A pair of successful college basketball coaches will be pacing the NBA sidelines next season as the Oklahoma City Thunder have hired Billy Donovan away from Florida and the Chicago Bulls have recently handed the reigns of their team to Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg.
With Donovan and Hoiberg’s hirings, however, it means that two successful NBA coaches find themselves out of work in the latest episode of “What have you done for me lately?” Donovan takes over for Scott Brooks and Hoiberg replaces Tom Thibodeau.
Brooks replaced P.J. Carlesimo as the Thunder’s coach during the 2008-09 season. He was selected as the league’s Coach of the Year the following season and made the playoffs in five of his six seasons. He coached the Thunder to the NBA Finals in 2012.
Thibodeau coached the Bulls for five seasons, making the playoffs in each year. He was the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2010-11 and led the Bulls to 45 or more wins each year, topping out at 62 wins.
Brooks and Thibodeau will likely find jobs as head coaches in the near future, but what makes the firings of these two coaches interesting is that both rank in the Top 10 of the best regular season NBA coaches (based on winning percentage). Thibodeau ranks 6th while Brooks ranks ninth.
Here’s a look at the NBA coaches with the best regular season winning percentages (minimum of 300 NBA games coached to qualify for this list).
1. Phil Jackson .704
2. Billy Cunningham .698
3. Gregg Popovich .685
4. K.C. Jones .674
5. Red Auerbach .662
6. Tom Thibodeau .647
7. Pat Riley .636
8. Erik Spoelstra .629
9 (tie). Scott Brooks .620
9 (tie). Les Harrison .620
11. Tom Heinsohn .619
12. Mike Brown .616
13. Stan Van Gundy .610
14. Jerry Sloan .603
It’s also interesting to note that of the 14 men listed above, nine have won at least one NBA title. The coaches on this list that have not are Thibodeau and Brooks, Brown, Van Gundy and Sloan. This is just another example of while it is important to win games during the regular season, it’s really all about the rings.
Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp