By: Louis Prejean
Let’s face it, a NBA team cannot be successful without a good coach leading the way. No team has ever been consistently a threat or even won a title with a coach that does not know how to get the most out of his team. The best coaches inspire their players to be better than they were the day before, develops talent to reach their maximum potential, and raises the players’ basketball knowledge each and every day. The best coaches in the history of this league had some the best talent on the roster, such as Phil Jackson with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The reason why Jackson was a tremendous coach was because he knew how to balance the egos of his superstars. He knew what it took to be the best coach he can be and received the best out of his players.
In today’s NBA, there are a plethora a great coaches. Coaches that have proven to thrive and some that have shown they can lead a team all the way to the NBA Finals. On the other hand, there are some coaches not doing so well. These NBA coaches are not necessarily victim of a bad roster, but they are not making the best out of their situation. The worst coaches in the league cannot the maximize the talent or inspire their team to compete every game. With the NBA starting soon, every coach is preparing for a long season and trying to one-up themselves from the previous year.
Let us take a look at the best and worst coaches heading into the 2015-2016 season.
The Best Coaches
These are the NBA coaches that have all the makings of a great leader. They have proven they can lead a team to success in a league full of out-of-this-world talent. Time to begin the list.
This is one of the easier choices on this list. The Atlanta Hawks coach and last year’s Coach of the Year, led the Atlanta Hawks to the number one seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 60-22. Some may credit his coaching style to Gregg Popovich, but Budenholzer is not the first coach to mirror the San Antonio Spurs’ system.
For Budenholzer and the Hawks, it all about preaching team-first ball basketball. They try to avoid any kind of “hero ball”. Mike Budenholzer can preach a winning philosophy that resonates with his players while executing the Xs and Os. The Hawks did lose one of their starters last season with DeMarre Carroll joining the Toronto Raptors, so Budenholzer needs to find a way to match his production.
What Mike Budenholzer has done for Atlanta has been nothing short of great and as we approach a new season, can he sustain this level of success?
Was there ever any doubt that Gregg Popovich would make this list? 16 consecutive 50-win seasons as a NBA coach for the San Antonio Spurs and five NBA championships, Popovich is the best there is. Maybe the best to ever coach in the NBA. Popovich has engineered a team to contend every single year for 15 years.
No matter what kind of ego or attitude a player has Gregg Popovich knows how fit a player into his legendary system of team basketball. The Spurs can beat you with high-scoring offense or tough defense. That is what has made them so dangerous. Just look for another year of dominance for the San Antonio Spurs under the one the best coaches to ever do it, Gregg Popovich.
Rick Carlisle should be no surprise as he has been known as one of the best coaches in the NBA for a while now. From in-game adjustments to his genius coaching mind, Carlisle can beat any team with any roster given to him. All he does is win. In his 13 season as a head coach, Carlisle has had one losing season with the Indiana Pacers. They went 35-47 in the 2006-2007 season.
He has won a title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and has accomplished pretty much everything there is to as a coach. The only negative against Carlisle is not doing the best job at developing young talent, but his consistent winning ways puts him in the upper echelon of coaches.
In his 13 seasons as a NBA coach, Doc Rivers has shown that he is one of the best in the business. He has led the Boston Celtics to multiple playoffs and even won the NBA title back in 2008. Doc Rivers truly knows how to bring players together in the locker room and on the court.
Now Doc Rivers coaches the Los Angeles Clippers and he set the franchise record for wins in a single season with 57 in 2014. But not only is he the coach for the Clippers, he is an executive. As executive, Rivers has been productive. He has acquired Paul Pierce, Lance, Stephenson, and Josh Smith this offseason as he looks to improve the bench play for Los Angeles.
If the roster stays healthy, Doc Rivers can help the Clippers reach new heights and continue his reputation as one of the league’s best coaches.
Steve Kerr had no problems transitioning from a front office job with the Phoenix Suns to color commentator to now coaching the Golden State Warriors. In his first year as a head coach, Kerr led the Warriors to the NBA’s best regular season record and eventually the NBA title. So he did an “okay” job in his first season.
All jokes aside, Steve Kerr has already made his mark in the league’s history. His greatest strength as a coach is connecting with the players and getting them to play their hardest. That showed last season. Kerr brought a stable system in which each player knew their role. With a staff that included Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams, Steve Kerr made it easier for himself to succeed. Expect him along with the talented roster of the Golden State Warriors to put up a fight to defend their title.
