas Mavericks.
Nelson has been named NBA Coach of the Year three times.
2. Reed Holzman
Holzman is one of the few basketball players and coaches to have won both the NBA championship and the Coach's Cup.
Most of his coaching career was spent with the New York Knicks. Holzman led his team to two NBA championships and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1970. He is an eminent coach, having coached two teams on the NBA All-Star team.
3. John Kundera
Kundera was the first head coach of the Minneapolis Lakers. His impact on the team was enormous and he reached the peak of his coaching career.
He was the Lakers' most successful player in 12 seasons. In 1959, the Lakers moved to Los Angeles. He began coaching Minnesota until he retired in 1968.
4. Larry Brown
Brown is an outstanding coach. He is also a head coach who has won both the NBA championship and the NCAA men's basketball title. He was the NBA coach of the year in 2001. In addition, he served as the head coach of two All-Star teams.
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5. Lanny Wilkens
Wilkens was inducted into the Hall of Fame, which is an amazing event. In 1992, he was elected player and coach, and assistant coach, for the United States Olympic teams three times. He was named Seattle SuperSonics Coach of the Year and won an NBA Championship.
Wilkens was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1979. He also won an Olympic Gold Medal in his coaching mix. He was the head coach of the 1996 United States Olympic team and won gold. Wilkens was able to retire with a record 1,132 wins. This was the second highest victory in NBA history.
6. Chuck Daly
Daly is known for his performance at the 1992 Olympics when he led the United States to the Olympic basketball medal.
He was also very successful in the NBA. When he joined the Detroit Pistons he took them to the playoffs. He was elected head coach of the NBA All-Star Game in 1990.
7. Pat Riley
Riley's coaching career saw him lead five NBA champion teams, including two consecutive championships for the Lakers. Riley has been the NBA Coach of the Year three times and the All-Star Coach nine times.
Riley received the Zach Daley Achievement Award, an award given to him by the NBA to recognize his accomplishments over the years. This made him the fifth recipient of the highest honor for a token coach.
8. Gregg Popovich
Popovich, the longest-serving NBA head coach, helped the San Antonio Spurs win this trophy through his outstanding performances. He led the Spurs and their 20 consecutive seasons of at least 50 wins. Plus, he helped them make the playoffs every season he coached.
Most led their team to five NBA titles and were one of only five coaches to win the championship at least five times. He won three NBA Coach of the Year awards and was the head coach of the All-Star team for four years.
Popovich still coaches the Spurs and serves as the team's president.
9. Arnold Auerbach
Auerbach did the impossible by leading the Boston Celtics from 0 to 9 in the NBA. Eight of these nine championship titles are won. His record of 938 wins was set by him when he retired.
It was the highest number of victories ever won by an NBA coach. Auerbach was awarded the NBA Coach of the Year award. He was also inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
10. Phil Jackson
Jackson can be called the best and most successful coach in the NBA, having won 13 NBA championship rings. He broke Auerbach's record of 9 NBA championships.
He also won a record number of NBA championships as a coach and two championships during his playing career. Jackson led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships and won five more championships while with the Los Angeles Lakers.