We’re kinder to expansion team coaches on this list because it normally takes some time for them to get going. But Winters was just next-level dreadful in charge of the Grizzlies. Seriously. This is definitely one of the least successful reigns in NBA history.
Winters led them to an NBA-record 23 consecutive losses. They also reached 100 losses faster than any other franchise in the league. In 1995-96 they recorded a dreadful 15-67 record, the worst expansion mark ever. No wonder the franchise failed in Vancouver.
College coach with a phenomenal record goes to the NBA and absolutely flops is an all-too-common scenario. Hamilton is a prime example of this stereotype. He’s a two-time ACC Coach of the Year and regularly leads teams into the NCAA tournament. But when it comes to the NBA, he was a disaster. His sole season with the Washington Wizards was one of the worst in their history.
Washington got off to a 7-34 start before ending the season with the third-worst record in the league. Needless to say, the Wizards’ ownership wasn’t too happy with this. They showed Hamilton the door and told him to close it on his way out. But he’s been in charge of Florida State University for the past 18 years.
Hanzlik’s tenure is one of the shortest on this list. A decent player, he spent most of his career with the Denver Nuggets. Then he decided to take the step into coaching. After serving as an assistant in Charlotte and then with Atlanta, he replaced Dick Motta as head coach of the Denver Nuggets.
This turned out to be a disastrous decision. His overall record was 11-71, which is frankly grim reading. The Nuggets’ longest winning streak during this miserable season was two games. In contrast, they had losing streaks of 12, 16, and 23. This entry belongs in infamy.
The Grizzlies weren’t terrible in 2007. They had decent players on their rosters like Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, and an up-and-coming Pau Gasol. But then Iavaroni came and ran the franchise into the ground. Memphis had the makings of being a young and exciting team. Iavaroni saw it differently.
He remained in charge for less than two horrible seasons. First of all, he led them to a 20-62 finish in 2007-08. That’s just horrific. Imagine playing for a team that loses multiple times a week. It’s relentlessly draining and depressing. He then followed it up with an 11-30 start to the next season. At least he was consistent.
It’s fair to say that Vaughn didn’t cast much of a spell on the Orlando Magic. He’s officially the worst coach in the history of the franchise. When the Magic hired him, they were in a rebuilding phase. However, they didn’t plan on him knocking the whole building down.
They won just 15 out of 52 games before the Magic finally lost patience with him. It included a 10-game losing streak and multiple five-game losing streaks. Now he’s working as an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets. There’s time on his side to try again with another franchise in the future.
How did Wittman keep getting jobs in the NBA? For some reason, franchises kept hiring him despite his shambolic overall record. The Cavaliers and Timberwolves were decent when he took over. But then he ran them into the ground despite exciting young players and playoff form.
Somehow he got another job despite a then-overall record of 100-207. The Wizards hired him and he somehow managed to swing four years out of them. They made the playoffs twice but in his final season missed out. That was enough for the Wizards to cast him out on the street.
Montgomery is an icon at Stanford, where he led their basketball program for 18 years. He also had success with the University of California after a short stint in the NBA. That was with the Golden State Warriors, and it’s fair to say they won’t want to remember it too much.
In sum, he was on borrowed time for all of his tenure there. He finished the 2004-05 season at 34-48. The Warriors’ GM Chris Mullin was ready to drop the ax then and there. However, the ownership gave him another season. They posted the exact same record. Mullin fired Montgomery and his replacement Don Nelson brought them to the playoffs.
Kruger is a phenomenal college coach. He’s one of only two men to lead five programs to the NCAA tournament. That’s an outrageous record. However, his one and only tenure as a professional team coach ended in disaster. Kruger spent three seasons in charge of the Atlanta Hawks and they didn’t go well.
He had some room in his first two seasons to rebuild the team. Results weren’t as important as a sense that the team was progressing on and off the court. By the third season with a record of 58-106, he was under more pressure. So he promised fans a refund of $125 each if they failed to make the playoffs. An 11-16 start to the season saw him fired.
Rambis was excellent for the LA Lakers, winning four NBA Championships with them during his playing career. After spells playing for other NBA franchises, he came back to the Lakers in an assistant coaching capacity. He did get one season effectively as interim coach and this was enough for the Minnesota Timberwolves to swoop him up.
That was a massive mistake. Rambis was one of the worst coaches in their history and the Timberwolves have had some bad ones. He didn’t have a clue how to get the best out of his young inexperienced squad. After establishing a dismal record of 32-132 over two seasons, Minnesota finally fired him.
Some players just can’t cut it as a head coach. That was exactly the case for Thomas, who is a Pistons legend. A 12-time All-Star and a two-time NBA champion, there weren’t many players out there with his level of experience. But both of his NBA coaching jobs – with the Pacers and the Knicks – ended in disaster.
His time with the Knicks was especially bad. They had the highest payroll in the league, but the second-worst record. As well as that, he lost an $11.5 million sexual harassment lawsuit. Meanwhile, his actual coaching was disastrous. After 59 losses in the 2007-08 season, the fans hated him. Finally, the Knicks cut their losses and fired him.