Thunder: Where does Billy Donovan rank among rookie NBA coaches?
Every NBA coach starts out as a rookie NBA coach. The legends. The good ones. The also-rans. Each and every one of them had a first season in the league.
So, who had the best ones?
I wrote about Thunder coach Billy Donovan's first season for Thursday's Oklahoman. You can read that column here: http://newsok.com/article/5494558. Lots of stats and numbers in there, but one that I couldn't manage to fit in was a breakdown of the winning percentages of rookie NBA coaches. Not just college-to-NBA rookie coaches, but all rookie coaches.
Turns out, Donovan ranks just outside the top 10 in terms of winning percentage, but remember, this list includes all coaches in their rookie seasons, so the bar is pretty high. But here's a fun stat: Donovan's regular-season winning percentage of .671 is tied with Rudy Tomjanovich, Phil Jackson and Jack Ramsey.
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Pretty decent company, I'd say.
Here's a look at the coaches who had the best winning percentage in their first NBA season:
T1. Steve Kerr, Golden State, 2014-15, .817 (67-15)
T1. Red Auerbach, Washington, 1946-47, .817 (49-11)
T3. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago, 2010-11, .756 (62-20)
T3. Paul Westphal, Phoenix, 1992-93, .756 (62-20)
5. Bill Russell, Boston, 1966-67, .741 (60-21)
6. Paul Westhead, L.A. Lakers, 1979-80, .735 (50-18)
7. John Kundla, Minnesota, 1948-49, .733 (44-16)
T8. Larry Bird, Indiana, 1997-98, .707 (58-24)
T8. Mike Dunleavy, L.A. Lakers, 1990-91, .707 (58-24)
10. Pat Riley, L.A. Lakers, 1981-82, .704 (50-21)