Although we are barely beyond mid-season, we can already perceive different managing styles and strategic patterns implemented by the team’s head coaches and how directly they can affect what’s happening on court. Which current NBA trainers are truly inspiring the best of out their rosters?
Having the right person as coach is probably one of the biggest requirements for an NBA team to aspire for the title. Buying superstar players alone won’t get the job done, it’s as simple as that. Probably the biggest proof we have is how Phil Jackson was able to combine just the perfect formula long enough so the greatest players of all time like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan can find the best versions of themselves to help the team win championships.
We can talk about many legendary coaches and how their influence is essential on court. In Jackson’s case, he is the head coach with most NBA championships to his name (6 with the Bulls and 5 with the Lakers). Gregg Popovich for example, is the all-time coach with most wins (1344), or even Lenny Wilkens who’s the trainer with most games to his name. You can learn more about the greatest head coaches in the sport’s history in the link below:
Truth is, coaching duties are as extensive as they are priceless to teams, as the front office has to work side by side with their trainers to get the maximum out of the squad. It takes greatness to handle man-management situations and get the best out of their players who at the end of the days are just humans like the rest of us.
This time, we won’t dedicate this post to the usual Steve Kerr, Erik Spoeltra, Jason Kidd or even Ty Lue, who are more used to taking up the headlines. This list is dedicated mainly to the most surprising, yet constant quality coaching in the current NBA season.
Just like the title says, here are Basketball Insiders’ most influential head coaches of the 2022/23 season so far:
Joe Mazzulla, Boston Celtics
Let’s start by stating the obvious, what a great coach Joe Mazzulla turned out to be! No one really had a clue what he was capable of after Ime Udoka’s unprecedent suspension, all we knew were two things: 1) He was going to try and continue Udoka’s legacy and philosophy and 2) he had huge shoes to fill, since Boston had finally returned to the NBA Finals after 12 long years.
Of course Mazzulla’s team is the best in the league so far, but truth is it seems Boston is playing even better than before. Some tactical changes and player positionings have really strengthened the squad on court. Just an example is how he’s inspired Celtics’ stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to perform their all-time career highs in every stat department this season, as the coach is positioning Tatum more as a power foward and Brown towards the wing as a shooting guard .
Congratulations on an incredible start, Coach 👏🏽 pic.twitter.com/j5udtr4wif
—Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 1, 2022
He wasn’t the only coach to win NBA’s coach of the month award back in October and November, as Phoenix’s Monty Williams also did, after 15 wins in the start of the season. But unlike Williams who stands with the Suns in the West’s 12th position, Mazzulla team just grew stronger and stronger and never let go of the league’s first place.
Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks
A definite surprise on the list, New York’s head coach is harvesting all the hard work he’s done over the years and I think it’s finally safe to say this is the best Knick’s team we’ve seen in years. The 2021 NBA Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau is back to his best version of him after an unstable 2022 campaign, finding a bright light in his new talisman Jalen Brunson. Cause that’s what coaches do, they see potential and they empower! Brunson is a completely new player after he left Dallas, as Thibodeau found he fits best in guard position and becoming New York’s point guard and provider. This way Julius Randle can continue to dedicate his game to scoring points, as he is the Knicks’ top scorer with 24.2 points average per game.
However, more than just outstanding tactical and man-management, he’s also got the squad united. They are proving to be a true team, ever since their best player RJ Barret got injured, a young Immanuel Quickley took his place in the starting lineup, and the squad might just be playing better than before. The New York side finished 11th after the last regular season, but currently stand tall as No. 7th (25-21) in the Eastern Conference.
Willie Green, New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans is definitely one of the shocks of the season so far. However, it came as no surprise that coach Willie Green won Coach of the Month for December, after they won 10 times that month! Even though they did pretty well last year, as they ranked 8th in the West (and lost in the first round of the Conference’s playoffs), this year they are something else. Their success this campaign is all about defense and team union. They’ve got role players spending lots of minutes on court and showing leadership, as the younger generation like Trey Murphy and Zion Williamson are playing mature basketball, and feel completely committed to the team’s purpose.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 3, 2023
It’s always great to see when players value their coaches, as unity in the Pelicans squad has been essential for their success. Coach Green has inspired a team without stars, but true team players, as New Orleans stand high up the western table as the Conference’s fourth best (26-19).
JB Bickerstaff, Cleveland Cavaliers
Talk about trusting the process! JB Bickerstaff has been the Cavaliers’ head coach since 2020 and let me tell ya’, the past few years have been the worst we’ve seen from Cleveland. After a disastrous 2020/21 campaign, anyone would’ve thought the franchise would replace their trainer. Nevertheless, they decided to trust Bickerstaff’s philosophy and keep him leading the way… and finally last year they ranked 9th in the East, almost returning to the Conference’s Playoffs for the first time since 2018. And so the Cavaliers decided to offer him a long- term contract extension and this year, they gradually keep getting better!
Almost having to rebullid their entire squad, JB Bickerstaff said the secret to success is all about ‘togetherness’ at the beginning of the 2022/23 season: ”You can have all the talent in the world, and have poor chemistry, you are going to underachieve every time. The beauty of it is, you can’t put numbers to it, you have to put time and care. So if you have genuine care and support in your team, you have an opportunity every night to be more than what you are as an individual.” Five months later, the Cavaliers are recording 28 wins in 46 games so far, standing in 5th place in the West.
Jacque Vaugh, Brooklyn Nets
”I know the work that he (Jacque Vaughn) puts in everyday and how much he cares for the players,” Kevin Durant said as the current season started. ”I’m looking foward to play for him and I know all the guys have responded great to all he wants from us.” KD’s words came in press conference after them Nets decided not to hire Celtics’ Ime Udoka as head coach and trust Vaughn for the job.
After the incredible 12-game winning streak we saw from the Nets since last December all the way to 2023, Brooklyn has proved they’ve got what it takes to contend for the championship. On court, Brooklyn is putting on exhibition after exhibition of extremely unselfish team basketball. Vaughn is looking for a team identity based on discipline, holding all their accountable players, even if you are superstar Durant or Kyrie Irving.
Jacque Vaughn is named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month 🙌
—Went 12-1 in December
—2nd in the league (25-12)
—3rd in offensive RTGs (116.2)
—10th in defensive RTGs (111.6) pic.twitter.com/tOADPRJTHH
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) January 3, 2023
The Brooklyn Nets hold a 27-16 record as they rank 4th in the Eastern Conference.