Business Lessons We Can Learn from NBA Coaches


The best basketball coaches know all these is to know about the sport’s tactics and rules. Yet, many of them also reveal some valuable lessons that we can use in the business world as well as in the NBA.

Here are some important lessons we can take from legendary NBA coaches.

Gregg Popovich – Take Care of Relationships

Popovich has been the coach at the San Antonio Spurs since 1996, making him the longest-service coach presently working in any of the major American sports league. His record includes having more NBA wins than any other coach in history and having a winning season in every one of the 22 full seasons he has completed there.     

What is the secret to such outstanding, long-term success? Popovich has stated in the past that it is all about taking care of relationships with people. He talked about how important it is for younger players to understand that their coach cares for them and values them as humans as well as athletes.

This lesson translates perfectly to the business world, where every company needs to build its success on the basis of a strong team where everyone works together and respects each other

Phil Jackson – Get Players to Work Well Together 

Jackson is another great example of an NBA coach who has managed to combine tactical knowledge with an ability to handle even the most difficult player. Perhaps his biggest achievement has been to get world-class players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal to work together.

He played for 12 seasons in the NBA, before successful spells as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. All of this meant that his combined total of 13 championships as a player and coach is still the NBA record.

Getting a group of people to pull together in the same direction is one of the biggest challenges for any business leader. This is especially true in current times, with highly diverse teams and remote workers adding to the difficulty in forging a real team spirit.

It’s no coincidence that Jackson tops the list of best NBA coaches of all time, that you can find here:

Red Auerbach – Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things

Another of the best coaches in NBA history, Auerbach set records with the Boston Celtics and introduced new ways of thinking into basketball.  His tactics such as team defensive play and the fast break went on to become widely accepted in the sport.

Perhaps the greatest legacy he left is the fact that he was such a pioneer in so many aspects of the NBA, willing to try new things whenever he felt it was worth it. He did all of this without any assistants, creating revolutionary tactics and grooming future stars all on his own.

Even a hugely successful business needs fresh ideas now and then, especially with the world of technology now moving so fast and new ways of getting ahead needed in many areas.  

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Chuck Daly – Get the Message Across Simply and Memorably

Daly turned around the fortunes of the Detroit Pistons, leading them to a run of nine consecutive winning seasons and a couple of championship wins before going on to lead the USA’s Dream Team at the Olympic Games. 

One of his lasting legacies is the number of wise phrases that became fondly known as Chuckisms among NBA fans. These phrases were so well-loved that they have been collected in a book called Daly Wisdom, in the form of daily life lessons.

Being able to succinctly explain yourself and get a complex message across in a short, simple message is a huge advantage in any type of business. If you can use the kind of smart, memorable phrases that Daly loved then you stand a better chance of getting people to listen to.