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5 NBA Players Who Became Coaches



Of the 30 head coaches in the NBA today, about nine of them previously played in the NBA and Europe. 

Based on the study conducted by scholars at Cornell University, an NBA team has a higher winning percentage if its coach is a former star player or had a long-playing career.

Here are some NBA players who became coaches.

1) Bill Russell

Russell is considered one of the most successful players in NBA history. He was one of the two dominant centres of his era, recording 15.1 points, 22.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. His athleticism is comparable with LeBron James.

Russell then became the first Black coach in 1966. He coached for the Boston Celtics, the same team where he had a total of 11 NBA championship titles. Russell took over the coaching position while he was still playing for the team. He continued as a playing coach until the 1968-69 season.

After his coaching stint with the Celtics, he moved on to Seattle SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings. Russell was fired from his coaching stint with the Kings at 17-41. His coaching record was 179-207.

2) Larry Bird

Bird is another Celtic player, and the best small forward in NBA history, who eventually became a coach. He was a scorer and rebounder, becoming one of the earliest three-point shooters the league has had. Bird has a 39.8% shooting average beyond the arc.

Five years after retiring as a player, Bird coached Indiana Pacers for the first time in the 1997-98 season. The team made it to the conference finals in the next three years. He stepped down as a coach and became one of the team’s executives instead.

He has a record of 147-67. 

3) Magic Johnson

Johnson is one of the best point guards in the history of the NBA despite standing at 6’9”. He has five championships under his belt, and his average records per game include 19.5 points, 11.2 assists, and 7.2 rebounds. He was forced to retire from playing at only 31 due to HIV. Before becoming a coach, however, he played for the All-Star and Olympics games as part of the dream team.

He became the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1993-94 NBA season. However, his record was only 5-11. He returned to playing after that in 1995-96 and played for 32 games before he retired for good.

4) Jerry Sloan

Sloan was a shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls when he played, and one of the best shooting guards in the league then. He averaged 18.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Nonetheless, he was more popular as a coach than as a player.

His first coaching job was with the Bulls. His record was 19-32; he was let go of the Bulls as a coach unsurprisingly. He moved on to Utah Jazz as an assistant coach for four years before becoming the team’s head coach. With Jazz, he became a Hall of Famer.

He has a record of 1,809-1,127. Sloan resigned in 2011. 

5) Isiah Thomas

Thomas is considered one of the best guards in history. A Hall of Famer, he has an average record of 21.2 points per game. He led Detroit Pistons to the NBA finals appearances for three years in a row. The team won the 1989 and 1990 championship titles. He retired at only 32 because of an injury.

He continued with becoming a head coach – one of the youngest in history. He started coaching the Indiana Pacers in 2000-01.

His coaching career was not as stellar as his playing career, however. He has a 187-223 record.

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