The NBA, including its short time under the BAA name, has been around since 1946. Over the years, 19 different franchises have won the championship. However, only 3 head coaches have been part of a title-winning side with more than one franchise: Alex Hannum, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.
The only NBA coach who can theoretically win another NBA title this season and join that club is Doc Rivers. He’s the Los Angeles Clippers head coach, but his NBA championship ring is from 2008, when he was coaching the Boston Celtics. The five other champion coaches (Popovich, Kerr, Lue, Carlisle, Spoelstra) are on the same team they coached to the title.
Hannum coached two teams to NBA titles:
- The St. Louis Hawks in 1958, beating the Boston Celtics in six games. Bob Pettit scored 50 points in game 6 to clinch the title, playing against an injured Bill Russell.
- The 1967 Philadelphia 76ers, beating the San Francisco Warriors 4-2 in the finals. Wilt Chamberlain finally won a championship ring, and against his former team. This was the first time in 11 years that the Boston Celtics were not in the NBA finals, after beating by the Sixers in the playoffs.
- Hannum is one of only two coaches to win a championship in the NBA and the ABA. He coached the Oakland Oaks to the ABA title in 1969, with Larry Brown and Rick Barry on the team.
Riley is one-time NBA champion as a player (Lakers, 1972). As a coach, he is a five-time champion with two different franchises:
- Riley took over for Paul Westhead in the beginning of the 1981-1982 season, who was pretty much fired by Magic Johnson. In a famous press conference, owner Jerry Buss announced Westhead’s firing and the hiring of Jerry West as the head coach, but with West balking, Buss named him offensive captain, and then co-coach with Riley. West made it clear he’d only assist. With that piece of ancient history out of the way, Riley went on to lead the Lakers to the title that year, in 1985, and the league’s first repeat (1987 & 1988) since the 1960’s Celtics. He led the Lakers to the final in 1983, 1984 and 1989, stepping down after the 1990 season.
- Riley won his fifth NBA championship with the Miami Heat. He wasn’t the head coach to start the season, but many thought he’d take over for Stan Van Gundy early on after the Heat positioned themselves to win a title with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal (a team Riley built, by the way), making the conference final in 2005. And as the prophecy foretold, Van Gundy resigned 21 games into the season, and Riley took over. The Heat won the 2006 finals, beating the Dallas Mavericks 4-2. Riley stepped down after the awful 2007-2008 season, in which the Heat won only 15 games, returning to his front office job.
Jackson has more NBA championships as a coach (11) than anyone else, and 13 including his two with the New York Knicks as a player. He won his 11 NBA titles with two franchises:
- Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1998 after serving as an assistant for two years. After losing in the conference finals in 1990, Jackson, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen playing for him, led the Bulls to three consecutive titles. Jordan retired, and without him the Bulls won 55 games, but lost in the conference semis to the Knicks, their big rivals during the first half of the 1990’s. Jordan returned late in the 1994-1995 season, but the Bulls lost in the conference semis again. A summer of getting his groove back, along with the addition of Dennis Rodman, got Jackson and the Bulls on the winners podium again with another three-peat. Jackson stepped down after the sixth championship, vowing never to coach again.
- That didn’t last long, becoming the Los Angeles Lakers head coach in 1999. Kobe Bryant was entering his prime, Shaq was at his beastiest, and Jackson had himself another three peat. After losing the 2004 NBA finals. Whether it was money or not wanting to work with Kobe Bryant, Jackson got a year off before returning in 2005 after one season off. In 2006 and 2007 Jackson was on the losing side in the playoffs first round, something that never happened before. But the Lakers managed to hold on to Kobe Bryant (who was asking for a trade a the time), got him Pau Gasol, which led to 3 consecutive NBA finals: losing in 2008, winning in 2009 and 2010. He left after the 2011 season (Swept by the Mavs in the conference semis), for a number of reasons, among them not getting along with ownership.
And one last note about Bill Sharman:
Sharman won the NBA champions as a head coach once, finally ending the Los Angeles Lakers streak of NBA Finals losses in 1972. As a player, he won the title four times playing for the Celtics. He also coached the Utah Stars to the ABA championship in 1971, making him and the previously mentioned Hannum as the only coaches with an NBA & ABA championship.