22 Worst Coaches in NBA History

Mike Brown, basketball coach.

The best NBA coaches get credit for motivating their basketball players and helping them to new heights. On the opposite end of that spectrum are the worst coaches who don’t understand what it takes to communicate with athletes or teach the game at a high level. Surprisingly, some of the worst NBA coaches ever have played in the NBA, went to All-Star games, and even successfully coached college teams.

1. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson
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Magic Johnson only coached 16 games for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning just five. While the sample size doesn’t give a complete picture of his lack of coaching skills, Johnson was in over his head and decided never to sit on the bench again. Magic would have needed more time to hone his coaching personality and potentially sit in as an assistant coach first.

2. Derek Fisher

Derek Fisher and Tex Winter.
Image Credit: Donielle – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Derek Fisher was woefully underqualified to coach the New York Knicks when he was hired in 2014. Fisher only got the job because he was one of Phil Jackson’s favorite players on the Lakers in the early 2000s. He finished his time in the Big Apple with a 40-96 record.

3. Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas
Image Credit: Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Isiah Thomas has been a coach, executive, and even a business owner after retiring from the Detroit Pistons. His time coaching the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers ended with fans making fun of Zeke’s lack of awareness and narcissism. Thomas never took coaching seriously. Instead, he thought he could run the team based on his reputation as a legendary point guard. That's probably why he ended his career with the Knicks with a .341% win record

4. Steve Nash

Steve Nash
Image Credit: Keith Allison – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Steve Nash made the playoffs a couple of times as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving leading the team, but he often hired other former head coaches to help him on the sidelines. Nash never served in any sort of coaching role before Brooklyn, and it showed in his inexperienced playcalling and need to rely on the help of others.

5. Sidney Lowe

Washington Wizards assistant coach Sidney Lowe at 2017 training camp.
Image Credit: Rikster2 – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Whether it was due to poor coaching or just plain bad luck, Sidney Lowe’s record as a head coach is one of the worst in basketball lore. Lowe won only 79 games compared to 228 losses in a little more than four seasons coaching the Wolves and Grizzlies.

6. Brian Winters

Memphis Grizzlies @ Milwaukee Bucks game played on January 19, 2022.
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Brian Winters was dealt a bad hand when he was hired to coach the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies in 1995. He went a putrid 23-102 in his two seasons in Canada before following that up with a terrible 13-46 season in Golden State. Winters never got another NBA head coaching gig.

7. Vinny Del Negro

Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro on the court in 2011 for a game vs Indiana Pacers.
Image Credit: Alberto Cabello – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Vinny Del Negro has a winning record in his coaching career, but his teams always did better when a successor took his job. Del Negro was replaced by Tom Thibodeau in Chicago and Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, and both times the teams went further in the playoffs without him. Del Negro didn’t have the fire or leadership skills to coach a high-level team.

8. Kurt Rambis

Kurt Rambis talking to a referee at a Wizards v/s Timberwolves game on 03/05/11.
Image Credit: Keith Allison – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Kurt Rambis has long relied on friend nepotism to get jobs in the NBA. Ties to the Buss family in Los Angeles and Phil Jackson in New York got him hired by the Lakers and Knicks. His record of 56-145 doesn’t begin to show how unqualified Rambis remained once he started coaching these franchises.

9. John Beilein

John Beilein and Mike Krzyzewski talking at the sidelines of a game.
Image Credit: Adam Glantzman – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

John Beilein exemplifies the college coach who can’t transition properly to the NBA. After a very successful career with the Michigan Wolverines, Beilein turned to the pros and coached the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 14-40 record before resigning amid allegations he said a slur with racist connotations. He referred to his players as thugs during a meeting, something his players obviously didn’t appreciate.

10. D. Vitale

Dick Vitale unveils the logo dedicating the Calihan Court, University of Detroit Mercy, in his honor. L-R: Earl Cureton, Terry Tyler, Wilbur Ross, Dave Debusschere (in back), Dick Vitale (kneeling), John Long, Wilbert McCormick.
Image Credit: Dave Hogg – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Vitale is another brilliant college basketball mind who didn’t understand how to teach the NBA game to young athletes. Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons to a 34-60 record in the late 1970s before taking his famous role as a college basketball television analyst. He’s been livening up NCAA broadcasts ever since.

11. Stephen Silas

Cedi Osman taking a shot during a Houston Rockets vs Cleveland Cavaliers game on 2021-12-15.
Image Credit: Erik Drost – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Stephen Silas was brought into Houston to help develop young players in the aftermath of the Mike D’Antoni, James Harden, and Daryl Morey years. Instead, he went 59-177 and was fired in three seasons. Ime Udoka replaced Silas in Houston and has brought the team back to relevancy in his first year. It’s not a good look for Silas.

