Have you ever wondered what NBA coach has the most rings? We're talking about what coach has the most NBA championships both as a player and a coach. There have been dozens of NBA legends who have hoisted the NBA crown multiple times, both as a player and a coach.
Players from the Boston Celtics dynasty era during the late 1960s into the early 1970s dominate the NBA championship ring leaderboard as players. Bill Russell's 11 rings earned the Celtic superstar center top honors.
Russell owns the most rings as a player. However, two of Russell's NBA championships came as player/coach. The former Celtic Hall of Famer is followed by teammates Sam Jones and Tommy Heinsohn with 10 NBA titles.
However, Russell is not the overall leader when we explore what NBA coach has the most championships. One man stands above all the legends of professional basketball when it comes to the most NBA rings earned in their career either as a player or a coach.
What NBA Coach Has the Most Rings?
When we count what NBA coach has the most rings as both a player and a coach, one man owns the record. Former New York Knick and legendary head coach Phil Jackson has won 13 total NBA crowns. Jackson began his illustrious career as an unlikely first-round draft pick out of North Dakota.
His playing career helped to shape his philosophy and mannerisms as a team leader and head coach. Even though Jackson wasn't a perennial superstar player, he was a critical presence in the locker room. Let's look first at Phil Jackson's career NBA titles as a head coach.
Phil Jackson's NBA Titles as a Coach
Phil Jackson's total of 13 NBA championship rings includes the most ever as an NBA head coach. Eleven times during his coaching career, Jackson guided his team to the NBA crown. This achievement is more monumental than you might realize.
No other NBA coach has won double-digit titles as a head coach. Jackson's 11 coaching championships puts him in an elite class with head coaches from all major North American sports. No other major professional sports coach has won more than 10 titles.
Jackson's success as a head coach includes the highest winning percentage in NBA history for coaches with over 500 total games. Of all NBA Hall of Fame coaches, Jackson still holds the highest overall winning percentage.
His ascent to greatness started almost immediately after Jackson retired as a player. Jackson coached in the Continental Basketball Association plus guided a team out of Puerto Rico in the little-known National Superior Basketball league.
Jackson found success even before he accepted his first NBA head coaching job. He guided the Albany Patroons to the CBA title in 1984. The following year, Jackson was named the CBA coach of the year.
Despite his obvious abilities as a head coach, NBA executives ignored Jackson when he applied for jobs. Many feel it was because of his progressive cultural views as a player. However, eventually he would get his chance on the big stage, and Jackson would take advantage.
Jackson's first opportunity in the NBA came as an assistant on the Chicago Bulls' staff. He began helping shape what become a dynasty team in Chicago. Under head coach Doug Collins, Jackson was a vital key in Bulls' strategy.
In 1989, Jackson was promoted to the head job. During this period, he became a fan of Tex Winter's triangle offense strategy. Jackson would teach the Bulls to work the triangle strategy to championship perfection.
Winter would bring his expertise as an assistant coach on nine of Jackson's teams. Across his nine seasons as head coach of the Chicago Bulls, Jackson would lead them to the playoffs every season. The Bulls would three-peat twice during a seven-year stretch.
Only during Michael Jordan's NBA retirement and experiment into professional baseball would Chicago not hoist an NBA banner. Jackson and Bulls' owner Jerry Krause had a very contentious relationship through his tenure as head coach in Chicago.
After his sixth title as an NBA coach, Jackson left the Bulls, vowing he'd never coach again. His coaching sabbatical lasted one year. In 1999, Jackson was lured out of retirement by Jerry Buss to coach the ultra-talented Los Angeles Lakers team.
LA would roll through the regular season losing only 15 games. The Lakers beat the Indiana Pacers in six games to win Jackson's seventh NBA title as a coach, and ninth overall. Jackson and Lakers star Kobe Bryant didn't always have the best of relations.
Mid way through the 2004 season, Jackson said he would not return to LA if Bryant was still part of the team. Reportedly, Jackson was asking for his salary to be doubled. It was not, and Jackson left Los Angeles after the 2004 season, still holding nine total NBA rings as a player and coach.
However, he was far from finished in Los Angeles. In 2005, Jackson agreed to return as the Lakers' head coach after another year out of basketball. It would begin another six-years as the head coach for LA.
Jackson would win two more NBA rings during his final stretch in Los Angeles, bring his final total in LA to five titles. He now owned 11 rings (affiliate link) as an NBA head coach, and another two championships as a player.
As great as Phil Jackson was as an NBA coach, his coaching philosophies were shaped during his time as a college and professional player. Jackson played for former NBA head coach Bill Fitch at the University of North Dakota. Fitch was a former Marine Corps drill instructor.
Jackson credits much of his demanding style on lessons learned from Fitch. Jackson also played for the legendary Red Holzman in New York. Holzman guided the Knicks to the pair of NBA championships when Jackson was a player. Let's look at those two rings that help push Phil Jackson to the top of the leaderboard for most NBA championship rings.
Phil Jackson's NBA Titles as a Player
The Knicks selected Jackson with the 17th overall pick in the 1967 NBA Draft. Averaging a double-double during his three years at the University of North Dakota, he displayed the physical skills that translated to the professional game.
Jackson immediately cemented himself as a versatile offensive player, but someone who was tenacious on the defensive end of the court. Early in Jackson's playing career, he wasn't a starter. But he was a key substitute off the Knicks bench.
Jackson was a fan-favorite for New Yorkers, despite not being part of New York's staring five. As a reserve forward, Jackson won his first NBA title in 1970. Jackson played a physical style of defense. He was regularly at the top of the NBA leaderboard for total fouls in a season.
Six years into his playing career, a few retirements in the Knicks' starting lineup opened a spot for Jackson. During his first year as a starter, Jackson helped New York win a second NBA title, his second ring as a player. Jackson would leave New York after the 1977-78 season. He played two final seasons for the New Jersey Nets before retiring as a player.
Phil Jackson was one of the greatest strategists in professional sports coaching history. He earned his nickname as the Zen Master for good reason. Jackson was far more than just a coach who could put X's and O's on a chalkboard. Jackson was a leader and a master motivator. He was a strong locker room presence as a player, both in college and as a pro.
Jackson knew how to get the most out of a talented cast of superstars he coached. Phil Jackson's 13 NBA titles as a player and a coach cement him as one of the greatest coaches in professional basketball history. His overall work as a head coach put him in an elite class in all professional sports. Phil Jackson truly is the Zen Master.
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