NBA Coach Rankings – Before the 2012 Season
The importance of a great coach is often overlooked by the casual basketball fan.
Having a great coach in the NBA is crucial to success and is always a high priority on any organisations list.
Here I’m going to rank all 30 NBA coaches from 30 – 1.
I’ve done my best to rank this on my thoughts on coaching ability, rather than the ability of the team that they coach. But obviously this is extremely hard to do. A major factors in the rankings has to be their win-to-loss ratios and their longevity as an NBA coach.
At the end of the day, the order of these rankings is my opinion. I subconsciously may prefer one coaches playing style compared to another and hence rank them higher on my list.
Everyone is going to have different opinions, that’s what makes lists fun!
I invite you to share your opinion on my list and even your own list in the comments below.
#30 – Jacque Vaughn – Orlando Magic
Has been an assistant coach to one of the best in the business for the past couple of seasons – Gregg Popovich.
Unknown how he will perform as a head coach.
Career Wins: 0. Career Losses: 0. Career Winning Percentage: NA
#29 – Mike Dunlap – Charlotte Bobcats
One of the two new NBA coaches to the league.
Hard to predict how good of a coach he will be before he begins. But he’s made it to the NBA so he surely can’t be too bad.
Only reason he ranks above Jacque Vaughn is because he’s had more experience as a head coach.
Career Wins: 0. Career Losses: 0. Career Winning Percentage: NA
#28 – Randy Wittman – Washington Wizards
Unfortunately for Randy Wittman, he’s been on very below average teams in all of his stints as an NBA coach.
He currently ranks dead last among current NBA coaches with a .330% winning percentage.
While I understand how hard it must be to get wins on such teams, his winning percentage does have to be taken into account.
If he’s going to improve upon it, this is his year to do so.
Career Wins: 118. Career Losses: 238. Career Winning Percentage: .330%
#27 – Keith Smart – Sacramento Kings
Keith Smart has had some success at Sacramento. He’s been doing well in the process of getting Tyreke Evans and Demarcus Cousins to play together. Which would be a hard task for any NBA coach.
He has the pieces on his roster to be a much better team than they currently are.
Now it’s up to him to get the players to buy-in to the team concept and start really playing together.
Career Wins: 65. Career Losses: 166. Career Winning Percentage: .352%
#26 – Terry Stotts – Portland Trailblazers
Terry Stotts is lucky to come to the Blazers with quite a good roster.
He’s had a couple of other coaching roles that went mediocre. In his best season he led the Bucks to a 40 win season.
Now he’s in charge of bringing a relatively young and very talented bunch of guys together to play as a single unit.
Career Wins: 115. Career Losses: 168. Career Winning Percentage: .406%
#25 – Tyrone Corbin – Utah Jazz
Corbin has made a decent start in his young career as an NBA coach.
With the pressure mounting to make the playoffs, this year could be a make or break year for him.
Career Wins: 44. Career Losses: 50. Career Winning Percentage: .481%
#24 – Mark Jackson – Golden State Warriors
Mark Jackson is an incredibly smart basketball mind. There’s no denying that.
But some people have questioned his ability as a coach to pass on this knowledge to his players.
Though injury troubles last season to Bogut and Curry would have severely disrupted the initial structure of both his offence and defence.
Due to his knowledge, I still believe Mark Jackson could make a great NBA coach.
With most of his players starting to get healthy, this will be the year to prove it.
Career Wins: 23. Career Losses: 43. Career Winning Percentage: .339%
#23 – Monty Williams – New Orleans Hornets
Another promising young coach with a lot of upside and passion for coaching.
In his first year with the New Orleans Hornets they recorded 46 wins, showing he can definitely coach in the NBA. But that was with Chris Paul as his floor leader.
He’s now got a new group of young talented players including Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis.
His real coaching ability will be determined in the next couple of years on how his team develops.
Career Wins: 67. Career Losses: 81. Career Winning Percentage: .487%
#22 – Lawrence Frank – Detroit Pistons
Lawrence Frank is a young, defensive-minded coach with a lot of upside about him.
He’s a hard coach that regularly displays a lot of passion from the sidelines, exactly what this young Pistons team needs.
But as with many coaches, the lack of talent on the Pistons roster will make it hard for him to make a name for himself as a great coach in this league.
Career Wins: 250. Career Losses: 282. Career Winning Percentage: .465%
#21 – Alvin Gentry – Phoenix Suns
Gentry’s been a good coach with Phoenix for years but now that the Sun’s have lost Steve Nash, it will be interesting to see how Gentry will handle the offence.
The offence he has designed utilising Nash has worked well for years, despite the steady decline in wins each year.
