By Nick Browne
It takes a lot for a coach to be a proven winner. Year after year NBA teams seem to cycle through coaches–and many coaches don’t often last very long with one franchise. That alone tells you how difficult it is to be a winner in the coaching field. These five coaches have the most wins in the history of the NBA.
Don Nelson – 1,335 wins
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If you grew up watching basketball in the 80s and 90s, you knew Nelly. He was a basketball lifer while coaching the Bucks, Warriors, Mavericks, and Knicks. He won NBA Coach of the Year three times–in 1983, 1985, and 1992.
Lenny Wilkens – 1,332 wins
During his Hall of Fame coaching career, Wilkens coached six different franchises and continued to win no matter what sideline he called home. He coached the SuperSonics, Trailblazers, Cavs, Hawks, Raptors, and Knicks. He won an NBA title in 1979 with the Sonics and won Coach of the Year in 1994.
Jerry Sloan – 1,221 wins
Here’s a fun fact about Jerry Sloan–he never once won Coach of the Year. Hard to believe, I know, after coaching for 26 years–23 of which were at the helm of the Utah Jazz. He entered the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Pat Riley – 1,210 wins
Pat Riley helmed some of the most well-known teams in NBA history – the “Showtime” Lakers in the 80s, the tough-as-nails Patrick Ewing-led New York Knicks, and the Miami Heat during the Dwayne Wade/Shaq era. In his career, he won five NBA titles.
George Karl – 1,175 wins
Throughout a 25-year coaching career, George Karl’s teams were above .500 in 23 of those seasons. He won Coach of the Year in 2012-13 and took the Seattle SuperSonics to the NBA Finals in 1995-96.