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Top NBA Coaches - Let the countdown begin

Coaches are awesome. Check this out. This coach is so awesome even the opponent player is hooked on getting to know what happens inside the huddle.

Or not. If the team is good, the coach is lucky.

If the team is bad, the coach is no good.

If the team is average, the coach is mediocre and can’t pull the team over the hump.

Just can’t win, right? How many elite coaches are there in the NBA after all? Since 1980, Phil Jackson (11), Pat Riley (5), and Greg Popovich (4) have won around two thirds of the championships in the league. That would lead credence to the idea that there are only a handful of top notch coaches and others are just passing through.

There’s a reason the highest difficulty in video games like PES or NBA 2K makes the computer turn into a cheater. Press box view lets you watch all the action with a bird’s eye view. To see and know is to have power. You are God in command of 11 men, or 5 depending on the game you are playing. After enough practice, the only way the computer can counter you is by raising the attributes of its players/reducing yours.

A perfect coach is like that too. He watches the entire action from a higher perspective. And he can even make a mediocre bunch of players into a respectable squad. Only in real life the opponent can’t dramatically raise their attributes to counter him.

Basketball and football are like chess. Premeditated moves of the individuals as a collective leading to a finished product. Imagine playing chess, trying to move the pawn two steps front, and suddenly all the pieces develop consciousness and start to move hither and tither. You would be checkmated in less than a minute. That is because players can’t always see the collective picture and determine if a sacrifice is needed from them.

That’s what a coach is for.

There are 30 teams in the NBA. The casual NBA fan can name at least one player from each team. And still come up short on naming coaches of half the teams. How important are the guys in suits on the sidelines? Teams clamor for signing the best players first, then the coach comes in the picture. The coach has a myriad of responsibilities on and off the court.

Some people feel that the importance of coaches in the NBA isn’t as much as it is in NCAA college basketball. There’s a reason why some of the best coaches in the world are still in college basketball. It’s because there’s a paradox of hierarchy in the NBA. The head coach is supposed to be head and shoulders above the players. If you are directing someone, there needs to be a clear chain of command. But in NBA, players make exponentially more money than the coaches. Coaches are seen as a dime a dozen, superstars are a rare commodity. $3.4 million a year is the average salary for a NBA head coach. And $5.15 million is the average salary of a NBA player. It’s completely different in college basketball. They players are only passing through for four years. The coaches are more permanent. The coach of USA’s basketball team, Mike Krzyzewski coaches a college team.

“You have to have the right fit,” Phoenix veteran Grant Hill said. “You have to have the right coach, the right personnel, the right players. Obviously, there’s a lot of talent in this league, and people think we just roll the ball out and play. But you need players and you need the right person, the right voice, the right philosophy. Grant knows what he is talking about. He has played for over 10 coaches in his career.

“Teams take on the personality of their coaches, just like us with Coach Brooks,” said Thunder vet Kevin Ollie, who’s played for 17 NBA coaches. “He’s a fiery guy, he’s up in your face, he’s a competitor and we take that on from him. It’s like a sports car. KD is the All-Star engine, Russ is the wheels and all of us need to be part of making that car go. But ultimately somebody’s got to start the ignition and drive the car, and that’s Coach Brooks.”

Great players make great coaches. It can be said that Doc Rivers didn’t do squat in Orlando or in Boston until he got Garnett and Ray Allen. Same can be said of Phil Jackson. There’s a lot that coaches do though. Draw line between letting the player go all out or hold back to protect their health. Protect them from themselves. Play mind games with the press. Go over video tapes with the players. Develop that ever elusive ‘chemistry’.

I’ll refrain from elaborating on the qualities of specific coaches in this space. Let’s leave that to the series which will unfold. Five writers on Sportskeeda have voted on a list of Top 5 Coaches in the NBA. The countdown will begin on 15 November.

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