Complete List Of Chicago Bulls Head Coaches In Order

List Of Chicago Bulls Head Coaches In Order

Feature Photo: s_bukley/ Shutterstock

The Chicago Bulls, established in 1966, are a professional basketball team based in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls have a storied history in the NBA, perhaps most famously recognized for their dominance in the 1990s under the leadership of Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson and superstar players like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. This period saw the Bulls win six NBA championships in eight years. The team’s successes and struggles over the years can be traced, in part, through the tenures of its various head coaches, who have each brought their unique styles and philosophies to the organization. Let’s explore the head coaches who have guided the Bulls throughout their history.

Johnny “Red” Kerr (1966-67)

Playing Career: Before transitioning into coaching, Kerr had a successful playing career in the NBA. He played center and was known for his robust play and consistency. He started his NBA journey with the Syracuse Nationals in 1954 and was part of the team that won the NBA Championship in 1955. Kerr also played for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Baltimore Bullets during his playing career, which lasted until 1966. After retiring from playing, Kerr transitioned to coaching. His coaching career began with the Chicago Bulls in their inaugural season in 1966.

Kerr’s tenure as the head coach of the Bulls was notable for several reasons. He led the Bulls to a 33-48 record in their first season (1966-67), which was a significant accomplishment for an expansion team at the time. This performance earned him the NBA Coach of the Year award. Kerr’s coaching style was appreciated for its emphasis on team play and defense.

After coaching, Kerr remained an influential figure in Chicago basketball. He is particularly remembered for his long tenure as a broadcaster for the Bulls. His contributions to the sport, both on and off the court, have made him a beloved figure in Chicago sports history.

Kerr’s legacy in basketball, particularly with the Chicago Bulls, is marked by his pioneering role in the team’s early years and his continued involvement with the organization. He is remembered not just for his coaching and playing skills but also for his dedication to the game and his impact on the Bulls’ franchise.

Dick Motta (1968-1976)

Dick Motta’s career as an NBA coach, particularly with the Chicago Bulls, is a significant chapter in the history of basketball coaching. He began his coaching journey in high school and college basketball, demonstrating a talent for leadership and strategy that would serve him well in the professional arena. His success at the college level, especially at Weber State University, paved the way for his entry into the NBA.

In 1968, Motta took the helm of the Chicago Bulls, marking the start of a memorable NBA coaching career. Known for his emphasis on a disciplined defensive approach and a well-structured offensive game, Motta’s coaching style resonated well with the team. During his tenure with the Bulls, which lasted until 1976, he led the team to several playoff appearances, establishing the Bulls as a formidable presence in the league.

Motta’s impact on the Bulls was significant. He developed a strong team ethos and instilled a competitive spirit that helped the Bulls compete at a high level. His contributions during this period laid a foundation for the future successes of the franchise. After his time with the Bulls, Motta continued his coaching career with other NBA teams, leaving a lasting legacy in the world of basketball coaching. His time with the Chicago Bulls, however, remains a highlight of his illustrious career.

Ed Badger (1976-1978)

Ed Badger took over as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls in 1976, stepping into a role that would define his NBA coaching career. His tenure with the Bulls, though brief, lasting until 1978, was marked by a period of transition and development for the team.

During his time with the Bulls, Badger focused on building a team that could compete effectively in the evolving landscape of the NBA. He worked on developing young talent and implementing strategies that would enhance the team’s performance on the court. While the Bulls faced challenges in terms of achieving significant playoff success during his tenure, Badger’s efforts contributed to the overall growth and development of the team.

Badger’s approach to coaching was characterized by a commitment to team improvement and player development. He is remembered for his dedication to the sport and his efforts to steer the Chicago Bulls through a crucial phase of their history. After his coaching stint with the Bulls, Badger continued to be involved in basketball in various capacities, contributing his knowledge and experience to the game. His time as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls remains a notable part of his professional journey in basketball.

Larry Costello (1978-1979)

Larry Costello assumed the role of head coach for the Chicago Bulls in 1978, bringing with him a wealth of experience and a unique coaching perspective. His tenure with the Bulls, which lasted until 1979, was a time of both challenges and opportunities for the team.

Before joining the Bulls, Costello had already established himself as a successful coach, most notably with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he led the team to an NBA Championship in 1971. His coaching style was known for its emphasis on discipline and a structured offensive system, traits he carried into his role with the Chicago Bulls.

