Posted by Justin Kubatko on July 28, 2009
When I wrote my post about the All-Decade Teams for the 2000s, I meant to include a section on coaches, but somehow it slipped my mind. Today I would like to make up for that omission by first explaining the system that I use, and then present my selections for the All-Decade Team coaches.
First, let me state the obvious: there is no simple way to rate the accomplishments of coaches; heck, there might not even be a difficult way. That said, I have a six-point system that I like to use to put a number on each coach's season:
- +1 point if the coach finished with more wins than losses
- +1 point if the coach won at least 50 games
- +1 point if the coach won at least 60 games
- +1 point if the coach's team made the playoffs
- +1 point if the coach's team won the conference playoffs
- +1 point if the coach's team won the NBA Finals
Like I said, it's a simple system, and it's by no means perfect, but I think it works well enough. A perfect season would be worth six points: winning at least 60 games during the regular season, followed by an NBA championship.
After assigning a number to each coach's season using the system outlined above, I computed each coach's score for the decade by taking 100% of his best season, 90% of his second-best season, 80% of his third-best season, etc. So, without further ado, here are the All-Decade Team coaches:
First Team: Gregg Popovich (23.5)
Popovich barely edges out Phil Jackson for First Team honors. "Pop" coached the Spurs for the entire decade and made the playoffs each season, never winning fewer than 53 games. The Spurs won three NBA titles during the 2000s, and Popovich is one of only five NBA coaches with at least four championships on his resume.
Second Team: Phil Jackson (23.4)
How close was it between Popovich and Jackson? If Jackson had coached the 2004-05 Lakers and finished above .500 (no sure thing), he would have tied Popovich. That said, Jackson had a great decade: nine trips to the playoffs, six trips to the Finals, and four NBA titles. Not bad.
Adelman and Saunders tied for the third slot. Adelman coached the Sacramento Kings for seven years and the Houston Rockets for two years, making the playoffs nine times and winning 50 or more games seven times. Saunders coached the Minnesota Timberwolves for six years and the Detroit Pistons for three years. His teams made the playoffs in eight of his nine seasons, and he led seven teams to at least 50 wins. Neither Adelman nor Saunders led a team to the NBA Finals during the 2000s, but their teams were consistently very good.
With Popovich and Jackson winning seven of the ten NBA championships in the 2000s, only three other coaches won a title during the decade. Here are those coaches and how they ranked using this system:
+------+--------------------+-------+--------+ | Rank | Coach | Years | Rating | +------+--------------------+-------+--------+ | 5 | Larry Brown | 8 | 15.4 | | 6 | Doc Rivers | 10 | 13.9 | | 15 | Pat Riley | 7 | 10.5 | +------+--------------------+-------+--------+
The well-traveled Brown took two different teams to the NBA Finals (the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers and the 2004/2005 Detroit Pistons) and won a championship with Detroit in 2004, but he also had an embarrassing season with the New York Knicks in 2005-06 and was a disappointment with the Charlotte Bobcats last season.
Rivers was named NBA Coach of the Year as coach of the Orlando Magic 2000 and won a ring with the Boston Celtics in 2008, but four of his ten teams missed the playoffs, and he did not coach a team that won 50 or more games until the 2007-08 season.
Riley's title came with the Miami Heat in 2006, when he fired Stan Van Gundy early in the season and moved from the front office to the bench. However, three of Riley's seven teams failed to make the playoffs, and two of them finished last in their division, including an awful 15-67 record in 2007-08.