The Worst Coaches
These are the coaches that have not seemed to get it right so far in their NBA coaching careers. Whther it be motivation their team to play hard or not understanding the X’s and O’s of the game, the worst coaches in the NBA have a long season ahead of them.
The Washington Wizards made the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in the past two seasons under Randy Wittman. Not bad, right? Why is he on the worst coaches list if his team his successful?
There is reason to believe Wittman is a bad coach and that the promising roster of the Wizards deserve better. Wittman’s career coaching record is .394 with 237 wins and 635 losses. His rotations are inconsistent and he just does not recognize the personnel that he has. The fast, young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal did not get a chance to showcase their athleticism last season as the Wizards ranked 16th in pace. Washington had six players shooting above 37 percent from the perimeter but attempted the fourth-lowest three point attempts in the entire NBA.
Do not let these playoff runs fool you. Randy Wittman just does not seem to get it right and the Wizards could use a better coach to help them progress.
Derek Fisher faced a challenge in his first season as NBA head coach. He did not have much talent on the Knicks’ roster to begin with and the team was mired with injuries. Three players were traded away in Stoudemire, J.R Smith, and Iman Shumpert. Injuries and lack of talent led the Knicks to 65 losses last season.
Record wise and being the first season as a head coach, Fisher can only be ranked as one of the worst coaches in the NBA heading into the 2015-16 season. Hopefully with a healthier roster and a retooling of talent in the offseason can raise Fisher’s confidence that he does belong on the sidelines coaching.
David Blatt was one of the most recognized, best coaches in Europe before coming to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers. Blatt led the Cavaliers to the second seed in the Eastern Conference and the NBA finals in his first season.
However, one could argue that the talented roster did most of the work while David Blatt had to simply stay out of the way. Blatt does not seem to have the control of his team like a head coach should. For example, he drew up a late-game play that called for LeBron James to inbound the ball, but instead James changed the play for him to take the last shot. James proved to be right as he hit the game winner against the Chicago Bulls. David Blatt failed to find a role for Kevin Love and the rest of the team.
David Blatt needs to take control of the team and establish consistent roles for his players. The Cavaliers will win a lot of games this year, but will it be because of Blatt’s coaching or the players’ talents?
Byron Scott has been around the NBA for a long time. So long in fact that he has trouble adapting to the new ways of the NBA. The NBA is now in the analytical age. Every team is focused on advanced statisitics and looking for data to help the team play to their strength. Analytics says the mid-range shot if the least efficient attempt, but the Lakers shot the most midrange jumpers last season. If Byron Scott believed in analytics, he would be able to make adjustments according to his roster.
The Los Angeles Lakers were 23rd in offensive efficiency, 25th in three pointers made, and 29th on defense. Byron Scott needs to trust the statistics a little bit more because they will help the entire team find an identity. Scott’s stubbornness to adapt is what makes him one of the worst coaches in the NBA entering the upcoming season.
Coaches to Watch Out For
There are some new NBA coaches and they look like they can make quite the impact in the 2015-2016 season.
– Brad Stevens led the Boston Celtics to the playoffs last season despite lacking the tools to do so. Another year under his belt and an upgraded roster will prove to beneficial to Stevens.
– Alvin Gentry was named the new head coach for the New Orleans Pelicans and seems to be on the right track. Gentry has already stated what the team’s identity will be. The Pelicans will look to push the ball at a fast pace and push for another playoff berth.
– Fred Hoiberg has one of the deepest rosters to start his first season as a NBA coach. The likes of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol, and other emerging players will help make life easy for Hoiberg. Hoiberg will give the Bulls something too, an offense. New coach, new system, and new mindset from Fred Hoiberg will raise the title hopes for Bulls fans.
– Erik Spoelstra has been nearly forgotten about after LeBron James returned to Cleveland. Spoelstra is still capable of winning game just on coaching strategy alone. Chris Bosh will also come back healthier along with Dwyane Wade to show everyone they can still play a a high level. The Miami Heat also signed Gerald Green and Amare Stoudemire in the offseason. The Heat have one of the better rosters from top to bottom and Spoelstra has a chance to make noise in the 2015-2016 season.