trailblazers

Five best coaches in Portland Trail Blazers history

PDX Moments In Time

The Portland Trail Blazers are a proud organization. The fans, as well as the franchise itself, takes pride in its accomplishments, and while the players on the floor typically earn the credit, the coaches on the sidelines have been a major focus throughout the years.

Currently, Terry Stotts is running the show in Rip City. His long-term future has yet to be decided, but he’s following one of the top-5 coaches in team history—Nate McMillan.

Will Stotts make the top 5 someday? Only time will tell. But what we do know is that the team’s history is chalk full of talented leaders, and the all-time greats have earned their place in Trail Blazers history.

Mike Schuler (1986-1988)

Nate McMillan

Nate McMillan found success with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Mike Schuler only coached the Trail Blazers for two-and-a-half seasons. He was brought on in 1986, and he actually won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award that season.

After going 49-33 in his inaugural showing, he improved to 53-29 the following year.

Schuler wasn’t given much of a shot during the 1988-89 season. The team had a 25-22 record in the month of February, and the head coach was canned in place of then-interim head coach Rick Adelman.

Nate McMillan (2005-2012)

Nate McMillan’s time in Portland started as blissfully as anyone could have imagined. The team had officially moved past the infamous Jail Blazers era, and they were looking for a good guy from the Northwest who could take the team to the next level.

To an extent, McMillan was that guy; just not to the degree that fans were truly hoping for.

McMillan was swayed to Portland with a big-time payday and a growing roster. Mr. Sonic himself had defected his own team, and nothing was better for fans in Rip City.

Overall, McMillan did find success in Portland. He coached the team to a .538 winning percentage during his time with the franchise, and he helped groom Brandon Roy, who was en route to becoming one of the greatest players in franchise history.

The problem, however, came down to winning in the playoffs. He went 6-12 with the team, never making it past the first round.

Mike Dunleavy (1997-2001)

Mike Dunleavy coached the Blazers during the brunt of the Jail Blazers era. His players weren’t the most likeable, to say the least, but the fans stuck around because the wins kept coming.

During his time with Portland, Dunleavy posted a 190-106 record. That’s the second-highest winning percentage in team history (.642) and a major reason the team’s off-court problems were often overlooked.

Dunleavy led the Blazers to multiple deep playoff runs, collecting a .500 record along the way. Most notably was the 2000 Western Conference Finals appearance against the Los Angeles Lakers. Any time you make it that far, it’s an accomplishment, but the fourth-quarter collapse in Game 7 is what most people remember about that time in franchise history.

Jack Ramsay (1976-1986)

In the opinion of many die-hard Blazermaniacs, Jack Ramsay is the all-time greatest Trail Blazers coach—and it’s tough to argue against that.

In his first year with the team, Ramsay led the Blazers to its first playoff appearance in franchise history. The team was just six years old at the time, yet the new coach took the team all the way to the Finals, winning the only championship the city has known in professional basketball.

Rick Adelman is the winningest coach in Trail Blazers history.

Rick Adelman is the winningest coach in Trail Blazers history.

Ramsay got his team to rally around legendary big man Bill Walton. Walton went on to win MVP the next year, and if it weren’t for injuries and a desire to leave the organization, the center could have helped lead the team to multiple title runs.

Ramsay coached the Blazers through the 1985-86 season. The group made the playoffs every year but one (1982), but even that season was strong, as the team won 42 games.

Rick Adelman (1988-1994)

Despite the Blazers’ only championship taking place in 1977, arguably the most fun time to be a fan was in the early 90s. The team was playing an exciting brand of basketball, they were winning games and they made the finals twice under head coach Rick Adelman.

Not only does Adelman have the highest regular season winning percentage in team history (.654), he has the highest playoff winning percentage as well (.522).

He led the team to 69 postseason contests between 1989 and 1994, and he put together one of the most successful runs that Blazers fans have seen.

Adelman went on to coach the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and currently the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Aside from his years with the Kings, he hasn’t found the success he had in Portland. He’s a sure-fire future Hall of Famer, and he’s already gone down as one of the best coaches in Rip City history.

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About Bryant Knox

NWSB Editor. Portland native and Oregon graduate, On a non-stop mission to consume as much Ducks+Trail Blazers content as humanly possible. His love of sports is what attracts him to the game, passion for writing drives him to uncover the stories. Connect w/ Bryant today!
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