Top 10 Black NBA Coaches All Time Rankings
Ranking the best Black NBA Coaches in history with names such as K.C. Jones, Doc Rivers, Bill Russell and many more
By Fan Author | March 22, 2023
The history of the NBA continues to evolve, and new history continues to be written each NBA Season. As the league prepared for the 2022-23 NBA Season the league added Darvin Ham as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers pushed the number of black head coaches to a record 15 currently in the NBA.
Despite the league featuring over 70 percent black players, the league has had its time moving into the future. However, that is all beginning to change while the likes of Bill Russell opened the door for black head coaches in the NBA. His success as a head coach lands him among the Top 10 Best Black NBA Coaches All Time rankings list.
The long time Boston Celtics Russell would take over as player coach during the 1966 NBA Season while helping to lead the team to their 9th NBA Championship while becoming the first black head coach in NBA history.
Following Russell other great black coaches have taken center stage on the hardwood including K.C. Jones who was a teammate of Russell with the Celtics. Jones would go on to coach four teams over his career. Joining Jones and Russell among the best black head coaches include Doc Rivers, Lenny Wilkens, and Al Attles.
While the list of the best black NBA coaches over history is thin, currently the future looks bright as the NBA continues to transition to hiring the best coach available and not based on owners preferences. As the future looks promising the list of the Best Black NBA Coaches All Time will only continue to grow. Here is a look at the Top 10 Best Black NBA Coaches All Time.
Career Record: 121-109
Team(s): Golden State Warriors
Just missing the Top 10 Best Black NBA Coaches All Time rankings list is the former Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson.
After playing from 1987 to 2004 in the NBA, Jackson landed on as the head coach of the Warriors in 2011 where he would coach till the end of the 2013-14 NBA Season.
After struggles in his first season, Jackson guided the Warriors to a 47-35 record in his second season while reaching the playoffs before falling to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semi-finals.
After another run to the playoffs in 2013-14 the team failed to make it out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs with the team electing to let Jackson go. In his only head coaching job, Jackson compiled a record of 121-109 during the regular season to go along with a 9-10 playoff record.
Career Record: 51-31
Team(s): Boston Celtics
A name that was looking to be climbing the list among the best black NBA coaches was Ime Udoka. Udoka who coached the Boston Celtics during the 2021-22 NBA season led the team to a deep playoff run before losing in the NBA Finals.
In his one season with the Celtics the team finished with a 51-31 record while atop the Atlantic Division within the Eastern Conference. His success continued as the Celtics compiled a 14-10 record during his only playoff coaching season.
Unfortunately, due to circumstances off the court, the Celtics elected to move on from Udoka. Currently Udoka is a hot name among potential NBA candidates for a head coaching gig for the upcoming season.
Top 10 Black NBA Coaches
10. Monty Williams
Career Record: 360-331 (Still Active)
Team(s): New Orleans Hornets/New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns
Landing at number 10 on the Top 10 Best Black NBA Coaches All Time rankings list is the current Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams.
Williams, who also held the head coaching position with the New Orleans Pelicans before becoming the New Orleans Pelicans has put together a career record of 360-331 through mid-March 2023.
In five seasons with the Pelicans/Hornets, Williams guided the team to a 173-221 record while making the playoffs in two seasons before being let go by the team.
After spending the next few seasons as an associate head coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Williams landed his next head coaching job with the Phoenix Suns where he is currently coach.
Since arriving Williams has two 51 plus win seasons, a Western Conference Finals championship, one NBA Coach of the Year Award, and coached one NBA All-Star Game.
Currently the Suns are in the midst of another playoff run during the 2022-23 NBA Season. Through mid-March Williams has compiled a 360-331 career record to go along with a 23-22 playoff record.
9. Dwane Casey
Career Record: 493-560 (Still Active)
Team(s): Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons
Another active NBA coach who is high among the rankings list of black NBA coaches is Dwane Case of the Detroit Pistons.
Casey who started his coaching career with the Minnesota Timberwolves has compiled a career record of 493-560 through the current 2022-23 NBA Season while leading his teams to a 21-34 playoff record. After struggling to produce in just a little over a season the Timberwolves elected to fire Casey.
Over the next few seasons Casey served as an assistant for the Dallas Mavericks before landing the head coaching job for the Toronto Raptors in June 2011.
Casey would lead the Raptors to playoffs in five of his seven NBA Seasons with the club but failed to make a deep run in the NBA playoffs before being fired after the 2017-18 NBA Season.
Despite the firing, Casey landed on with the Detroit Pistons for the next few seasons where he is currently the head coach. Casey has racked up a career record 477-505 while going 21-34 during the playoffs.
