View Full Version : Where Does Popovich Rank Among All-Time NBA Coaches

06-16-2014, 02:17 PM
Now that he has his fifth ring, tying him with Riley and putting him behind only Jackson and Auerbach, it seems like a natural conversation to have. I think he has to be in the conversation for the top coach of all time at this point. I'm not saying I'd put him there, but you could argue for it. I think I'd put him ahead of Jackson and Riley at this point. Jackson's always had overwhelming talent when he's won. He's never really built a team or turned a team around. You can't say that about to Riley thanks to what he did in New York and Miami. But the difference between him and Popovich is that Pop's won all his rings with a team and system he built, whereas Riley only won championships with the Laker team that had won a title before he got there, and then when he came back in the middle of the season with the Shaq/Wade Heat. When you're looking at Auerbach, you have to decide if you're looking at Red the coach and Red the executive as one set of accomplishments. He's probably the best GM in the history of sports, building the 60's, 70's, and 80's Celtic teams. But with him as a coach, you have the same problem with Phil Jackson where an average coach could've won a lot of those titles, maybe not the same number, but a lot of them. The 60's Celtics also only ran something like seven set plays, so it wasn't exactly modern basketball, either. But you do have to give him some credit for how innovative he was with his scouting reports too, something other coaches weren't really doing at the time.

In discussions like this, I tend to go for the Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens, and Jack Ramsay types, the guys who won in a lot of different places, turned around bad teams, and got the absolute most out of their players even if they didn't win a lot of rings. If there's a knock on Pop, it's that he's only won in one place, with the same top 20 player having been there the whole time. But on the flip side, I think you have to give him credit for developing guys like Ginobli, Parker, and now Leonard, who became very, very good players, despite probably not having superstar raw talent. I can't think of anybody on the Spurs over the years who played well below their capabilities. So I think Pop is kind of the balance between Auerbach and Jackson and the Larry Browns of the world, in that he's done all the things that I like about Brown, but he's won a lot more. So from that perspective, I completely understand how someone could argue for him as the no. 1 coach of all time.

06-16-2014, 03:21 PM

06-16-2014, 04:16 PM
Mount Rushmore of coaches:


in that order. I would put Pop 2nd. I have all the respect in the world for him but Jackson still has more than TWICE as many titles. The overall success is too significantly different.

Raps08-09 Champ
06-16-2014, 04:28 PM
I already said he was #1 like 2 seasons ago.

06-17-2014, 06:18 AM
Top 3 with Auerbach and Jackson

06-17-2014, 10:02 PM
Obviously top 5 but where in that top 5 will be up for debate.

06-18-2014, 12:14 AM
Behind only Auerbach.

06-19-2014, 08:23 PM
i think he is the best NBA coach i have seen. Riles is the only guy I can think of that i would put in his cat. Riles also did it with multiple styles, over long periods, and created an air tight team culture on his squads.

06-24-2014, 10:18 AM
Greatest Ever

06-25-2014, 12:17 AM
I love Pop, easily top 3. But hard to go against what Phil has done. Sure he's had some amazing talent, but how often do we see that blow up on coaches. Keeping Jordan in check? Pippen being ok #2? Kukoc adjusting to the American game? Rodman? Kobe/Shaq? Artest? He's had some of the toughest player situations and they always seemed to come out on top.

I just have a hard time giving Pop it because when it comes to the best of the best, I'd rather go with Phil's 11 rings, than the reasons Pop didn't win 11. I'd rather go with what happened than what someone else might have done in that circumstance. I'd love to see Pop in the post Duncan era. If he can build something great again somewhere else or with a new roster. That would be really cool.

Dr Positivity
07-09-2014, 10:24 PM
I think he is 2nd.

It's hard to judge Red Auerbach vs these guys because he was "ahead of his time". He may have literally been a worse coach than all 30 in the NBA today. The Celtics believed playing at a faster pace made their offense better because it gave them more chances for points, for example. Comparing Red vs Pop is like comparing Lenny Bruce to Louie CK. Louie CK is 'better' because of the advantage of the era he was born in. Frankly a strong case can be made Red Holzman was better at coaching than Auerbach.

Phil Jackson IMO is the GOAT. He is both a master technical coach and by far the best personality manager. Phil's record when being 1-0 in a series, when having HCA in a series or when having one of the top 2 seeds in the conference going into the playoffs, is incomprehensible and a sign his team is always prepared and plays up to their potential or better. Phil has had a top 2 seed in the conference 13 times and in those years won 10 titles (91-93 Bulls, 96-98 Bulls, 00-01 Lakers, 09-10 Lakers), 2 Finals losses (04/08 Lakers) and a 2nd rd loss (11 Lakers). The Spurs under Pop have 10 top 2 seeds in the conference and in those years have 4 titles (99, 03, 05, 14), a Finals loss (13), 2 Conference Finals losses (01, 12), 2 2nd round losses (02, 06) and a 1st round loss (11). Both guys only have 1 title when they aren't top 2 in the conference (02 for Lakers, 07 for Spurs). Yes there are some Spurs losses you can't blame them for like during 00-02, but they've had the chance to "Phil Jackson it up" 3peat wise and haven't done it. The Spurs could've easily 3peated from 05-07 when Duncan, Manu and Parker were at their apex as a trio giving them the best team in the league. They could've gotten more than 1 the last three years too

There's also a case to be made Pop has as big an impact on the Spurs as pseudo GM than coach. To me the Spurs genius is player acquisition.