Longest-Tenured NBA Head Coaches

Despite some speculation earlier in the year that the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic would dissuade NBA teams from making head coaching changes (and having to pay two contracts at once), 2020 has been an eventful year on the league’s coaching carousel.

Ten teams have made changes since we listed the NBA’s longest-tenured head coaches in the summer of 2019. That’s a full third of the league.

Of those who were replaced, Doc Rivers (Clippers), Brett Brown (Sixers), and Billy Donovan (Thunder) had ranked among the top 10 longest-tenured head coaches, while only David Fizdale (Knicks), Jim Boylen (Bulls), and John Beilein (Cavaliers) had coached their respective clubs for fewer than four seasons.

Given the turnover in the head coaching ranks, it’s time we update our list. Here’s the current breakdown of the NBA’s longest-tenured head coaches by team, sorted by the date they were hired:

  1. Gregg Popovich, Spurs: December 1996
  2. Erik Spoelstra, Heat: April 2008
  3. Rick Carlisle, Mavericks: May 2008
  4. Terry Stotts, Trail Blazers: August 2012
  5. Brad Stevens, Celtics: July 2013
  6. Steve Kerr, Warriors: May 2014
  7. Quin Snyder, Jazz: June 2014
  8. Michael Malone, Nuggets: June 2015
  9. Scott Brooks, Wizards: April 2016
  10. James Borrego, Hornets: May 10, 2018
  11. Lloyd Pierce, Hawks: May 11, 2018
  12. Mike Budenholzer, Bucks: May 17, 2018
  13. Steve Clifford, Magic: May 30, 2018
  14. Dwane Casey, Pistons: June 11, 2018
  15. Nick Nurse, Raptors: June 14, 2018
  16. Ryan Saunders, Timberwolves: January 2019
  17. Luke Walton, Kings: April 2019
  18. Monty Williams, Suns: May 3, 2019
    • Note: Remained a Sixers assistant through the end of Philadelphia’s playoff run.
  19. Frank Vogel, Lakers: May 13, 2019
  20. Taylor Jenkins, Grizzlies: June 2019
  21. J.B. Bickerstaff, Cavaliers: February 2020
  22. Tom Thibodeau, Knicks: July 2020
  23. Steve Nash, Nets: September 3, 2020
  24. Billy Donovan, Bulls: September 22, 2020
  25. Doc Rivers, Sixers: October 3, 2020
  26. Nate Bjorkgren, Pacers: October 20, 2020
  27. Tyronn Lue, Clippers: October 20, 2020
  28. Stan Van Gundy, Pelicans: October 22, 2020
  29. Stephen Silas, Rockets: October 30, 2020
  30. Mark Daigneault, Thunder: November 2020

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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13 thoughts on “Longest-Tenured NBA Head Coaches

  1. GoLandCrabs

    22 teams have made a head coaching change in the last two years. That’s insane.

    • Col. Sanders

      Top coaches from this list are strictly combined with the culture of certain teams. From top 6 here (besides Stotts & Stevens) it turned back many chips so it seems to be working pretty well.

  2. Jason Lancaster

    Weird how all the teams with one coach for 5+ years are good. It’s almost like it takes years for coaches to put their stamp on things.

    Maybe it’s because it takes a while to develop young players?

    • mike.honcho

      That is one way, albeit weird way of looking at it.

      Like saying that it’s not good to hire a head coach without NBA-playing experience to coach a team with veterans.

      • Jason Lancaster

        Obviously, NBA teams are better when they’re coached by guys who’ve never played pro ball.

        Also, good teams aren’t necessarily playoff teams. They’re teams that play at or above expectations every season, and they’re teams that manage to find talent in the draft no matter where they pick.

        • Jason Lancaster

          I forgot to add the /s to my comment about coaches without pro experience.

        • Little_Dunker_45

          Okay I would just argue that expectations is a pretty vague metric (who’s expectations?) and finding talent in a draft probably says more about a GM or an org (or frankly, luck) than anything. Again, I don’t think the line is as straight as you think. If a team is bad a coach is usually the first to go, so your argument seems more like correlation than causation.

    • Little_Dunker_45

      Define good? Spurs, wizards, warriors all didn’t make the playoffs. Vogel and Nurse hired within the last 2 years.

      • Little_Dunker_45

        Not to mention the fact that if a team is playing well, they’re probably not firing their coach.

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