The Los Angeles Lakers organization is one of the most historic franchises in NBA history, winning 16 championships, which is second behind only the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers have had the luxury of having some of the best players in the history of the NBA like Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, the list goes on and on.
But championships aren’t just won with great players as it also takes great coaching to guide those players. Luckily for the Lakers, they have also had some pretty great coaches in their history.
Three different Lakers head coaches have been awarded NBA Coach of the Year. Find out who they are below as we rank the top five head coaches in Los Angeles Lakers history.
1. Phil Jackson:
Phil Jackson is not only considered the greatest coach in Lakers history, but possibly the greatest coach in NBA history. Jackson has won an NBA record 11 championships as a head coach, with five of them coming with the Lakers.
Jackson had two different coaching stints with the Lakers and made seven finals appearances in 11 seasons. He is the all-time winningest Lakers coach in terms of championships, finals appearances, wins (610) and playoff wins (181).
Many people are critical of Jackson’s recent stint with the New York Knicks as an executive, but there is no denying the success he had as head coach of the Lakers, leading them to three straight championships from 2000-02 and two more in 2009 and 2010.
2. Pat Riley:
Pat Riley was an assistant coach for the Lakers from 1979-81 before taking over as the head coach where he remained until 1990.
Before Jackson came along Riley was unquestionably the greatest coach in Lakers history as he led them to seven finals appearances and four championships in 10 years.
He won 73 percent of the games he coached for the Lakers, which is a higher winning percentage than Jackson and he is responsible for bringing together the Showtime Lakers that took the NBA by storm in the 1980s.
Riley was one of three Lakers head coaches to win NBA Coach of the Year, as he took home the award in his final season with the organization in 1990.
3. Bill Sharman:
Bill Sharman served as the Lakers head coach from 1971-76 and coached the Lakers to their first championship after moving to Los Angeles in 1972.
That season they won an NBA-record 33 consecutive games and Sharman took home his only Coach of the Year award.
Sharman is one of three Lakers coaches to be enshrined in the Baketball Hall of Fame and in his tenure with the Lakers he had a 246-164 record.
4. Paul Westhead:
Many people may not know this but it was Paul Westhead, not Pat Riley, that won the first Lakers championship with Magic Johnson as the team’s point guard in 1980.
Westhead only coached the Lakers for a little more than two seasons, but in those two years he went 114-50. It is rumored that his disputes with Johnson led to owner Jerry Buss replacing him with Riley, so it will never be known how much success Westhead could’ve had if he continued coaching the Lakers throughout the 1980s.
5. Del Harris:
Del Harris is the only Lakers coach to make the list that didn’t win a championship, but he still had a very successful tenure in Los Angeles.
Along with Riley and Sharman, Harris is the only other Lakers head coach to win Coach of the Year when he led the Lakers to a 48-34 record in 1994-95.
In his four full seasons with Los Angeles the Lakers won more each successive season as after winning 48 games in 1994-95 they won 53 the following season and then 56 and 61 the next two. Harris was replaced by Jackson in the late 1990s and they went on to win three championships with the core that Harris developed.