8. Mike Brown
Career Record: 389-243 (Still Active)
Team(s): Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings
As you start to look around at some of the top NBA coaches over the past 10-15 NBA Seasons it is hard not to look at Mike Brown who has compiled a career 389-243 record through mid-March of the 2022-23 NBA Season.
Brown, who started his coaching career with the Cleveland Cavaliers guided the team to five straight playoff seasons including a run to the NBA Finals.
However, despite the team’s success during the regular season, the lack of production in the playoffs with one of the greatest NBA players of all time led to him being fired.
Just one season later, Brown landed on with the Los Angeles Lakers leading them to one playoff run before being fired after five games during the 2012-13 NBA Season before returning to Cleveland for one season.
In 2022 Brown landed the head coaching job of the Sacramento Kings where he has already produced, leading the team to their first winning record in 16 NBA Seasons.
7. Nate McMillian
Career Record: 760-668
Team(s): Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks
Nate McMillian has racked up 760 NBA wins as a head coach over his coaching career, spending time with the Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, and most recently with the Atlanta Hawks.
After spending time as the SuperSonics assistant for a few seasons, McMillian landed the head coaching job after the firing of Paul Westphal during the 2000-01 NBA season leading the team to a 38-29 record down the stretch. McMillian would go on to spend the next four seasons leading the team to the playoffs two times.
The long-time player/coach of the SuperSonics would move on the Trail Blazers for the next six plus seasons leading the team to four playoff appearances before being let go during the 2011-12 NBA season and a 20-23 record.
McMillian would land head coaching jobs with the Pacers and Hawks since leading his teams to six playoff appearances in six straight seasons before being let go by the Hawks after a 29-30 start during the ongoing 2022-23 NBA Season. McMillian has racked up a 760-668 career record to go along with a 28-48 playoff record.
6. Tyronn Lue
Career Record: 254-181 (Still Active)
Team(s): Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers
Landing just outside of the Top 10 Best Black NBA Coaches All Time rankings list is the current Los Angeles Clippers head coach and former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue.
Lue who played in the NBA from 1998 to 2009 moved into the front office as director of basketball operations with the Boston Celtics before landing on as an assistant on the Los Angeles Clippers staff for the 2013-14 NBA Season.
Lue would move on to the Cleveland Cavaliers as an assistant for David Blatt before replacing Blatt during the 2015-16 NBA Season. Lau would help guide the Cavaliers to a 27-14 down the stretch and a postseason appearance.
The Cavaliers would go 16-5 in the NBA Playoffs and win the 2015-16 NBA Championship. The following two seasons the Cavaliers made runs to the NBA Finals before falling. Lue would be fired following an 0-6 start to open the 2018-19 NBA Season.
His success on the floor landed him the Los Angeles Clippers head coaching gig less than two seasons later where he led the Clippers to an NBA Finals appearance but failed to win the Championship.
Since 2015, Lue has compiled a career record of 217-148 during the regular season while posting a 51-29 post season record with the one NBA Championship.
5. Al Attles
Career Record: 557-518
Team(s): San Francisco Warriors/Golden State Warriors
Following the likes of Bill Russell, Al Attles stepped in as the San Francisco Warriors player-coach for the 1969-1970 season.
After one additional season as a player-coach Attles retired from basketball as player while focusing on coaching. His success on the floor was strong over the next few seasons before helping to guide the Warriors to the 1975 NBA Championship.
Despite being overmatched by a very talented Washington Bullets team the Warriors didn’t back down and Attles was able to get the most out of his players including Rick Barry.
In six of his first eight seasons as coach including as a player-coach the Warriors made the playoffs while losing in the NBA Finals in five of those six seasons.
Following the 1976-77 NBA Season, the Warriors would not reach the NBA Playoffs under Attles over the six seasons before the long-time head coach retired after the 1982-1983 NBA Season.
Attles racked up a career 557-518 record while posting a winning season in eight of his 14 seasons. With his success Attles was named the NBA All-Star Game head coach for both the 1975 and 1976 NBA Seasons.
4. Bill Russell
Team(s): Boston Celtics, Seattle Seahawks, Sacramento Kings
Career Record: 341-290
One of the most glorified NBA players of All-Time and arguably the greatest NBA player Bill Russell did it all. After winning nine NBA Championships as a player, Russell would help lead the team both on the floor as well as the head coach to win two additional NBA Championships in 1968 and 1969.
Russell landed the player-coach role following the retirement of Red Auerbach heading into the 1966-1967 NBA Season and would lead the team through the 1969 including their NBA Championship before resigning as head coach.
