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NBA

Who are the best head coaches in the NBA? Ranking the top 10 following the 2019-20 season

We've already ranked the NBA's best players, best international duos and best overall duos from this past season. Next up, the best head coaches in the NBA.

Head coaching can be the difference between making or missing the playoffs and winning or losing a series. We've seen some head coaches take their teams to another level, going deeper into the playoffs than expected, while others have come up short of their team's goal.

Seven members of our NBA.com Staff - Kyle Irving, Gilbert McGregor, Scott Rafferty, Juan Estévez, Alex Novick, Leandro Fernández and Carlan Gay - ranked the 10 best head coaches in the NBA, taking what happened this past season and other seasons into consideration.

Take a look and see where you agree or disagree.

Honourable mentions

In addition to the top 10 below, there were a number of coaches our NBA.com Staff considered.

Among them:

10. Quin Snyder

Team: Utah Jazz

2019-20 record, result: 44-28, lost in Western Conference First Round

Highest rank: 7

Lowest rank: Not ranked

The Jazz were only one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals but lost three consecutive games to get bounced from the playoffs. Nonetheless, it was still another successful season under head coach Snyder, who has now taken Utah to the playoffs in four consecutive seasons.

While the Jazz haven't advanced out of the first round in two seasons, they have been one of the best defensive teams in the NBA under Snyder. With younger stars like Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, Snyder should have no problem continuing to lead Utah to the postseason.

9. Mike Malone

Team: Denver Nuggets

2019-20 record, result: 46-27, lost in Western Conference Finals

Highest rank: 6

Lowest rank: Not ranked

Malone led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals on the heels of not one, but two 3-1 series comebacks - the first team to do so in NBA history. While they fell short of reaching the NBA Finals, falling to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets had nothing to hang their heads about after a gritty postseason run. Things are looking up for the Nuggets in the future with Malone at the helm.

8. Mike Budenholzer

Team: Milwaukee Bucks

2019-20 record, result: 56-17, lost in Eastern Conference Semifinals

Highest rank: 7

Lowest rank: Not ranked

Budenholzer's Bucks finished with the best record in the NBA this season and were on pace for their second-consecutive 60-win season before the coronavirus pandemic cut the season short. Milwaukee was a force to be reckoned with, stifling teams on defence while running up the score on offence behind MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Unfortunately for Budenholzer and the Bucks, they fell short of the NBA Finals as favourites in the East for the second season in a row, this time being eliminated prior to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Budenholzer caught some of the blame for his team's playoff performance and until Milwaukee finds more success in the postseason, the 2019 Coach of the Year may struggle to move up higher on this list.

7. Frank Vogel

Team: Los Angeles Lakers

2019-20 record, result: 52-19, won NBA Finals

Highest rank: 6

Lowest rank: Not ranked

Many questioned if Vogel was the right person for the job when the Lakers brought him in as head coach this past offseason following the acquisition of Anthony Davis. He proved his doubters wrong in running a well-oiled machine all year long. Boasting one of the league's best defences with generational talents like Davis and LeBron James orchestrating the offence, Vogel ended up being the perfect fit for that duo in LA.

His "we're in the midst of a defensive masterpiece" quote in the huddle of Game 6 of the NBA Finals where the Lakers would close out the series to win their 17th NBA title helps summarize just what he had his team stand for all season.

6. Brad Stevens

Team: Boston Celtics

2019-20 record, result: 48-24, lost in Eastern Conference Finals

Highest rank: 4

Lowest rank: 7

Widely regarded as one of the best head coaches in the NBA, Stevens comes in just outside of the top-five on this list.

Stevens has led the Celtics to the playoffs in six consecutive seasons since taking over as head coach, and his team has advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals three times in the past four seasons. Where the criticism comes in: Despite coming so close to the Finals, Boston still has not gotten there under Stevens.

While that's an incredibly high standard to reach, that's the responsibility you take on as head coach of the franchise that's tied for most titles in league history at 17.

5. Rick Carlisle

Team: Dallas Mavericks

2019-20 record, result: 43-32, lost in Western Conference First Round

Highest rank: 3

Lowest rank: 8

Dealing with a number of injuries all season, the Mavericks were able to stay afloat with Carlisle pulling the strings.

Even with a banged up roster heading into the playoffs, Dallas was still able to take a title contender in the LA Clippers to six games. Carlisle had the Mavericks offence running at a historic level behind phenom floor general Luka Doncic, as the team posted an offensive rating of 116.7, the best in league history.

4. Steve Kerr

Team: Golden State Warriors

2019-20 record, result: 15-50, finished last in the Western Conference

Highest rank: 2

Lowest rank: 6

After winning three championships in five seasons as head coach, Kerr faced his first losing record this past season without his star backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Reaching the Finals in his first five seasons at the helm, boasting a winning percentage over 70% for both the regular season and playoffs, there's still no denying that Kerr is one of the best head coaches in the league today.

3. Gregg Popovich

Team: San Antonio Spurs

2019-20 record, result: 32-39, finished in 11th in Western Conference

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 9

San Antonio's record-tying 22 consecutive playoff appearances came to a close this past season, but that's not going to knock down one of the greatest coaches the league has ever seen. Reaching the postseason in 22 of his 24 seasons as a head coach with five NBA titles and 1,277 career wins - third-most all-time - to show for it, Popovich will always be considered a top-tier coach in the league for as long as he's doing it.

2. Nick Nurse

Team: Toronto Raptors

2019-20 record, result: 53-19, lost in Eastern Conference Semifinals

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 4

Nurse made a splash in his first season as a head coach, leading the Raptors to their first title in franchise history. In Year 2, despite losing Finals MVP and one of the best players in the league in Kawhi Leonard, Nurse had Toronto exceed all expectations in finishing second in the East, coming one win away from returning to the Conference Finals.

Through two seasons, Nurse boasts a record of 154-111, good for a winning percentage of .721 - the highest winning percentage in NBA history. Earning 2019-20 Coach of the Year, it's clear Nurse is among the best in the league.

Something worth noting: Nurse had the most first-place votes of any coach, but when the scores were averaged out, he ranked second.

1. Erik Spoelstra

Team: Miami Heat

2019-20 record, result: 44-29, lost in NBA Finals

Highest rank: 1

Lowest rank: 2

Leading the Heat on an unexpected run to the NBA Finals clearly left a mark on the minds of many, with Spoelstra coming in as the best coach in the league.

Spoelstra has always had a knack for getting the most out of his teams and players, only missing the playoffs three times in 12 seasons as Miami's head coach. Earning two championship rings - both with the LeBron James-led Heat - Spoelstra didn't always get the credit he deserved. But after years of consistency, paralleled with coming up two wins short of his third title with an overperforming team, he has solidified himself among the best in the business.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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