Top 15 Coach Killers in NBA History

Star power in the NBA is more valuable than any other sport, as every NBA Championship team has at least one future Hall of Fame caliber talent on their roster. NFL teams rely on dozens of players to make an impact on a top tier squad. MLB teams can get by with great pitching on a hot streak at the right time. Any basketball fan knows you need a great team but they're usually dependent on the superstar leading the way and creating opportunities for his teammates.

The value and power of the superstar in the NBA means the players have all the power. The stars are also marketed more in the NBA than they are in other sports. Because of that, and the money they bring to the team, teams will do whatever it takes to keep them happy. Coaches are more expendable because of the power dynamic. While head coaches do control the team’s vision and direction, a superstar failing to get along with their team leader will create issues. There’s almost no way the team is going to choose one of many good coaches over a rare star that the fans love and pay to see.

Coaches tend to have shorter shelf lives in the NBA. Aside from Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, just about every other NBA team has seen their fair share of coaching changes over the last ten years. Stability is important but the numbers seem to just sway against coaches. There are many intelligent minds in basketball, meaning it's easier to find a new coach than it is to find a new superstar. Due to this culture in the sport, players have often played a role in getting coaches fired for many years. We’re going to look through NBA history for the top fifteen biggest coach killers of all-time.

15 James Harden 

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

14 Richard Hamilton 


13 Kobe Bryant 

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

12 Steve Nash 

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

11 DeMarcus Cousins 

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

10 Elvin Hayes 


9 Penny Hardaway 


8 Stephon Marbury 


7 Gary Payton 


6 Shaquille O’Neal 


5 Carmelo Anthony 

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

4 Magic Johnson 


3 Jason Kidd 

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2 Deron Williams 

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

1 Dwight Howard 

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

No one deserves the title of coach killer more than Dwight Howard for one specific incident. Howard was the top star in Orlando and the team desperately wanted to keep him as he approached free agency. The big man used his leverage to get the Magic to fire head coach Stan Van Gundy. Rumors broke out that Howard was trying to cause the firing but he adamantly denied it. During one of Van Gundy’s media sessions, Howard confidently went up to the coach and joked about how silly the rumors were in front of the cameras to clear his reputation. The thing that makes this funny is that Van Gundy admitted the rumors of Howard trying to get him fired were true just minutes before. Stan was ultimately fired afterwards and Howard still decided he wanted out of town by forcing a trade a few months later. What a guy.

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Top 15 Coach Killers in NBA History