This year we will really get to see Gentry’s coaching abilities as he will be forced to adjust his entire offence after the loss of one of the best decision makers in NBA history.
Career Wins: 322. Career Losses: 342. Career Winning Percentage: .470%
#20 – Scott Skiles – Milwaukee Bucks
Since Scott Skiles came to Milwaukee the team has never really been up or down. They’ve just been competitive.
They’ve hovered around the 8 – 10 seed mark after a few unfortunate injuries.
Career Wins: 427. Career Losses: 417. Career Win Percentage: .505%
#19 – Byron Scott – Cleveland Cavaliers
Shortly after committing to the Cavaliers, Scott was unfortunate enough to lose one of the best players in the world, LeBron James.
Once LeBron left, Scott was left with basically nothing on his roster.
He now has the dreaded role of starting the franchise pretty much from scratch.
He’s been known for his ability to improve point guards and luckily a potential superstar has dropped into his lap. Kyrie Irving.
Career Wins: 392. Career Losses: 463. Career Winning Percentage: .458%
#18 – Vinny Del Negro – Los Angeles Clippers
Featuring Vinny Del Negro so low in my rankings is going to seem a bit odd to a lot of people. If you’re one of them, I’m sorry. But for the life of me I just couldn’t put him above any of the coaches higher on this list.
His team compiled 40 wins with only 26 losses in the 2012 season, but personally, I still rate him in the bottom half of the coaches in the league.
In my mind the bulk of the reason for all the wins is because he luckily has the leagues best point guard – Chris Paul.
Career Wins: 154. Career Losses: 158. Career Win Percentage: .482%
#17 – Avery Johnson – Brooklyn Nets
In 2006, Avery Johnson was considered one of the best coaches in the NBA.
He took Dallas all the way to the NBA finals and a 60-win season.
Nowadays, after a poor season with the Nets, no one puts him in that category anymore.
Just goes to show how the talent level of a team can greatly affect the perception of a coaches abilities.
Career Wins: 240. Career Losses: 172. Career Winning Percentage: .585%
#16 – Dwane Casey – Toronto Raptors
In my mind there’s no one who’s done a better job at making the most their talent than Dwane Casey has done at Toronto.
A brilliant defensive-minded coach. He took the Raptors from 30th in the league defensively to 9th in the NBA in one season.
Career Wins: 76. Career Losses: 112. Career Winning Percentage: .409%
#15 – Kevin McHale – Houston Rockets
With the Rockets in rebuilding mode and having a great young group, McHale could be just the guy the guy to get the team on the right track.
Don’t expect him to be as good of a coach as he was a player, though.
Personally, I’ve always thought he’s been much better at improving players individually as opposed to the team as a whole.
Career Wins: 71. Career Losses: 89. Career Winning Percentage: .448%
#14 – Mike Woodson – New York Knicks
Mike Woodson stepped in for Mike D’Antoni in March and was an immediate positive influence on the Knicks… especially Carmelo Anthony.
For the last part of the season, Woodson was able to get the Knicks to buy-in to his system and it seemed to be working well as they went 18 wins and 6 losses to end the season.
Then the postseason came and everything crumbled.
We’ll get a much better idea of how Woodson’s system and coaching style will suit the Knicks in the 2012-2013 season.
Career Wins: 224. Career Losses: 292. Career Winning Percentage: .424%
#13 – Larry Drew – Atlanta Hawks
Larry Drew has been flying under the radar as quite a good NBA coach for the past two seasons.
He’s managed to keep Atlanta winning games and advancing to the playoffs despite some silly contracts and off-court issues.
Career Wins: 84. Career Losses: 64. Career Winning Percentage: .570%
#12 – Lionel Hollins – Memphis Grizzlies
Lionel Hollins took over a very poor Grizzlies team 4 years ago and has developed them into a well balanced unit that continues to improve tremendously every year.
It hasn’t been an easy team to work with either. There’s been no superstar at Memphis. Just a bunch of guys willing to work their butts off to win.
The key has been in Hollins designing an effective system that utilises each players different strengths.
Career Wins: 158. Career Losses: 175. Career Winning Percentage: .469%
#11 – Mike Brown – Los Angeles Lakers
He started with LeBron, and now he’s got Kobe, Pau, Dwight, Nash, and World Peace.
Mike Brown has been fortunate enough to coach some damn good teams.
Just like Erik Spoelstra, Brown’s found himself in a championship or bust situation at Los Angeles.
Career Wins: 313. Career Losses: 163. Career Winning Percentage: .658%
#10 – Erik Spoelstra – Miami Heat
In my opinion, Erik Spoelstra has the most pressure of any coach in the NBA.
