The Next Winningest Coach
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Don Nelson entered the Hall of Fame Saturday as the NBA's all-time coaching wins record-holder, but chances are someone this decade will pass Nellie on this historical list, with former Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan as the likely favorite.
Right now, Sloan is only 114 wins away from passing Nelson's 1335 victory mark. Sloan is 70 years old now and actually interviewed for two head coaching jobs this summer before withdrawing his name (Charlotte and Portland).
Pat Riley, Phil Jackson and Larry Brown are also potential candidates to pass Nelson, although the chances of one of them returning to coach are slim and none.
Riley is 115 wins away and 67 years old. Jackson is 180 wins away and 66 years old. Brown is 237 wins away and 71 years old.
A more realistic scenario would be George Karl or Rick Adelman one day breaking the all-time wins record.
Denver Coach Karl is 261 wins away and is 61 years old. If his Nuggets win 50 games per season, he would break the all-time wins mark early in the 2017-18 season at age 67.
Minnesota Coach Adelman is 364 wins away and is 66 years old. If his Timberwolves win 50 games per season, he would break the all-time wins mark early in the 2019-20 season at age 73.
Even San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich is in the mix, trailing by 488 wins at age 63. Unlike the others, it would take 10 or so years for Pop to get there, but he too is within range.
It really is a unique time in basketball history, where so many men in one era are expected to surpass the 1000-win coaching mark. So far, seven coaches have already reached that all-time milestone, and all of them coached into the 21st Century.
You may be wondering which 20th Century NBA coach--who spent no time coaching in the 21st Century--has amassed the most wins.
Answer: Bill Fitch at 988 wins. He retired at age 63.
The 20th Century top coaching peers who rank just below Fitch in wins also left the game at a young age, in comparison to the 21st Century counterparts. Red Auerbach left coaching at age 48. Dick Motta was 65. Jack Ramsay was 64.
They're definitely coaching at an older age these days, making Nelson's record very breakable.