How Many Rookie Head Coaches Have Won the NBA Finals?

How Many Rookie Head Coaches Have Won the NBA Finals?


Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka is two wins away from leading his team to the championship. Making Udoka's NBA Finals run even more impressive is the fact he's only in his first year with the Celtics.

Should Boston go on to win the title, Udoka will join an exclusive list of rookie head coaches to win the Finals.

Rookie Head Coaches to Win NBA Finals

Nine head coaches in NBA history have won a championship in their first season. Four of those HCs (Eddie Gottlieb, Buddy Jeannette, John Kundla and George Senesky) won prior to the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, which marked the start of the modern era of basketball.

In the post-merger era, there's been five first-year head coaches who've led their teams to a title: Paul Westhead, Pat Riley, Steve Kerr, Tyronn Lue and Nick Nurse. Kerr and Lue accomplished this feat in back-to-back years, while Nurse joined them just three years later.

Udoka would be the tenth rookie head coach to win the NBA title if the Celtics are able to beat Kerr's Golden State Warriors in the 2022 Finals. Their series is currenly tied at 2-2 heading into Monday's pivotal Game 5.

First-Year Head Coaches to Win NBA Championship

1. Eddie Gotlieb, Philadelphia Warriors (1947)

2. Buddy Jeannette, Baltimore Bullets (1948)

3. John Kundla, Minneapolis Lakers (1949)

4. George Senesky, Philadelphia Warriors (1956)

5. Paul Westhead, Los Angeles Lakers (1980)

6. Pat Riley, Los Angeles Lakers (1982)

7. Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors (2015)

8. Tyronn Lue, Cleveland Cavaliers (2016)

9. Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors (2019)

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