All the talent in the world won’t win you an NBA title unless you have the right man guiding the ship.
As the 2016-17 season gets ready to begin, we take a look at the league’s 10 best head coaches, and used a combination of success, experience and overall reputation to put the rankings in place.
10. Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
9. Tyronn Lue, Cleveland Cavaliers
Now that Lue has guided the Cavaliers to their first championship in franchise history, he can finally be known for something else.In addition to playing 11 NBA seasons, Lue paid his dues as an assistant coach under Doc Rivers in both Boston and Los Angeles, and was the associate head coach under Blatt the season before taking over.Managing egos and getting the most out of the talent on the roster is as important as Xs and Os in the NBA, and Lue did all of it better than anyone last season.
8. Frank Vogel, Orlando Magic
Vogel guided the Pacers to consecutive Eastern Conference finals appearances in 2013 and 2014, and then got the team back to the playoffs last season with a healthy Paul George and not much else.The Magic have an odd roster after a summer full of trades and free-agent acquisitions, but Vogel has shown he’s more than capable of making the pieces fit.
7. Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons
Van Gundy went on to coach in Orlando, and guided the Magic to a Finals appearance in 2009. But he was forced to deal with Dwight Howard’s exit from the franchise, which resulted in one of the most awkward press conferences of all time.
6. Dwane Casey
5. Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
Erik Spoelstra took over for Pat Riley as Heat head coach in 2008, and has had the job in Miami ever since.
4. Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota Timberwolves
3. Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks
Rick Carlisle has been employed as an NBA head coach for the past 14 seasons, and has spent the past eight with the Dallas Mavericks.
But what impresses us the most about Carlisle is his ability to win despite an ever-changing roster. Dirk Nowitzki has been the constant in Dallas, but the key pieces around him change every summer thanks to Mark Cuban’s tinkering, and Carlisle still finds a way to win no matter the talent he’s given.
2. Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors
Steve Kerr has been the head coach of the Warriors for only two seasons, but no one in history has had as much immediate success.
The Warriors then won an NBA record 73 regular-season games last year, and came within one game of repeating as champions. It’s crazy to think what he might be able to do this year now that Kevin Durant has been added to the roster.
1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
No head coach in NBA history has had as much sustained success as Gregg Popovich has had with the San Antonio Spurs, and that made him the easy (and only) choice to top this list.
The Spurs have won at least 50 games for an incredible 17 straight seasons — think about that for a moment, and you’ll realize how truly remarkable that is. San Antonio has won five championships in six NBA Finals appearances during Popovich’s 20-year reign, and the Spurs have done it with an understated class that he created with the Spurs organization.
It’s unclear how much longer the 67-year-old Popovich will stick around now that Tim Duncan has retired, but there’s no question he’ll be considered the best active coach in the game as long as he chooses to stay.