In our constant quest to keep our audience guessing, we are throwing a curveball into our Top Lakers lists. We have explored the Top 5 Lakers at each position on the floor, yet for head coaches we have decided to name only three. There is no doubt that the Lakers are one of the most storied franchises in professional sports, and three men have contributed to that legacy from the sideline more than any others. These are the three most influential coaches in Lakers history, and undoubtedly it was very hard to rank them in a way that seemed fair to all. However, we did what we needed to do, so without further hesitation we present the Top 3 Coaches in Lakers history.
1. Pat Riley
Coach Slick, Mr. GQ, or whatever nickname given to him, Riley proved his worth as a Lakers coach and player. Riley coached the Lakers to seven NBA Finals appearances in the 1980’s, winning four championships. Riley held the Lakers record for most wins all time, both regular season and playoffs, until his regular season record was passed by Phil Jackson in 2009. There is no doubt that placing Riley ahead or behind Jackson is a tall order, as both have achieved remarkable success with the Lakers, yet Riley is one of the main reasons the Lakers legacy is as rich as it is. The conductor of the Showtime locomotive, Riley will always be remembered as not only one of the best Lakers coaches of all time but as one of the best NBA coaches period.
2. Phil Jackson
For one second can we just pretend that 2 is actually 1B? Now that may seem like a cheap way to get out of making a decision but Jackson’s numbers are so strikingly similar to Riley’s it almost seems fair. Taking over for Kurt Rambis in 1999, Jackson immediately led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA Championships, and four NBA Finals appearances in his first five seasons. Jackson has led Los Angeles to the NBA Finals six times in his nine seasons with the Lakers, a very impressive number. Perhaps the only reason Jackson is listed as number two on the list is because his legacy with the Lakers certainly is not over quite yet.
3. John Kundla
Similar to most of the other Top 5 lists that we have compiled, this is an example where the lowest ranked coach could easily be considered the top. Kundla was the coach of the Lakers during the Mikan and Pollard era, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995. Kundla coached the Lakers to four NBA Championships in a six year span, a incredibly impressive mark. Much of the Lakers wonderful legacy began in Minneapolis, and coach John Kundla deserves much of the credit. Overall, Kundla coached the Minneapolis Lakers for eleven seasons, and left behind a tradition of winning and professionalism.
With a tradition as rich as the Lakers, it should come as no surprise that the Top 3 Coaches are all Hall of Famers, and contain some of the most successful coaches in league history. Combining for twelve of the Lakers fifteen NBA titles, Riley, Jackson, and Kundla are certainly worthy of the top rankings in Lakers coaching history.