How do we pick the best coach in the league? I'll go through my breakdown and pick my top guys, let me know if you have different specifications or lists. I'd like to see where we think LB stacks up with the rest of the guys out there.
1. There are 3 teams in the NBA. 4 of them either have recently fired their coach, or have interim coaches. None of those teams are in the playoffs. Let's assume that it's safe to eliminate those guys. List goes down to 26.
2. Tenure. There are seven guys who haven't coached at least 5 years in the league. They don't have enough time under their belts to make an accurate measurement of their abilities. The candidates get reduced to 19
3. Wins. It's one thing to coach for a long time. It's another to be a winner for a long time. O'Brien, Woodson, and Gentry have win % under .500. The list goes to 16.
4. Win Totals. This is a combination of the two above. Some guys may have a solid W/L, but simply cannot compete in terms of tenure with some off the more established guys. 500 wins minimum. List shrinks to the top 10.
Now that we have it down to a manageable number. Let's start ranking:
1. Four guys have won championships, which is really the ultimate goal. So let's start by moving those guys to the top. Phil (with 10) is of course at the head. Since LB and Doc tie, we'll go by win total.
2. I tend to value tenure a little more than percentages. I'll use my backwards math to combine the two to adjust the remaining six guys. Let's see what we have:
Not bad. But I think that in addition to statistics, the eyeball test is an important measurement. Is Doc "Tank for the #1 Pick" Rivers better than some of the other guys below him, even though he has a ring? Simply put, no. So let's move him down. Then you look at D'Antoni above George Karl and you think, "Well that's not right." So we switch those two around.
Finally, respect. Is this order correct when it comes to the respect factor? For the most part, yes (which gives a little credibility to my analysis ) I think the top 6 is hard to argue with. All are widely respected around the league. The lower 4 are either younger guys still working on a reputation, or have flaws that prevent them from being top shelf coaches.
Now it's time to tier these guys out. Well..... Phil is first (by a landslide) in rings. He's first in win %. Both while only being 6th in terms of tenure. Safe to say he's the best, in a tier of his own even? Yes.
Pops and LB are the other ring winners in the top 5. LB has more years and total wins, Pops has more rings and a higher %. Pops has had better teams to work with, but we can't hold that against him. They slide in at the second tier
Sloan, Nellie, and Karl are all tenured guys with great win % that all command great levels of respect. They just haven't come through with the rings whether it be from bad timing (MJ era) or a style that doesn't necessarily suit the playoffs (Yes, defense wins championships). Tier 3.
The remaining four guys are still up in the air. Doc has a ring, but doesn't have a ton of respect around the league. D'Antoni hasn't been coaching long enough to make a huge name for himself. Adelman and Saunders have been around for awhile, but the jury's still out on their abilities. These guys belong in tier 4.
1. Phil Jackson (19 years, 1098-460, .705, 10 rings
2. Gregg Popovich (14 years, 736-362, .670, 4 rings
3. Larry Brown (26 years, 1088-884, .552, 1 ring
4. Jerry Sloan (25 years, 1189-776, .605, 0 rings
5. Don Nelson (31 years, 1335-1063, .557, 0 rings
6. George Karl (22 years, 986-671, .595, 0 rings
7. Doc Rivers (11 years, 789-433, .646, 1 ring
8. Mike D'Antoni (8 years, 589-322, .647, 0 rings
9. Rick Adelman (19 years, 889-571, .609, 0 rings
10. Flip Saunders (14 years, 587-400, .594, 0 rings