Top Winning Coaches in NBA History

The National Basketball Association's All-Time Coaching Wins List

Winning is everything in sports, particularly at the national level. It leads to lucrative contracts, longevity in the field, respect and renown. Here's a list of the top 10 National Basketball Association's all time winning-est coaches. 

Don Nelson and Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Head coach Don Nelson of the Golden State Warriors speaks with Stephen Curry #30 on the sidelines during a game at the Target Center on April 7, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Warriors defeated the Timberwolves 116-107. Getty Images / Hannah Foslien

An NBA lifer, Nelson piled up over 1335 wins as coach of the Bucks, Warriors, Mavericks and Knicks. His teams were known for their high-powered and sometimes unconventional offenses, often relying on a "point forward" to initiate plays. Nellie was named NBA Coach of the Year three times in 1983, 1985 and 1992. More »

One of a select few to reach the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, Wilkens racked up his 1332 wins as head coach in Seattle, Portland, Cleveland, Atlanta, Toronto and New York. He led the Sonics to an NBA Title in 1979 and was honored as NBA Coach of the Year in 1994. More »

Karl Malone joins 2009 Hall of Fame inductees Jerry Sloan and John Stockton on the red carpet
"The Mailman" joins his old coach -- Jerry Sloan -- and point guard -- John Stockton -- as the Hall of Fame banquet and ring ceremony becomes a mini-Utah Jazz reunion. © Tara Fappiano

Sloan coached in the NBA for 26 years. He presents a very compelling argument against the validity of the NBA Coach of the Year award. How can that award truly honor coaching greatness if Sloan has never won? He reached the NBA Finals twice in 1997 and 1998, and he was voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Sloan coached the Chicago Bulls for three seasons in the early 80s – the team where he spent most of his stellar playing career, then moved on to the Utah Jazz for another 23 seasons before retiring in 2011. More »

Riley has been at the heart of some of the most legendary teams of the last four decades: Magic Johnson's "Showtime" Lakers, the "No Layup Rule" Patrick Ewing/Charles Oakley Knicks, and Miami's Shaquille O'Neal/Dwyane Wade championship squad. He has nine conference titles and five NBA titles on his resume – four with the Lakers and a fifth with the Heat. He's been Miami's team president since 1995. Riley was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach in 2008. More »

George Karl was an NBA coach for 25 seasons and he was a consummate winner during that time. Karl has only led two teams to a less than .500 winning percentage in his entire career. He won a Western Conference Championship during the 1995-96 season with the Seattle SuperSonics. On top of all that, Karl was named the NBA Coach of the Year in 2012-13. More »

Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss
Coach Phil Jackson receives yet another championship ring from Laker vice president (and Jackson's long-time girlfriend) Jeanie Buss. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

This is the man who called the shots for Michael Jordan's Bulls and Kobe Bryant's Lakers. Jackson had a .704 regular season winning percentage and won 13 conference championships and 11 NBA titles. Remarkably, the Zen Master won NBA Coach of the Year Honors just once in 1996. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. More »

Larry Brown
Larry Brown of the Charlotte Bobcats yells to his team during their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Time Warner Cable Arena on December 21, 2010 -- his last as coach. Getty Images / Streeter Lecka

One of coaching's most notorious vagabonds, Brown's win total would be significantly higher if we included his stints in the ABA and NCAA. A tough leader who stressed defense and unselfish play, Brown called plays for the ABA's Carolina Cougars and Denver Nuggets, as well as for the NBA's Nuggets, Nets, Spurs, Clippers, Pacers, Sixers, Pistons, Knicks and Bobcats. And don't forget the UCLA Bruins and Kansas Jayhawks, the team he led to an NCAA Title in 1988.

Brown won an Eastern Conference championship with Allen Iverson and the Sixers in 2001 and was named NBA Coach of the Year, then he led the Chauncey Billups/Rip Hamilton/Ben Wallace Pistons to an NBA Title in 2004. He remains the only coach to win a title in both the NBA and NCAA. More »

In his 21 seasons as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich has become one of the most accomplished coaches in the history of the NBA. He has won the NBA Coach of the Year award three times, has a regular season winning percentage of .684, and has led the Spurs to five NBA Championships. Now he can add 1150 NBA victories to his already exceptional résumé.

Popovich is still active as of 2017 and is still coaching the Spurs.  More »

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Rick Adelman - 1042

Rick Adelman spent 23 seasons as a head coach in the NBA. He roamed the sidelines for the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves during that span. Adelman may have never won an NBA Championship, but he did lead Portland to two Western Conference Titles in three seasons from 1989 through 1992. 

A two-time NBA Coach of the Year, Fitch won an NBA title with Larry Bird's Celtics in 1981, and he took the Houston Rockets to the Finals in 1986. He also spent time running the Cavaliers, Nets and Clippers. He retired as the NBA's all-time leader in coaching wins ... and losses, then he was passed in both categories by Lenny Wilkens. More »

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Zegers, Charlie. "Top Winning Coaches in NBA History." ThoughtCo, May. 18, 2017, thoughtco.com/top-coaches-in-nba-history-325883. Zegers, Charlie. (2017, May 18). Top Winning Coaches in NBA History. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/top-coaches-in-nba-history-325883 Zegers, Charlie. "Top Winning Coaches in NBA History." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/top-coaches-in-nba-history-325883 (accessed November 25, 2017).