During his time with the Bulls, Costello worked on instilling his strategic approach in the team. He aimed to enhance the team’s competitiveness in a league that was becoming increasingly dynamic. Though the Bulls faced several hurdles and did not achieve significant postseason success under his guidance, Costello’s efforts were geared towards laying a foundation for future growth.

Costello’s tenure with the Chicago Bulls was a phase of building and restructuring. He is remembered for his commitment to the team and his contributions to the game of basketball, both as a player and a coach. His time with the Bulls, though short, was part of a distinguished career that left a lasting impact on the NBA.

Jerry Sloan (1979-1982)

Jerry Sloan stepped into the role of head coach for the Chicago Bulls in 1979, marking the beginning of a significant phase in both his coaching career and the team’s history. His tenure with the Bulls lasted until 1982, during which he laid down the foundations for the team’s future successes.

Sloan brought to the Bulls a deep understanding of the game, having been a former player for the team. His playing career with the Bulls was distinguished, earning him a reputation as a tenacious defender and a hardworking player. These attributes translated into his coaching style, which emphasized strong defense and a disciplined approach to the game.

Under Sloan’s leadership, the Bulls strived to build a competitive team in the tough NBA environment of the late 1970s and early 1980s. While the team faced challenges in reaching the top echelons of the league, Sloan’s efforts were instrumental in developing the talents of the players and fostering a culture of resilience and determination.

His coaching stint with the Chicago Bulls set the stage for what would become a highly respected coaching career. Jerry Sloan is often remembered for his later tenure with the Utah Jazz, but his time with the Bulls was crucial in shaping his approach to coaching and management. His legacy in Chicago is that of a dedicated coach and former player who contributed significantly to the fabric of the franchise.

Phil Johnson (1982)

Phil Johnson, known for his astute basketball mind and effective coaching strategies, served as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1979 to 1982. This period in the Bulls’ history was one of transition and restructuring, with Johnson at the helm guiding the team through these changes.

Prior to joining the Bulls, Johnson had already established a reputation in the NBA for his coaching acumen, including a successful tenure with the Kansas City Kings, where his work earned him the NBA Coach of the Year award in 1975. His approach to coaching was characterized by a strong emphasis on fundamentals, player development, and a well-organized offensive strategy.

During his time with the Chicago Bulls, Johnson faced the challenge of shaping a relatively young and evolving team. He focused on developing the skills of his players and implementing a system that could maximize their potential. Despite the hurdles and the intense competition in the league during this era, Johnson’s coaching style and philosophy were instrumental in laying the groundwork for the team’s future direction.

Johnson’s tenure with the Bulls, though not marked by major playoff success, was nevertheless significant for the developmental steps the team took under his guidance. His contributions to the Bulls during this period were a testament to his expertise and dedication to the game of basketball. Phil Johnson’s time with the Chicago Bulls remains an important part of his long and respected career in the NBA.

Rod Thorn (1982)

Rod Thorn took on the role of head coach for the Chicago Bulls during the 1981-1982 NBA season, a period that was crucial for the team’s rebuilding efforts. His tenure, while brief, was marked by his attempts to navigate the team through a phase of significant transition and development.

Before joining the Bulls as a coach, Thorn had a diverse career in basketball, including time as a player and various administrative roles. His experience in different facets of the sport provided him with a broad perspective on team building and management. As a coach, Thorn was known for his analytical approach to the game and his ability to develop young talent.

During his time with the Bulls, Thorn worked on instilling a competitive spirit and a sense of discipline in the team. He faced the challenge of developing a cohesive unit from a mix of young players and veterans, focusing on creating a system that could leverage their strengths. Although the Bulls did not achieve significant success in terms of wins and losses during his tenure, Thorn’s efforts contributed to laying the groundwork for the team’s future.

After his coaching stint with the Bulls, Rod Thorn went on to have a successful career in basketball management, holding several high-profile positions, including serving as the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. His time with the Chicago Bulls, albeit short, was a part of his journey in the basketball world, showcasing his adaptability and knowledge of the game.

Kevin Loughery (1983-1985)

Kevin Loughery served as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1982 to 1985, a period marked by significant changes and developments within the team. His tenure was notable for overseeing the early years of Michael Jordan’s career, one of the most iconic figures in basketball history.

Loughery came to the Bulls with a solid background in both playing and coaching. As a player, he had a successful NBA career, and as a coach, he had already demonstrated his abilities with teams like the New York Nets, where he won two ABA championships. His coaching style was known for being adaptable and player-focused, emphasizing the strengths of his roster.

During his time with the Bulls, Loughery was instrumental in the development of young talent, most notably Michael Jordan, whom the Bulls drafted in 1984. He worked on integrating Jordan’s extraordinary skills into the team’s strategy, helping to lay the foundation for what would become one of the greatest careers in basketball history.