Four years later, Russell would continue his coaching career coaching the Seattle Supersonics from 1973 to 1977 leading the team to the playoffs in three straight seasons before failing to reach the playoffs during the 1976-1977 NBA Season.
After the season Russell would leave basketball again till returning for one more head coaching stint with the Sacramento Kings during the 1987-1988 season however struggles led to his release.
Over his coaching career, Russell would post a 341-290 career regular season record to go along with a 34-27 playoff record and two NBA Championships. In addition, Russell as well as Attles paved the way to the future black NBA coaches.
3. Lenny Wilkens
Team(s): Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers, Cleveland Cavalier, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks
Career Record: 1,332-1,115
When it comes to the top 3 NBA Black Coaches, each are well deserving to be mentioned as the best while making a major impact on the sport.
Nonetheless only one coach can take home the top honor with Lenny Wilkens sliding in at number three on the list. Wilkens, who coached six different teams over his career, racked up a Basketball Hall of Fame resume both as a player as well as a head coach.
A coaching resume that included one NBA Coach of the Year Award, one NBA Championship while being named the NBA All-Star Game head coach in four different NBA seasons.
The longtime NBA head coach would land his first NBA head coaching job heading into the 1969-1970 season as a player-coach for the Seattle SuperSonics.
Leading the way, the SuperSonics would fail to make the playoffs in his three straight seasons before joining the Portland Trail Blazers for two seasons.
After struggling over two seasons with the Trail Blazers, Wilkens retired as a player to focus on coaching and rejoining the SuperSonics as their head coach.
The SuperSonics would make three straight playoff appearances, losing in the NBA Finals during the 1977-1978 NBA Season before winning the NBA Championship a season later and falling in the Conference Finals during the 1979-1980 NBA Season.
Wilkens would leave the SuperSonics after the 1984-1985 season while making the playoffs in six of eight seasons with the club.
Wilkens would go on to spend time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks before retiring after the 2004-2005 NBA Season. Wilkens wrapped up his career with a 1,332-1,155 regular season record and an 80-98 postseason record.
2. Doc Rivers
Team(s): Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers.
Career Record: 1,089-757 (Still Active)
In at number two among the best black NBA coaches of all time is Doc Rivers who is currently the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Rivers’ coaching career started in 1999-2000 with the Orlando Magic while leading the Magic to the playoffs in his second season while winning the NBA Coach of the Year Award.
The Magic would go on to make the playoffs in three straight seasons but failed to reach the second round of the playoffs in each season.
After winning just one of the team’s first 11 games, Rivers was fired by the Magic, opening up the door for him to land on with the Boston Celtics.
Rivers joined the Celtics before the start of the 2004-05 NBA Season while helping to shape the Celtics back into a top contender in the NBA Eastern Conference.
With the big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the Celtics won the NBA Championship during the 2007-08 NBA season while making the playoffs in each season till Rivers was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for a first round pick following the 2012-13 NBA season.
Rivers would go on to lead the Clippers to the playoffs in six of his seven seasons but would fail to reach the Finals in each season. His playoff struggles led to Rivers stepping down and eventually signing with the Philadelphia 76ers a few days later.
In each of his two seasons with the 76ers the team has reached the playoffs while winning at least 49 games. Rivers’ win total continues to climb after notching win 1,043 during the 2021-22 NBA season.
1. K.C. Jones
Team(s): San Diego Conquistadors, Capital/Washington Bullets, Boston Celtics, Seattle SuperSonics
Career Record: 552-306
In at number one on the Top 10 Best Black NBA Head Coaches All Time rankings list is K.C. Jones. Jones built a pretty impressive head coaching resume during his time coaching between the ABA and NBA during the early 1970’s through the 1990’s on and off.
After winning eight NBA Championships as a player, Jones added two additional NBA Championships as a head coach while also being named as the NBA All-Star Game head coach in five different seasons.
Despite coaching on and off over various times Jones led his teams to 10 straight playoff appearances including helping the Boston Celtics win two NBA Championships during the 1983-1984 and 1985-1986 NBA Seasons.
Jones also led the San Diego Conquistadors to the NBA playoffs in his only season with the team in 1972-1973, followed by the Capital/Washington Bullets during the 1973-74 season through the 1975-1976 seasons before joining the Celtics.
The Celtics under Jones would go to the playoffs in each of the five seasons before Jones left the team after the 1986-1987 NBA Season.
The best black NBA head coach in the history of the game would return for one more stint with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1990-1991 and 1991-92 reaching the playoffs in his first season before failing to produce in his second season leading to his firing after an 18-18 start.
Overall Jones posted a career 552-306 regular season record and an 81-61 playoff record. It is easy to consider Jones as one of the best NBA head coaches of all time.
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