While having two superstars on your team is fantastic, you pretty much need to win. Anything other than a championship is a failure.
Understandably, he’s still having trouble diagramming the Heats clutch plays and half court game.
Career Wins: 194. Career Losses: 118. Career Winning Percentage: .644%
#9 – Scott Brooks – Oklahoma City Thunder
Like Erik Spoelstra, Scott Brooks is a young coach that has been blessed with an incredibly talented basketball team.
Even with all that talent, you still need to be a good coach to bring the team together and set themselves up as the favourites in the West – which he has done.
Some of his plays down the stretch of games have been questioned by a lot of people and he still needs to work out a system that utilises both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s talents more effectively.
Career Wins: 173. Career Losses: 126. Career Winning Percentage: .581%
#8 – Rick Adelman – Minnesota Timberwolves
One of the longest serving coaches in the league.
Like many, Adelman has racked up a lot of wins and losses without every winning a championship.
Coaches like Adelman stay in the league for many years because they know how to manage a team and get them to play together.
Career Wins: 971. Career Losses: 656. Career Winning Percentage: .588%.
#7 – George Karl – Denver Nuggets
George Karl has proven himself as one of the most consistent and dedicated coaches in the league.
Each year he puts together a team that gets wins and plays hard basketball.
His only problem is that despite his constant success, he’s never really had success… he’s never managed to win the ultimate prize of an NBA championship in his 24 years of coaching.
Career Wins: 1,074. Career Losses: 731. Career Winning Percentage: .602%
#6 – Frank Vogel – Indiana Pacers
One of the best young coaches we have in the league.
At merely 38 years of age, he’s taken the Indiana Pacers out of Larry Bird’s hands and created a tight nit team of players that play with heart.
For such a young coach, the way he uses the depth of his roster at the right times like a seasoned veteran is a complement to the IQ he has already developed as a coach.
Career Wins: 61. Career Losses: 43. Career Winning Percentage: .566%
#5 – Doug Collins – Philadelphia 76ers
Doug Collins is the man to call upon when you want your team to improve.
Without a stand-out star on the 76ers, Collins has managed to incorporate a team game that’s working exceptionally well in Philadelphia.
While he does a fantastic job at improving bad teams, his downfall comes at turning that team from a good team to a great team.
Career Wins: 408. Career Losses: 359. Career Winning Percentage: .544%
#4 – Rick Carlisle – Dallas Mavericks
Carlisle finally got what he’s been searching for when he won an NBA championship with the Dallas Maverick’s in 2011.
For some weird reason, Carlisle has managed to fly under the radar to many NBA fans through his 10 year career and gone quite unappreciated in many peoples minds. Not many are familiar with Carlisle like they are the more high-profile NBA coaches like Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich.
But while most haven’t been paying attention, he’s managed to lead 3 franchises to incredible seasons.
He won more than 50 games with the Pistons twice, led the Pacers to a 61 win season, and won an NBA championship with the Mavericks.
Career Wins: 479. Career Losses: 325. Career Winning Percentage: .590%
#3 – Doc Rivers – Boston Celtics
I love old school coaches. And Doc is an old school coach.
Doc continues to show that he can bring a team together and make them a competitive unit despite countless injuries and the the age of his team.
Helped his team to a game 7 versus the eventual champions, the Miami Heat, in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Career Wins: 546. Career Losses: 433. Career Winning Percentage: .572%
#2 – Tom Thibodeau – Chicago Bulls
Thibodeau’s only just finished his second season as an NBA head coach, but he’s already established himself to be among the very best at leading a team.
Although he’s been around the league a long time as an assistant coach proving time and time again that his defensive mind is his strong suit.
Last season he led the Bulls to first in the league in defence, allowing only 88.2 points per game.
When his career as an NBA coach is said and done, there’s a good chance his name will be being mentioned among the greats.
Career Wins: 112. Career Losses: 36. Career Winning Percentage: .752%
#1 – Gregg Popovich – San Antonio Spurs
Surprised? I doubt it.
In my eyes, the only pick for the number one spot on the current list and easily one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.
A witty personality and a great a defensive minded coach.
Confirmed as he led the Spurs to 13 straight seasons of finishing in the top 3 teams in points allowed.
But also with the ability to turn his team into an offensive powerhouse after realising that defence wasn’t the Spurs strong suit this year.
With four NBA championships under his belt, he has three more than any other currently active NBA coach. That alone should cement him the number one spot on the list.
Career Wins: 847. Career Losses: 399. Career Winning Percentage : .680%.