NBA: Greatest head coach in each team’s franchise history

Gregg Popovich, Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Gregg Popovich, Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
1 of 31
Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, Chicago Bulls
Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, Chicago Bulls. (Photo by Steve DiPaola/NBAE via Getty Images) /

For a league with a history of star players, the men on the sidelines mattered, too. The very best head coaches in each NBA team’s history are an elite group.

The NBA is a league of star personalities. To tell its history is to talk about Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Yet none of those players did it alone but had the support of teammates and their entire organizations. That included the men standing on the sidelines.

It’s always been difficult to evaluate the impact of a head coach on a team. How much of a team’s success is due to scheme and rotations. How much is because of a team’s talent? Should coaches get credit for managing the myriad personalities of that talent?

Too many talented teams have fallen short of the ultimate prize or fallen apart too quickly for there to be no credit given to head coaches. They do have an important job and if they do it poorly, the team has no chance at sustaining success. When they do it well, a team can rise above.

The future of coaching in the NBA has never been brighter, with teams finally opening up to the obvious benefits of adding women to their coaching staffs or bringing in coaches from diverse backgrounds. Teams on the front end of this shift have already begun to reap the rewards.

Looking back at the past, we can see the impact coaches have had on their teams and identify who has been the best for their respective teams. In identifying the best coach in each team’s history, some decisions are more obvious than others. Here are the selections to represent 70 years of coaching impact.