Who Was LeBron James’ First Coach in the NBA?

Many NBA legends have had legendary coaches: Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had Phil Jackson; Tim Duncan had Gregg Popovich, and Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had Pat Riley. However, LeBron James has not really had that one legendary coach. He has had some average/good coaches, but no great ones. Because of this, James has ultimately had several coaches throughout his NBA career. So, with that, who was his first NBA coach after getting drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers?

LeBron James has played under several coaches on the Cavaliers, Heat, and Lakers

LeBron James has played under several coaches in the NBA on the Cavaliers, Heat, and Lakers. So, who was his first NBA coach?
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, Anthony Davis (from left), and LeBron James pose for a photo during the team’s media day. | Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

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James went to the Cleveland Cavaliers with No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft. His first stint with the Cavaliers ultimately lasted through the 2009-10 season, and he had three coaches during those years. The one coach to coach him for the majority of those seasons, though, was Mike Brown.

From 2010-11 through 2013-14, while playing for the Miami Heat, James really learned what it takes to win championships. James and the Heat went to four straight NBA Finals and won two titles. He only played under one coach during those years too — Erik Spoelstra.

In the summer of 2014, James returned to the Cavaliers. He played in Cleveland again for four seasons, and, despite reaching four consecutive NBA Finals and winning one championship, James played under two coaches during his second stint in Cleveland.

Since the 2018-19 season, James has played for the LA Lakers. He has had two coaches in his first two seasons in LA.

Who was LeBron James’ first coach in the NBA?

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James’ first coach in the NBA was Paul Silas, who coached a couple of teams before the Cavaliers. 

Silas coached the San Diego Clippers from 1980-81 through 1982-83. He, however, went 78-168 there and never reached the playoffs. Silas was then an assistant coach for a few different teams before coaching the Charlotte and New Orleans Hornets from 1998-99 through 2002-03. He ultimately went to the playoffs four times in those seasons.

Silas then coached the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003-04 season and part of the 2004-05 season. The Cavaliers went 69-77 under Silas. He then coached the Charlotte Bobcats in parts of two different seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Overall, Silas’ career record is 387-488. 

While his time with James did not last long, Silas knew that James was special. In James’ rookie season, Silas asked his veterans on the Cavaliers to embrace him.

“Their egos wouldn’t allow it,” Silas said, according to ESPN. “I kept telling them, ‘You have a chance to help one of the game’s future stars,’ but they wouldn’t embrace him. If it bothered LeBron, he never let on. We won 35 games that year because of him. He’s had some outstanding seasons since then, but that first one may have been the most impressive because of how he excelled in spite of the jealousy on his own team.”

Who was his best coach?

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Since James hasn’t had one legendary coach, it is hard to say who his best NBA coach has been. Looking at all of them, though, it is hard not to give Spoelstra that title. He has a career 566-388 record and helped lead James to two championships. He also has a pretty good team this year with the Miami Heat as they have surprised everyone and have put themselves in the running for a top three or four seed in the Eastern Conference.

After him, you probably have to go with Tyronn Lue since he won a championship with James on the Cavaliers. After those two, it is probably a toss-up between Mike Brown — who has a 347-216 career record as a head coach — or James’ current coach, Frank Vogel, who has a 355-306 career record.

James and the Lakers have a chance to win the NBA championship this season, though. If they do, Vogel might have a case for No. 2.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference