10 Coaches With the Most Wins in NBA History

One of the benchmarks that makes a successful coach in National Basketball Association is championships. The other is the overall number of victories. Winning is everything in professional sports. It leads to lucrative contracts, longevity in the job, respect, and renown. Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens, Jerry Sloan, and Pat Riley top the list of the NBA's 10 all-time winningest coaches.

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Don Nelson, 1,335

Don Nelson and Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Head coach Don Nelson of the Golden State Warriors speaks with Stephen Curry #30 on the sidelines during a game at the Target Center on April 7, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Topping the list, Don Nelson piled up more than 1,335 victories as coach of the Bucks, Warriors, Mavericks, and Knicks to earn the spot as the winningest coach in NBA history. His teams were known for their high-powered and sometimes unconventional offenses, often relying on a "point forward" to initiate plays. Nellie was named NBA Coach of the Year three times—in 1983, 1985, and 1992.

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Lenny Wilkens, 1,332

One of a select few to reach the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, Wilkens racked up his 1,332 wins as head coach in Seattle, Portland, Cleveland, Atlanta, Toronto, and New York. He led the Sonics to an NBA title in 1979 and was honored as NBA Coach of the Year in 1994.

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Jerry Sloan, 1,221

Karl Malone joins 2009 Hall of Fame inductees Jerry Sloan and John Stockton on the red carpet
"The Mailman" joins his old coach -- Jerry Sloan -- and point guard -- John Stockton -- as the Hall of Fame banquet and ring ceremony becomes a mini-Utah Jazz reunion. Tara Fappiano

Sloan coached in the NBA for 26 years, but despite his impressive winning success, never won the NBA Coach of the Year award. He reached the NBA finals twice (1997 and 1998), and he was voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Sloan coached the Chicago Bulls for three seasons in the early 1980s—the team where he spent most of his stellar playing career, then moved on to the Utah Jazz for another 23 seasons before retiring in 2011.

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Pat Riley, 1,210

Pat Riley
Former Laker coach Pat Riley looks on at halftime of a game between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Riley was at the heart of some of the most legendary teams of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: Magic Johnson's "Showtime" Lakers, the "No Layup Rule" Patrick Ewing/Charles Oakley Knicks, and Miami's Shaquille O'Neal/Dwyane Wade championship squad. He has nine conference titles and five NBA titles on his resume—four with the Lakers and a fifth with the Heat. He's been Miami's team president since 1995. Riley was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach in 2008.

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Gregg Popovich, 1,197

As he entered his 23rd season as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs in the fall of 2018, Gregg Popovich had become one of the most accomplished coaches in the history of the NBA. He had won the NBA Coach of the Year award three times, had a regular season winning percentage of .689, and had led the Spurs to five NBA championships. Through the 2017-18 season, he had 1,197 NBA victories on his already exceptional resume with a strong chance in the 2018-19 season of surpassing Pat Riley on the all-time winningest coach list. Popovich is the only coach on this list who is still actively coaching in the NBA.

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George Karl, 1,175

George Karl was an NBA coach for 25 seasons, and he was a consummate winner during that time. Karl led only two teams to a less than .500 winning percentage in his entire career. He won a Western Conference Championship during the 1995-96 season with the Seattle SuperSonics. On top of all that, Karl was named the NBA Coach of the Year in 2012-13.

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Phil Jackson, 1,155

Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss
Coach Phil Jackson receives yet another championship ring from Laker vice president (and Jackson's long-time girlfriend) Jeanie Buss. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Phil Jackson is the man who called the shots for Michael Jordan's Bulls and Kobe Bryant's Lakers. Jackson had a .704 regular season winning percentage and won 13 conference championships and 11 NBA titles. Remarkably, the Zen Master won NBA Coach of the Year Honors just once, in 1996. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

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Larry Brown, 1,098 (plus 229 in the ABA)

Larry Brown
Larry Brown of the Charlotte Bobcats yells to his team during their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Time Warner Cable Arena on December 21, 2010 -- his last as coach. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

One of coaching's most notorious vagabonds, Brown's win total would be significantly higher if it included his stints in the ABA and NCAA. A tough leader who stressed defense and unselfish play, Brown called plays for the ABA's Carolina Cougars and Denver Nuggets, as well as for the NBA's Nuggets, Nets, Spurs, Clippers, Pacers, Sixers, Pistons, Knicks, and Bobcats. And don't forget the UCLA Bruins and Kansas Jayhawks, the team he led to an NCAA title in 1988.

Brown won an Eastern Conference championship with Allen Iverson and the Sixers in 2001 and was named NBA Coach of the Year, then he led the Chauncey Billups/Rip Hamilton/Ben Wallace Pistons to an NBA title in 2004. He remains the only coach to win a title in both the NBA and NCAA.

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Rick Adelman, 1,042

Rick Adelman spent 23 seasons as a head coach in the NBA. He roamed the sidelines for the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and Minnesota Timberwolves during that span. Adelman may have never won an NBA Championship, but he did lead Portland to two Western Conference titles in three seasons from 1989 through 1992. 

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Bill Fitch, 944

A two-time NBA Coach of the Year, Fitch won an NBA title with Larry Bird's Celtics in 1981, and he took the Houston Rockets to the finals in 1986. He also spent time running the Cavaliers, Nets, and Clippers. He retired as the NBA's all-time leader in coaching wins—and losses—before Lenny Wilkens passed him in both categories.