Saturday, January 12, 2019

Do NBA Coaches who didn’t play in the NBA fare the same as NFL Coaches?

Phil Jackson won 11 titles and did play.
In my last post I found that elite NFL coaches who did not play in the NFL fared better in the playoffs than those who did and also won more championships.  This week I thought I would look at NBA Coaches who did not play in the NBA compared to those who did.  Athlon.com produced lists of the top25 NFL and NBA coaches of all time.  In my last post I also looked at elite NFL coaches in the Super Bowl era.  

Athlon Top 25 Coaches
Played in NBA
Played in the NFL
No
Yes
No
Yes
Overall win%
0.610
0.588
0.629
0.628
Playoff
0.581
0.571
0.613
0.543
Reg Season
0.613
0.590
0.631
0.633
Champ/coach
3.571
2.056
2.180
2.430
total champ
25
37
24
34
Total Coaches
7
18
11
14

18 out of the 25 top NBA coaches played in the NBA compared to 14 of the 25 top NFL coaches.  Three of the seven who did not (like Red Auerbach) played before the NBA existed (it was created in 1946).  According to the table above NBA coaches who did not play won 1% more of their games than those who did where NFL coaches who did not play won 7% more of their playoff games and won.  NBA coaches on the list who did not play won 2.23% more of their regular season games.

These are coaches who were selected by Athlon.com on who they think are the best coaches.  Some were coaching in the 1940's and 50's.  As I did with the NFL coaches, I looked at modern NBA coaches whose careers spanned the modern era and who took their teams to the NBA finals from 1966 on to the present day.  The raw data I collected can be seen here.  It is summarized in the table below.

Top Modern Coaches
Played in NBA
Played in the NFL
No
Yes
No
Yes
Overall win%
0.548
0.579
0.592
0.585
Playoff
0.542
0.575
0.583
0.545
Reg Season
0.549
0.579
0.588
0.587
Champ/coach
1.667
1.517
1.420
0.910
total champ
25
44
41
21
Total Coaches
15
29
28
23

Like in the Athlon NBA list, there is a stronger presence of coaches who did play in the NBA than there is in the NFL.  29 out of 44 elite coaches had played in the NBA or 65.9% while 23 out of 51 NFL coaches or 45.1%.  This difference is statistically significant with a p-value of 0.045.  The coaches who played in the NBA had higher winning percentages in the regular season and the playoffs which is a different pattern than in the NFL.  The NBA coaches in the who did and did not play were roughly equal in the number of championships per coach.  Red Auerbach was included in the 15 coaches who did not play.  

There is a difference between the NFL and NBA in their elite coaches with a stronger preference for ones who did play in the NBA.  Among-st the elite coaches there were 9 out of the 44 who were African American in the NBA or 20.4% while in the NFL 4 out of the 51 or 7.8%.  This difference is not statistically significant while close to 70% of the players in both leagues are African American.


**Related Posts**

Does playing in the NFL help a head coach? Not in the Playoffs.