Five of basketball’s most iconic coaches

Leaders, Mentors, Coaches.

In a sport as well-loved as basketball, a handful of notable coaches stand out from their peers for their championship-winning tactics. Beyond the games, these coaches have left a mark on and off the court by demonstrating their ability to lead. Here’s PlayPH’s list of five coaches that deserve to be called “iconic”.




BY THE NUMBERS: 9 NBA Finals appearances, 5 NBA championships, 3x Coach of the Year

Don’t let his mafia don look fool you – this legendary coach was a tenacious leader. Even as the new generation of basketball fans learn a little bit of the sports forefathers, Riley’s name has somehow made its way in front of them. Riley coached the Lakers squad that included the legendary likes of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, going on to win four memorable championships.

A four-year stint in New York came next, followed by his time leading the Miami Heat, putting on one more ring after claiming the 2006 Finals.




BY THE NUMBERS: 5 NCAA championships, 3 Olympic Gold Medals as Head Coach

Otherwise known as Coach K, Kryzewski is well-known to the basketball community at large as an over-achiever. Most famous for leading Duke to multiple NCAA championships, Coach K has been Team USA’s go-to-coach for 16 years. With tons of experience under his belt, there’s seemingly no limit to the basketball heights Coach K can reach. Indeed, many have said that the legendary coach brought “American Pride” back to the US as far as basketball goes, having posted an impressive 75-game winning streak as head of the national squad. According to analysts and those who’ve known him, the secret to Coach K’s success has always been his attention to detail.




BY THE NUMBERS: 52 championships, 4-time Coach of the Year

He is the true icon of Philippine Basketball: A strict disciplinarian, known as much for his championship wins as he was for suspending players who got out of line. But it was just Dalupan’s way, and everyone around him gave him the greenlight to be himself. And with 52 basketball titles to his name, it was hard to argue with the results. Nicknamed The Maestro, Dalupan was winning titles long before the PBA, making his name as a highly respected coach, as well as one to fear. Never selfish, Daupan invariably downplayed prasie that was thrown his way, emphasing teamwork and talking in terms of “us” and “we”. Now that’s a sign of a true leader, letting his work speak for itself. With 52 champtionships, there really isn’t much else that needs to be said.




BY THE NUMBERS: 11 NBA Championships, 4 All-Star game appearances

Across 11 championships, Phil Jackson became reknowned for his ability to harness superstars while surrounding them with supporting casts to complement their abilities, including the likes of Michael Jordan and heir apparent Kobe Bryant. Somewhat less known are Jackson’s unorthodox methods, such as giving inspirational books to his players for an extra motivational kick. One could only imagine the look on a young Kobe’s face upon being asked to read novels by his head coach. These days, Jackson’s patented triangle offense may not be at the forefront of the modern NBA arsenal, but with over 1000 victories to his name through the course of his careerm, Phil Jackson is a coach with very little he needs to prove.




BY THE NUMBERS: 5 NBA Championships, 3 Coach of the Year Awards

Known to friends and fans as “Pop”, Gregg Popovich’s father-like approach can be seen in how he was able to keep his big three intact for about two decades – Tim Duncan alone was on his squad for 19 years before he retired. Pop’s brand of play has been likened to poetry in motion – unselfish basketball at its best, the Spurs are just a fun team to watch, period. Speaking of fun, Coach Pop’s off-court antics and funny interviews have only grown his legend among fans. Even when the Spurs are down, Pop can be counted on to deliver the right combination of words to find the silver lining.


Image sources: Complex, Sporting News, NY Times, NBA

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