Three NBA Coaches I’d Want on My Sideline

Gregg Popovich

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While there is an amazingly high turnover rate of coaches in the NBA, it is worth celebrating the success of those who provide stability and consistency year after year. This season, there are numerous coaches who are doing a fantastic job with their teams, including Indiana’s Frank Vogel, Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix, and Steve Clifford in Charlotte. In spite of some of these fantastic success stories around the league, there are three coaches right now in the NBA that stick out to me. Below are the three I’d have coach my team1 any day of the week.


Gregg Popovich – San Antonio Spurs

Popovich’s resume speaks for itself. He has to be considered the top coach in the NBA. Pop’s won 4 NBA Championships2 over a 17-year period with the Spurs. He’s 65 years old, the longest tenured coach in all four major professional sports, and has proven once again he still has the touch. The Spurs presently reside in 2nd place in an extremely competitive Western Conference. So far, this has been an incredible achievement when one considers the amount of injuries he’s had to several of his top players (Parker and Ginobili). And, for some of the season, the Spurs have been without Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter, their two best young players, and vital components of the team, for a significant amount of time.3

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There has been much speculation that Popovich may coach Team USA in the Olympic Games in 2016, and as fans we can only hope he gets the chance.

Rick Carlisle – Dallas Mavericks

Carlisle has been roaming the sideline in Dallas for just 6 years, but his term has been filled with success. He won a Championship in 2011 with the Mavs, knocking off the Miami Heat in six games, the only team so far to be able to beat Miami’s big three in the playoffs. Despite that immeasurable accomplishment, the job he has done so far in the 2013-2014 campaign may be equally as impressive.4 Consider this: The Mavs are currently in the 6th spot in the West, ten games over .500. Carlisle is doing this with an aging Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, and Shawn Marion as core players. All three have played 14+ seasons in the league. Monta Ellis is another prominent player for the Mavs, as he is one of the league’s top scorers. But, it is also important to note that prior to his arrival in Dallas, he has not been considered a “winning player.”  Carlisle has brought out the best so far in Ellis, as Monta said earlier this year, “[Carlisle] still had the confidence in me to call those plays when I was having a bad shooting night. It let me know how much confidence he has in me.”


Rick Carlisle is rock solid and a consistent coach – just like his team.

Tom Thibodeau – Chicago Bulls

Although Carlisle and Popovich are equally great coaches, the story of Thibodeau has always enamored me since his arrival in Chicago four seasons ago. He’s been receiving praise for years from other great NBA minds such as Jeff Van Gundy, who Thibs worked under for several years in Houston and New York. And, also Doc Rivers, who attributes Boston’s smothering defense in their NBA Finals runs with KG and Pierce, to the schemes created by Thibodeau. If Derrick Rose did not go down the past few seasons, I am a firm believer that Thibodeau may already have an NBA ring with the Bulls. Last year, despite the absence of D-Rose in the playoffs, he got just about as much out of that roster as one could possibly imagine. They knocked off the Nets in the first round, on the road, and played Miami extremely tough before losing in the second round.

This year has been no different. And, as an avid NBA fan, I expected this sustained success after Rose went down with yet another knee injury. Thibodeau has elevated everyone’s game again, and the Bulls currently sit in the 4th spot in the Eastern Conference. Regardless of the East’s historically bad season5, Thibodeau’s coaching job remains very impressive. Consider this stat: the Bulls started the season 14-18. Chicago then decided to trade Loul Deng – who had to be considered their second best player after Derrick Rose. Since trading Deng to Cleveland for some future draft picks (and Andrew Bynum who they cut a day later), the Bulls have gone 13-7. That’s incredible, especially when you also consider that he’s had to deal with several injuries to other key players, but continues to keep the team competitive on a nightly basis.


The Key to Success

There are several keys to the success of all three of these coaches, and this is precisely what separates them from their NBA peers. First and foremost, no one gets more out of their players year in and year out than Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, and Tom Thibodeau. Despite injuries, these guys have their backup’s winning games and coming ready to play. It’s a level of professionalism unparalleled across the league.

Also, remember this: all three coaches have a similar personality. All three are straightforward, “boring” type of personalities. They are not the most exciting, glamorous, or lively coaches in all of sports. But, they get it done. Similarly to Bill Belichick for the NFL’s New England Patriots, all three extract the very best out of their players. They don’t always provide the most colorful quotes for journalists, but they win.6 Quite frankly, that’s all anyone remembers.


Which active coaches would you want leading your favorite team?  Do you agree or disagree with my selections?  Reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, or drop us a line using the comment section below.

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

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