Longevity is a rarity in the demanding world of pro sports, and the NBA is a fine example, with only nine head coaches who have been with their current teams for over three years. Most of them are guys who are either three or four season on the team, but Doc Rivers (Boston Celtics), George Karl (Denver Nuggets) and Gregg Popovich stand out by holding on to their currents jobs for over seven years.
Alvin Gentry, Phoenix Suns
Gentry became the Suns’ head coach midway through the 2008-2009 season, stepping in for Terry Porter who didn’t last the whole season with the team. After 31 games as the interim head coach, Gentry was announced as the full time HC for the 2009-2010 season. He became the first coach to lead his team to a Conference Final on the first full season on the job. The Suns went 54-28 that year, besting the the Blazers and the Spurs before getting knocked out by the Lakers. The next two seasons have been mediocre, winning 40 and 33 (shortened season), missing the playoffs. He has a 141-116 record in the regular season with the team, 55.6%. Gentry previously coached, mostly unsuccessfuly, with the Heat, Pistons and Clippers. His record outside of Phoenix is 177-226, 43.9%, making the playoffs only once.
Lionel Hollins, Memphis Grizzlies
Hollins, an NBA champion and All-Star as a player, has coached the Memphis (or Vancouver) Grizzlies on three separate occasions. He was on the bench for 60 games in 1999-2000, when the team was still in Canada. He had a four game stint as well in the 2004-2005 season. He got the job for good on January 2009, midway through that season, going 13-26. The next year he improved to 40-42, still missing on the postseason, while the pieces kept falling around him. In the 2010-2011 season, Hollins led the Grizzlies to their first ever conference semifinal, finishing the regular season at 46-36, before surprising the Spurs in the first round and drawing the series with the Thunder to 7 games. Last season, the Grizzlies couldn’t make it past the first round, losing to the Clippers in 7 games, despite many betting on Memphis to be the dark horse candidate in the postseason. Hollins’ record with the team since getting the permanent gig? 140-129, 52%.
Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
Brooks was P.J. Carlesimo’s assistant when the latter got fired very early into the Thunder’s first season in Oklahoma City. He finished with a 22-47 record through his first season, but the next year was the beginning of the road that should end up with NBA titles. A 50-32 season and a first round loss, a 55-27 season and a conference finals loss and last year with 47-19, having home advantage in the NBA finals and losing to the Miami Heat in 5 games. Brooks’ record is 173-126, 58.1%.
Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks
Carlisle was already a head coach for six full seasons when he got the Dallas Mavericks job (Pistons & Pacers), with five playoff appearances, two in the conference finals. In his four seasons with the Mavs, he has been knocked out of the postseason in the first round twice; once reaching the conference semifinal; and once, in the 2010-2011 season, after a 57-25 regular season, he coached the Mavericks to the franchise’s first NBA title, sweeping the Lakers in the semifinal, beating the Thunder in 5 games in the conference finals and beating the Miami Heat in the NBA finals in six games, coming back from a 1-2 deficit. His record with the Mavs? 198-114, 64%. For his career? 479-325, 59.6%.
Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
Spoelstra is the first Filipino-American head coach in the NBA and the first Asian-American to win an NBA title. He has four full seasons with the Miami Heat on his record after serving 8 seasons as an assistant and other roles for the team. His first two seasons were with Dwyane Wade pre-Big Three era, making the first round of the playoffs twice, not any further. The arrival of LeBron James and Chris Bosh resulted in two consecutive NBA Finals, once losing to the Dallas Mavericks, followed by the franchise’s second title in 2012, beating the Boston Celtics in the conference finals coming from 2-3 down and the Thunder in the finals, sweeping games 2 through 5 after dropping the opener. He has a 194-118 record, 62.2%.
Scott Skiles, Milwaukee Bucks
Skiles got the Bucks job before the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, with 2.5 years in Phoenix (two playoffs) and 4.5 seasons with the Chicago Bulls on his resume (3 playoffs). With the Bucks, he’s made the postseason only once so far, in the 2009-2010 season. The others have been all sub .500 years. With the Bucks, his regular season record is 146-166, 47.1%. Throughout his career, his record is 427-417, 50.6%.
George Karl, Denver Nuggets
Karl has been the head coach of the Nuggets since midway through the 2004-2005 season, taking the job from Michael Cooper and Jeff Bzkedlik. Since then, Karl has never missed the playoffs with the Nuggets, but has only made it past the first round of the postseason once, as the Nuggets made it to the conference finals in 2009. He previously coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Seattle Supersonics, making the NBA Finals in 1996, and the Milwaukee Bucks, reaching the conference finals in 2001. His record with the Nuggets is 366-232, 62.5%. His career record is 1074-731, 59.5%.
Doc Rivers, Boston Celtics
A head coach that has gone quite a transformation, mostly in terms of public and critical perception since taking over the Boston Celtics job. His career began by missing the postseason twice in his first three years, including a tanking job in the 2006-2007 season, going 24-58. Then came the move that brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to them, with Rivers, in time, turning into one of the more respected NBA head coaches, winning an NBA title, making one more finals appearance and another conference finals a few months ago. His record with the Celtics – 375-265, 59.9%. Overall in his career, which includes five seasons in Orlando, he’s 546-433, 55.8%.
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
The longest serving head coach on the same team in the NBA, Popovich is a four time NBA champions with the Spurs, beginning his tenure as HC in 1996, midway through the 1996-1997 season, which was a lost one due to David Robinson being sidelines for nearly all of it. That of course led to the Tim Duncan draft pick, and the Spurs becoming the most successful team in North American sports in terms of winning percentage over the next 15 years. He won the title in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007, reaching three more conference finals and never winning less than 61% of the regular season games except for the first year. His record – 847-399, 68%.