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Longest, Shortest, Youngest, Oldest NBA Coaches

December 28, 2017

Updated March 12, 2019

We love making these lists of the tallest, smallest, oldest, and youngest players to ever play professional sports. Here are similarly interesting facts about some all-time record-breaking coaches from the NBA.

Longest-serving coach with one team.

In 1996, former San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors assistant coach Gregg Popovich got his first professional coaching gig as head coach of the Spurs. And he’s still head coach of the Spurs. The 2018-19 season marks his 23rd with the team, the longest any NBA coach has ever stayed with one team. (One can count on job security when they win five NBA championships.) Popovich has been coaching the Spurs longer than some NBA players have even been alive. Dallas Mavericks rookie sensation Luka Doncic was born in February 1999, three years into Popovich’s tenure,

Coach who coached the shortest amount of time (not counting interim coaches).

The Spurs also hold the record for the coach with the briefest tenure. In 1992, UNLV men’s basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian made the jump to the pros. Tarkanian, famous for sitting on the sidelines and biting through towels during tense moments, led the Runnin’ Rebels to four final Fours and one national title. Tarkanian wasn’t exactly poached by the NBA—he resigned from his gig at UNLV due to allegations of game fixing. It didn’t work out with the Spurs, either. He was fired after just 20 games, in which the Spurs won 9 games and lost 11.

Coach who coached the most games.

Lenny Wilkens has coached more NBA games than any other coach in league history. He started leading teams in 1969 with the Seattle SuperSonics and then the Portland Trail Blazers…while he was still an active player. He retired in 2005 after a total of coaching for 32 seasons and a grand total of 2,487 games. He’s one of a handful of people in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.

Oldest coach in NBA history.

In 2002, the Memphis Grizzlies hired 69-year-old Hubie Brown as head coach. He hadn’t led a team in more than a decade. In his second season with the team (2003-2004), Brown led the Grizzlies to its first-ever playoffs. A few months later he resigned, citing health issues. At that point, he was 71 years old.

Youngest coach in NBA history.

Dave DeBusschere did more by his mid-20s than many athletes do in their whole lives. At age 22, he was a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox and pitched a shutout. By age 24, he was playing basketball for the Detroit Pistons while also playing in the Chicago White Sox’s farm system. After the White Sox cut him in 1963, he used that extra time and energy to become a coach as well as a player for the Pistons. By then he was the ripe old age of 25.

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