The 1990s were indeed a magical time for basketball. It was the decade when many younger fans really started to become enthralled by the sport, and countless players rose to superstardom. Of course, Michael Jordan led the way during the decade, but plenty of other stars like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Shaquille O’Neal (just to name a few) made the NBA a globally watched league.
Of course, no matter how much talent a team has, they won’t make it to the mountaintop if they don’t have the right coach. The 1990s had nearly as much star power on the bench as it did on the court, with hall-of-fame coaches leading the charge. Who really stood out, though? Here are the best NBA coaches of the 1990s.
5. Chuck Daly
Though known more for his time in the 1980s with the Detroit Pistons, Chuck Daly still found a lot of success in the following decade. In fact, the second of his back-to-back championships in Detroit came in 1990.
Daly, who also coached the Dream Team, never had a losing record in the 1990s despite coaching three different teams (Detroit, New Jersey, Orlando). Daly retired after the 1998-99 season with a career record of 638-437.
4. Rudy Tomjanovich
A former All-Star as a player, Rudy Tomjanovich took his first head coaching job with the Houston Rockets during the 199-92 season. Throughout the decade, Tomjanovich never finished with a losing record (saving it for the 1999-2000 season), winning two NBA Championships in the process (1994 and 1995).
Tomjanovich would coach until the 2004-05 season with the Lakers when he abruptly resigned. Overall, Tomjanovich finished with a record of 527-416 and has been enjoying the retired life ever since departing the Lakers bench.
3. Pat Riley
Pat Riley had already been well established as a coach thanks to his time with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 1980s, winning four NBA Championships. Riley wouldn’t win a title in the 1990s after departing Los Angeles following the 1989-90 season, but he still had a strong decade.
Riley coached both the New York Knicks and Miami Heat during the 90s, and only had one season where he lost more than 31 games. His Knicks reached the NBA Finals in 1994, as well. Riley finished his career with Miami following the 2007-08 season, having added a fifth title to his resume in 2006.
2. Jerry Sloan
The late Jerry Sloan had a lengthy playing career in the NBA and took on coaching in the late 1970s and early 1980s to not much success. It wouldn’t be until 1988 that he was hired again, this time with the Utah Jazz where he would remain for the rest of his career. During the 1990s, there was only one year in which he finished with at least 30 losses.
Sloan’s Jazz teams were a staple of the NBA Playoffs with his star players Karl Malone and John Stockton. They reached the NBA Finals in back-to-back years, ultimately losing out to Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and the rest of the Chicago Bulls both times.
1. Phil Jackson
Of course, you can’t talk about basketball coaches of the 1990s without mentioning Phil Jackson. Jackson started his coaching career in the 1989-90 season with the Chicago Bulls and remained with the team through their final championship run in 97-98 before heading to the Lakers for the final months of the decade.
All in all, Jackson won six titles with the Bulls and his 1999-00 season with the Lakers also resulted in one of his five titles in LA. The “Zen Master” was known for his calm demeanor and ability to have big personalities all gel and work toward the common goal of a championship.