12. Randy Wittman

Randy Wittman, head coach of the Washington Wizards.
Image Credit: Geoff Livingston – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Not many coaches get the leash that Randy Wittman has. Wittman went to the playoffs only twice in nine-plus seasons with the Cavs, Wolves, and Wizards. It’s honestly puzzling why teams kept hiring him when the evidence became clear that he wasn’t someone who could elevate a team.

13. Wes Unseld

Photo of Wes Unseld Jr on the court.
Image Credit: All-Pro Reels – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Wes Unseld got progressively worse each year he was in Washington. He started out winning 30 out of 55 games in 1988, but he won less than 30 games in his final three seasons. Unseld received a lot of slack due to his impressive playing career with the Washington franchise, but his coaching left something to be desired.

14. Bob Weiss

The 1969-70 team photo of Chicago Bulls.
Image Credit: Public Domain/WikiCommons.

Bob Weiss didn’t really have the temper to be a head coach. Weiss liked to play good cop as an assistant, and he went a mere 223-299 with the Spurs, Hawks, Clippers, and Sonics as a head coach.

15. Luke Walton

Luke Walton on the court with the Wolves.
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Luke Walton filled in admirably for Steve Kerr on the Golden State Warriors in 2016, but that gave other teams the idea that Walton could coach a team with worse talent than the dynastic Dubs. Walton failed with the Kings and Lakers and had to go back to being an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

16. Jason Kidd

Head coach Jason Kidd of the Brooklyn Nets during a game against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on March 15, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Image Credit: Keith Allison – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Jason Kidd has tried many tactics to get his teams atop the mountain, most famously asking a player to hit him so he could spill a drink and get an extra timeout while coaching Brooklyn. Kidd’s most significant accomplishment was getting the Dallas Mavericks to the 2022 Western Conference Finals, but the team has stagnated since.

17. Rick Pitino

Rick Pitino, head coach of the Louisville Cardinal men's basketball team.
Image Credit: Adam Glanzman – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Rick Pitino has a lot of black marks on his resume both on and off the court, and coaching the Boston Celtics is one of them. Pitino consistently missed the playoffs in Boston after a successful time in college with the Kentucky Wildcats. There’s definitely a spotlight on anybody who coaches the C’s, and Pitino folded under it.

18. Tim Floyd

University of Southern California men's basketball coach Tim Floyd coaches his team during USC's rivalry game against UCLA on Feb. 7, 2007 at the Pauley Pavilion, UCLA's basketball venue.
Image Credit: J.M. Rosenfeld – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Tim Floyd had the misfortunate fate of coaching the Chicago Bulls immediately after Michael Jordan retired and Scottie Pippen was traded. He went 49-190 in three and a quarter seasons in the Windy City, followed by a mediocre 2004 year with the New Orleans Hornets.

19. Scott Brooks

NBA 2018: Wizards Media Day. Pictured: Bradley Beal, Scott Brooks, John Wall and Dwight Howard.
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Scott Brooks coached the Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs every year during the early 2010s, but the talent at his disposal didn’t coalesce the way it would have under a better coach. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka should have been enough to win a championship, but Brooks led the team to only one Finals.

20. P.J. Carlesimo

Located on the northwest corner of Figueroa Street and 11th Street (official address: 800 West Olympic Boulevard), Los Angeles CA 90015.
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P.J. Carlesimo’s claim to fame came when he antagonized Latrell Sprewell until the small forward nearly suffocated him to death in 1997-1998. Carlesimo’s style suited the college basketball ranks more, and he usually won many games with Seton Hall. He should have stayed at the NCAA level.

21. Byron Scott

New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott talks to Chris Paul on the court.
Image Credit: Keith Allison – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Despite going to two NBA Finals, Byron Scott has lost almost 200 more games than he’s won. He oversaw one of the worst stretches in Lakers history and Cavs history, and hasn’t gotten another job since 2016.

22. Jerry West

Jerry West interviewed on ESPN Los Angeles.
Image Credit: Rob Poetsch – CC 2.0/WikiCommons.

Jerry West had three mediocre seasons as head coach of the Lakers. While that may not be enough for some people to consider him a bad coach, West is held to a very high standard. His careers as a player and executive glowed. In comparison, his coaching resume looks like an outlier of average performance.

Author: Shawn Laib

Title: Writer

Expertise: Gaming, Sports, Film, Television

Bio:

Shawn Laib is a writer for Wealth of Geeks, The Manual, Den of Geek, and Edge Media Network. Shawn loves sports, gaming, film, and television and uses his knowledge of these subject areas to deliver interesting and entertaining content to his readers.