NBA Coaches without Coaching Experience

07 Jun

Mark Jackson was named Warriors’ head coach because “his leadership skills as a player more than outweighed his lack of coaching experience” and according to Sam Amick from
Golden State’s future looking bright with the addition of Jackson.

What’s more, here’s another IMHO noteworthy quote:

“Sources said West was instrumental in the hiring, as he had made it clear he wasn’t looking for a ‘retread’ coach and that he preferred candidates who played the game professionally. That background and his national television spot clearly give Jackson credibility among the game’s modern-day players and could perhaps come in handy during free agency”


Is a long career as a player and huge bank of TV clichés enough for a coaching job in the NBA?
I mean no disrespect but if the answer is “no”, Jackson will fail, if “yes” what would it say to us about this job?
Well, we would rehash old topic about stat geeks and coaches and deck chairs.

On one hand I’ve heard a lot of complaints among fans that teams recycle the same coaches over and over, on the other hand I found it fascinating that there’s a highly paid job which requires no similar experience so I’ve decided to explore history for another examples of NBA coaches without coaching experience

Thanks to we have a full list of coaches employed by the NBA but to cut this project into reasonable time I’ve decided to look only at coaches who coached in the last 10 years [exactly 100!] and who had no previous coaching experience either as an assistant or at other basketball levels. Here’s the full list:

Coach From To Yrs Gms W-L% First Job Team’s W% Year Before First Season Additional information
Lenny Wilkens 1970 2005 32 2487 0,536 SEA 0,369 0,439 Started as Player-Coach
Don Nelson 1977 2010 31 2398 0,557 MIL 0,463 0,422 SG as a player
Doc Rivers 2000 2011 12 913 0,555 ORL 0,66 0,5 What did he do
between 1996 and 99?
Scott Skiles 2000 2011 11 778 0,509 PHO 0,54 0,645 Assistant for only 20 games before midseason change
Isiah Thomas 2001 2008 5 410 0,456 IND 0,683 0,5 Had front office job
Dan Issel 1993 2002 6 388 0,464 DEN 0,297 0,439 Forward as a player
Dave Cowens 1979 2002 6 352 0,457 BOS 0,39 0,397 Player-Coach,
midseason change
Vinny Del Negro 2009 2011 3 246 0,463 CHI 0,4 0,5 Most recent and
most similar example?
Kevin McHale 2005 2009 2 94 0,415 MIN 0,71 0,613 Had front office job,
midseason change
Kiki Vandeweghe 2010 2010 1 64 0,188 NJN 0,42 0,1875 Had front office job,
midseason change
Kevin Pritchard 2005 2005 1 27 0,185 POR 0,5 0,185 Had front office job,
midseason change
Marc Jackson 2011 ??? ??? ??? ??? GSW 0,439 ???

Even if we exclude interim coaches teams going that unconventional route could get someone below average or… one of most accomplished coaches in the history [in terms of games coached and total wins].

So which group will Marc Jackson join?
Warriors have young team, some room under cap space and some of their players badly underperformed last season because of injuries [Curry, Lee and Biedrins] so my guess would be surprisingly… the latter.

P.S. I have to mention that both Wilkens and Rivers tasted first success at their second coaching job…


Posted by on June 7, 2011 in Expanding Horizons


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8 responses to “NBA Coaches without Coaching Experience

  1. karl malone

    June 7, 2011 at 18:37

    From a Jazz’s fan perspective, that’s discouraging. Jazz own next year Warriors’s pick but it is TOP 7 protected as far as I remember.
    Would rather see them play at the same level as this year than struggle.
    Adding Mark Jackson might not help that.

  2. wiLQ

    June 7, 2011 at 18:54

    Your memory is working well ;-)

    “Would rather see them play at the same level as this year than struggle.”
    So you should root for injuries to key players ;-)

  3. karl malone

    June 7, 2011 at 19:07

    So you should root for injuries to key players ;-)
    Jackson’s rookie season sounds much better.

    • wiLQ

      June 7, 2011 at 19:29

      But it won’t work as well!

      • karl malone

        June 7, 2011 at 20:09


        I lean toward the view that Jackson’s rookie season will be offset by core players’ better health.

  4. wiLQ

    June 7, 2011 at 23:53

    I was referring to “Jackson’s rookie season sounds much better” because IMHO players’ health will be way more important than Jackson’s rookie season.


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