Why Do NBA Coaches Wear Suits and Ties at Games?

Many fans have wondered just why NBA coaches wear suits. MLB coaches wear uniforms that match their players’ outfits. NFL coaches generally wear slacks and a polo, although we’ve seen more casual attire. So, what’s with the suits?

NBA’s dress code rule for coaches?

In 2005, former NBA Commissioner David Stern created a controversial mandatory dress code for players, not only for public events but even in their off time. ESPN summarizes, “If a player does not dress to participate in a game, he must dress in a manner suitable for a coach. In the NBA, a suit or a sport coat is required for coaches, as well as a necktie.”

Notably, this dress code does not make any references to the NBA requiring coaches to wear a suit, sport coat, and necktie. So many NBA fans have questioned, “Why do basketball coaches still wear suits and ties at the games?”

Where in the NBA rules does it say ‘suits and ties’?

In 2013, Jeff Halmos of Shipley & Halmos, a men’s design firm, told The New York Times, “Coaches wear suits because that’s what they do, because no one has ever bucked the trend,” Ah, maybe we’re getting some real answers.

“Most coaches tend to follow a style patterned after Pat Riley when he coached,” explains Halmos. “He wore suits that looked as if they came straight out of fashion magazines. They suited his personality, added to his aura.” So it’s Pat Riley’s fault?

Medium backs up this information. Many NBA coaches credit Pat Riley and Chuck Daly with inspiring the “red carpet looks” as they donned suits by Hugo Boss and Armani. The publication explains, “They were the physical representation of power, a quality nearly synonymous and inseparable with the business attire — even in this day & age.”

Many NBA fans have tried to find a ‘suits’ regulation

In 2017, Bleacher Report tried to track down coaches to get some answers about their dress code. It had a tough time getting answers: “Baseball managers wear the same uniforms as their players. (Joe Maddon in a suit in the dugout? Not happening.)”

Over the years, NFL coaches’ outfits have noticeably grown less formal. In the 1960s they wore suits and jackets. Now, coaches don pullovers or polos, visors or caps, all branded with their official team logos.

The NBA, however, is a different store. “The NBA coaches’ dress code grows more strict,” explains Bleacher Report. “Only a few years ago, they were explicitly prohibited from wearing anything other than collared shirts under suit jackets.”

Former Knicks and Rockets Jeff Van Gundy may sum it up best, “It’s just something you have to do, so you do it. Really, who cares?” President of the National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA) and former Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, backs up this claim: “Nobody thinks about wearing sweats or any of that kind of stuff. That’s just not how we do it.”

NBA and Men’s Wearhouse suits

In 2008, Men’s Warehouse partnered with the NBCA, becoming the league’s Official Wardrobe Supplier. Designer Joseph Abboud has designed for many of the 30 NBA coaches ever since. For the 2017-18 season, each coach was allotted 10 new suits and 20 ties to wear during the season.

As part of the tradeoff, NBA coaches participate in the annual Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive each year. The event takes in gently-worn suits, cleans them, and distributes the suits to people returning to the workforce via non-profits throughout the country.

Will NBA coaches continue to wear suits and ties?

It isn’t just NBA coaches who don suits and ties; college basketball coaches and even many high school coaches do, too.

“It’s tradition,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright told Medium. Former President Barack Obama even nicknamed Wright, “GQ Jay,” for his trendsetting fashion during the Villanova team’s visit to the White House following its 2016 NCAA title win.

Medium doesn’t think it should remain a tradition though: “The problem with this, however, is the novelty of it. It’s a tradition that is arguably outdated.” Maybe someday we’ll see NBA coaches put on sweatshirts and visors.