Monday, March 31, 2008

NBA Mondays: Coaching Comparison of Eastern and Western Conferences

I was just thinking about this on my way into work this morning. Do you realize who coaches the top four teams in the East this season?
1. Doc Rivers. Career Highlight: Losing in the first round of the play-offs, done four times.
2. Flip Saunders. Career Highlight: Losing in the first round of the play-offs seven years in a row, and then losing the conference finals series for his last three play-offs tries. Cheer up Detroit fans! Only four more lost conference finals to go!
3. Stan Van Gundy. Career Highlight: Lost in second round his first year, then lost in conference finals in his second year.
4. Mike Brown. Career Highlight: Lost in second round his first year, then lost in the NBA Finals in his second year.

So we have one NBA Finals appearance between all four coaches...and that belongs to the most inexperienced, Mike Brown. We have two younger coaches who might be future coaching gurus in Stan and Mike. However, usually future coaching gurus don't allow themselves to get run out of town the year the team wins the championship (Stan) or refuse to have any offensive strategy whatsoever (Mike; yeah, I'm a bitter Cavs fan, so?).

Let's compare those coaches to the top four coaches in the Western conference, shall we?
1. Byron Scott. Career Highlight: Two NBA Finals appearances in his first three years.
2. Gregg Poppovich. Career Highlight: Four NBA Championships.
3. Phil Jackson. Career Highlight: Eight NBA Championships.
4. Jerry Sloan. Career Highlight: Two NBA Finals appearances.

I believe this may be the main reason why the West is so much better than the East. The West has all the good coaches! It doesn't get any better when you look at the next four teams for each conference, either. The West trots out Mike D'Antoni, Rick Adelman, George Karl, and Avery Johnson. Those coaches combined have two NBA Finals appearances, or one more than the top four coaches in the East have.


  1. Wow. Verrrry interesting. And I just want to state for the record that Pat Riley is overrated. Thank you.

  2. I think that that listing can't be taken at face value. If you look at the coaches in the Western half of your breakdown, it seems like they've had more good players than the guys on the Eastern side. Phil obviously had Jordan and Pippen and Shaq and Kobe. Sloan had Stockton and Malone for a looonnnggg time. Pop has Tim Duncan and had David Robinson around him as well Ginobili and Parker as well as a number of superb role players in both iterations of the team. Byron Scott didn't have the same horses comparatively, but he went to the finals with those teams almost by default at a time when the Eastern Conference was even worse than it is now. Van Gundy had Wade and Shaq, but they lost in the conference finals with Wade injured, and he didn't get another chance because he was pushed out the next year. Saunders is the only one on the list that it can be said is an underachiever. He's shown the ability to make a bad team good, but he hasn't shown the ability to make a good team great. It does bear mentioning though, that it looks like there's been some tread off Detroit's tires since 05.