This time – a list you can’t debate, it’s pure numbers – The top 5 head coaches in the NBA, entering the 2009-2010 season, according to their career win percentage. This is only for people who have more than three full seasons in the league and we also didn’t include Paul Westphal, the new head coach of the Sacramento Kings. His career winning percentage is 62.7%, but he hasn’t coached in the league the 2000-2001 season so we didn’t put him in. So here are the top five head coaches in the league by career win percentage – Mike Brown, Gregg Popovich, Stan Van Gundy, Phil Jackson and Rick Adelman.
Number 5 – Rick Adelman, Houston Rockets – 847-531 record, 61.3%
With 20 seasons in the bag, Rick Adelamn is starting his third year as the Houston Rockets’ head coach after reaching the Western Semi Finals last season, the first time they’ve reached that stage since 1997. He hasn’t had a losing season since 1996-1997 with the Golden State Warriors and has only two in all of his coaching career (both with the Warriors). Those were the only seasons Adelman coached teams have missed the playoffs. He’s been to the NBA Finals twice, both times with the Portland Trail Blazers, in 1990 (lost to the Detroit Pistons) and in 1992 (lost to the Chicago Bulls).
Number 4 – Stan Van Gundy, Orlando Magic – 223-126, 63.8%
SVG might be with a championship ring on him these days if it wasn’t for Pat Riley, but that’s just speculating. He wasn’t far from getting one by himself last season, taking the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in 5 games. Van Gundy has coached four full season in the NBA, two with the Miami Heat and two with the Orlando Magic. In the beginning of the 2005-2006 season he was run out/resigned/fill in the blank, as Pat Riley came back to the head coach chair at Miami, leading them to the franchise’s only NBA championship.
Number 3 – Mike Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers – 211-117, 64.3%
Is there more to Mike Brown than just Lebron James? He’s considered a defensive specialist, making the Cavs into one of the best in the league. But what about the offense? You don’t really need to coach Lebron on open court offense, when he’s practically unstoppable, but in the tight games, when the playoff gets deep and tough, there’s something missing, and it always become Lebron against five. Is it his fault? This season might be our last chance to find out.
On the other hand, before Brown arrived in Ohio, Lebron never made the playoffs, and in 2007 they made an unlikely run into the NBA Finals, before getting swept by the Spurs. Last season Brown coached the Cavs to the best record in the league with a 66-16 record. The Eastern Conference Finals was where they stopped.
Number 2 – Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs – 686-330, 67.5%
Four NBA rings (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007) and a current streak of 10 straight 50+ wins seasons (should be twelve straight, if it wouldn’t be for the shortened 1998-1999) season. He began his NBA coaching career while he was general manager of the Spurs. He fired Bob Hill and took his place in a highly criticized move. That season (1996-1997) the Spurs didn’t amount to much, mostly due to David Robinson missing almost the entire season. Then came the number one pick, Tim Duncan arrived, and yada yada, four titles later, here we are. Popovich will give it another shot this season with an aging Duncan and Ginobili with the slightly younger Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson in the mix as well before he needs to completely rebuild.
Number 1 – Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers – 1041-435, 70.5%
Ten NBA championships, twelve Finals appearances, two dynasties and a third one potentially in the making. Jackson has coached for only two teams in his 19 year career, and although he’s always had superstars to do the job for him on the court, his achievements can’t be attributed to the players alone. He has never missed the playoffs and has never finished a regular season under .500. He has coached his teams to 60+ win seasons seven times, including a NBA best 72-10 in 1995-1996 with the Chicago Bulls. Probably the greatest NBA head coach ever, Jackson is the first and only coach to win ten championships in any of North America’s major sports.