Creme de la Creme: The 5 Best Coaches in Supersonics History

Screw You Clay Bennett!

The Supersonics are no longer, (Yes I’m still pretty bitter, seeing as how I lived in Wichita Kansas for 10 years and had to listen to them bragging about how close OKC was).

Thru the years the Sonics had some legendary teams. Let’s not forget as well that they have 1 NBA title, and have had a ton of  solid coaches and players.

Here are the 5 best coaches for Seattle since they came into the league in 1967 and their years at the helm.

1. Lenny Wilkins – (1977-1985)

Wilkins was not only a great player for the Sonics, but he led Seattle to their only NBA title as a head coach.

He was a player-coach for the Sonics and after a horrid 5-17 start in 1977 he was named head coach and Seattle won 11 of their first 12 games under him.

The Sonics continued their great play and went onto to win the Western Conference title losing in the NBA finals to Washington in 7 games.

In 1979 they met Washington in the finals again and this time beat them in 5 games. Wilkins left the organization following the 1984-85 season, but he was not done coaching quite yet. He ranks 2nd all time in coaching wins behind Don Nelson.

As a true measure of respect he had his # 19 Retired by the Sonics organization.

2. George Karl – (1992-1998)

Karl was a great coach in Seattle even though most would think it wasn’t too hard a job. He of course had the great tandem of Gary Payton and Sean Kemp.

Every season when he was on the bench for the Sonics the team won 50 games and made the playoffs.

In 1996 he led Seattle to the NBA finals, but they lost in 6 games to the Chicago Bulls and a guy named Michael Jordan.

In the 1993-1994 season the Sonics looked like THE team to beat with the league’s best record, but fell to the 8th seed Denver Nuggets in the first round.

George Karl

George Karl had the great tandem of Gary Payton and Sean Kemp

I loved this guy at the helm, and was sad to see him go in 1998 after disagreements with management. It still irks me that Seattle was always great in the regular season with Karl at the helm, but honestly they did underachieve when the post-season rolled around.

3. Nate McMillan (2000-2005)

McMillan was a great player for Seattle and after his playing days were over he started as an assistant coach. Then in 2000 he took over the reigns as HC.

In his first season on the bench Seattle failed to make the playoffs, but in his 2nd year the Sonics made the post-season, of course they didn’t make much noise though.

After 2 years of not making the post-season the Sonics were one of the surprises in the league in 2004-2005 winning the Northwest Division title.  Come to think of it, it is interesting that McMillan was the head coach the last time the Sonics made the playoffs.

4. Bill Russell (1973 to 1977)

Russell was not only one of the best players of all time with his 11 titles with the Boston Celtics, but he led the Sonics to their first ever playoff appearance. This is of course before my time but my Dad tells me his teams were very skilled, very defensive oriented, and I don’t think this can be much of a surprise because of his playing style.

My Dad also tells me his coaching style wasn’t overly popular, the fans wanted scoring.

His teams apparently were not thrilled by his style either and when he left in 1977 he only had a career record of 162-166.

5. Paul Westphal (1998-2000)

THUD. Yes you heard me.

Westphal played for the Sonics when he was an NBA player and came back to Seattle as the coach after leading the Suns to the NBA finals.

While his coaching stint in Phoenix was solid and was a great player being a 5-time All Star his coaching tenure in the Great Northwest was nothing to write home about.

After a couple of mediocre seasons he was fired during the 2000-2001 season. Are you with me now? THUD.

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About Q S

I.Am.Q. Managing Editor at NWSB. Beautiful Victoria B.C. is home! Blogger, Twitterholic, Father, Husband (To A Kansas Girl), Northwest Sports Junkie, Proud member of the Seahawks 12th man since 1977! Card-Carrying Member of the Mack Strong #38 Fan Club! Die hard Canucks, Mariners, & Huskies fan. I don't like OKC, I miss the Sonics! Connect w/ me today!
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  • supersonicsoul/PN

    Bernie Bickerstaff says hello.

  • Anonymous

    Bickerstaff does deserve mention in this article. I stand corrected in looking more closely at his career coaching stats. 

    He’s just a touch better than Russell.

    Coach from 89-90 and 85-89. 
    404 Career games coached
    201 wins 203 losses 
    .497 winning %

    Bickerstaff now has a career record of 414–512. His total wins rank 33rd all-time among head coaches.

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