NBA

6 Coaches Who Played that Won the Most NBA Titles

As a player and coach, Steve Kerr is one of the most decorated people in NBA history who filled both roles.

Winning an NBA championship is one of the hardest things to do in professional sports. Players and coaches endure a grueling season that lasts a minimum of 98 games, but they are rewarded with the distinction of being the best team in the league. A lucky handful of people know what it’s like to win multiple NBA titles as both a player and a coach, and these six men have the most combined titles as players-turned-coaches.

Pat Riley: 5 championships

Pat Riley is one of the most respected basketball minds in NBA history. He won five NBA titles as a player and coach, and we’re not even including the titles he won as a long-tenured executive with the Miami Heat.

During his playing days, he won a title with the Lakers in 1972. He then became head coach of the team in the early 80s. The Showtime Lakers enjoyed excellent offensive play and featured several Hall of Fame players on the roster. Riley led the Lakers to four NBA Titles (1982,1985, 1987-88).

Steve Kerr: 8 championships

Steve Kerr was an important part of the Bull’s dynasty in the 1990s, and then he moved on to the San Antonio Spurs just as they came to the NBA’s forefront. Kerr won three NBA titles in Chicago from 1996-98 with Michael Jordan and company. He won with the Spurs in 1999 and again in 2003 before he retired.

He coaches another dynasty in the making, as Golden State has been a force in the league under his watch. The Warriors have won three of the last four championships and are poised to get their first three-peat if they can win it again in 2019.

K.C. Jones: 10 championships

Jones was an important part of the Celtics dynasty in the 60s, helping Boston win eight straight NBA titles from 1959-66. He became head coach of the team after time as an assistant in the early 80s, and he won two more titles with Boston in 1984 and 1986.

K.C. Jones won a ton of NBA titles as a player and a coach.
K.C. Jones won eight NBA titles as a player and two as a coach. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Jones is one of the most iconic figures in Boston Celtics history, and his jersey went up to the rafters almost immediately after he retired as a player in 1966.

Tommy Heinsohn: 10 championships

Another key figure in Boston’s basketball dynasty, Tommy Heinsohn was a part of the 1957 championship team, and then he helped Boston win seven straight from 1959-1965 before he retired. He won eight titles during his nine-year career in Boston. Like his one-time teammate K.C. Jones, Heinsohn eventually made his way to Boston’s bench in 1969, and he led the Celtics to titles in 1972 and 1974.

Bill Russell: 13* championships

We placed an asterisk next to Russell’s total because he won his last championships as a player/coach during the 1967-69 and 1968-69 seasons. Considering he filled both roles well those last two seasons, we’re giving him his full due of 13 NBA titles. Even if we counted only his championships as a player, he’d make our list with 11.

Russell was one of the most dominant players in NBA history, a force in the middle who could shut down even the greatest big men. He was part of the Celtics dynasty that won eight championships in a row and was named one of the 50 greatest players in league history. Russell didn’t enjoy much coaching success after his championship seasons in Boston. He coached four seasons in Seattle in the 1970s with two playoff appearances, one playoff series win, and a losing record overall.

Phil Jackson: 13 NBA Championships

Phil Jackson win 13 NBA titles combined as a player and coach.
Phil Jackson has 13 NBA titles to his name, plus two three-peats. | Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

When it comes to excellent coaching, Phil Jackson is arguably the best to step on an NBA sideline. He won two championships with the New York Knicks as a player, but he had more success as a coach. He built two dynasties in Chicago and Los Angeles, winning 11 championships between the two teams.

Another astounding feat is that he coached three separate three-peats (1991-93 and 1996-98 in Chicago, and 2000-02 with the Lakers). His year off during the 1998-99 season allowed San Antonio to win the title, but Jackson personally won six straight titles as a coach with the three-peats in Chicago and L.A.