Under Loughery’s guidance, the Bulls began to show signs of the powerhouse they would eventually become. He led the team to the playoffs in his first two seasons, demonstrating a knack for maximizing the potential of his players. His approach to coaching, characterized by a blend of discipline and flexibility, was crucial during this transformative period for the Bulls.

Kevin Loughery’s tenure with the Chicago Bulls, though not marked by championship success, was nevertheless significant. His role in nurturing young talent and guiding the team through a pivotal phase of its history cements his place in the annals of the franchise’s storied past.

Stan Albeck (1985-1986)

Stan Albeck took the reins as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls for the 1985-1986 season, a key period in the franchise’s history that was marked by the burgeoning career of Michael Jordan. Albeck, known for his extensive coaching experience and strategic acumen, brought a wealth of knowledge to the team during a transformative time.

Before joining the Bulls, Albeck had established a reputation as a skilled coach with teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the New Jersey Nets. His coaching philosophy was centered around adapting to the strengths of his players and encouraging an aggressive, up-tempo style of play, which resonated well with the young and dynamic Bulls roster.

During his tenure with the Bulls, Albeck faced the challenge of maximizing the potential of a team that was still in the process of finding its identity in the highly competitive NBA landscape. This period was particularly notable for Michael Jordan’s second season, in which he faced a significant injury. Albeck navigated this challenge by focusing on team development and fostering a competitive environment.

Although his time with the Bulls was relatively short, Albeck’s impact was notable. He helped guide the team to the playoffs, demonstrating his ability to bring out the best in his players. His approach to coaching, characterized by a focus on adaptability and player development, contributed to the building blocks of the Bulls’ future success.

Stan Albeck’s tenure with the Chicago Bulls was a crucial step in the team’s journey towards becoming an NBA powerhouse. His experience and coaching style were instrumental during a pivotal time in the franchise’s history, laying the groundwork for the successes that would follow.

Doug Collins (1986-1989)

Doug Collins, known for his dynamic coaching style and deep understanding of the game, served as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1986 to 1989. His tenure coincided with a crucial period in the franchise’s history, marked by the rise of Michael Jordan as one of the NBA’s premier talents.

Before taking the helm of the Bulls, Collins had a successful career as an NBA player and had started to make his mark as a coach. His approach to coaching was characterized by high energy and an emphasis on strong, aggressive defense coupled with a fast-paced offense. This style resonated well with the young and talented Bulls roster of the time.

During his time with the Bulls, Collins was instrumental in further developing the team’s play style and identity. Under his guidance, the Bulls made significant strides, particularly in the postseason. Collins helped lead the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 1988-1989 season, showcasing his ability to take the team deep into the playoffs.

One of the hallmarks of Collins’ tenure with the Bulls was his relationship with Michael Jordan. Collins recognized Jordan’s extraordinary ability and worked to maximize his impact on the court. This period saw Jordan achieve several personal milestones and further establish himself as a standout player in the league.

Doug Collins’ tenure with the Chicago Bulls was a key phase in the team’s evolution into a championship contender. His coaching philosophy and methods contributed greatly to the development of the team’s core players and set the stage for the success that the franchise would achieve in subsequent years. Collins’ impact on the Bulls remains a significant part of his legacy in the NBA.

Phil Jackson (1989-1998)

Phil Jackson, widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, served as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1998. His tenure with the Bulls is celebrated for its extraordinary success, including the team’s capture of six NBA championships, creating a dynasty that dominated the 1990s.

Before assuming the head coaching position, Jackson was an assistant coach for the Bulls and had a notable career as a player in the NBA. His coaching philosophy, heavily influenced by the principles of the triangle offense and a holistic approach to player management, revolutionized the way the game was played at the professional level.

Under Jackson’s guidance, the Bulls transformed into one of the most successful teams in NBA history. His ability to manage and motivate a roster of immensely talented players, including Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and later Dennis Rodman, was key to the Bulls’ dominance during this era. The triangle offense, implemented by Jackson and assistant coach Tex Winter, maximized the team’s offensive potential and brought a new level of strategic depth to the NBA.

Jackson’s tenure with the Bulls includes two three-peats of NBA championships, first from 1991 to 1993 and then again from 1996 to 1998. This era of the Bulls under Jackson is often remembered for its intense focus, unselfish play, and a winning culture that was nurtured both on and off the court.

Phil Jackson’s impact on the Chicago Bulls and the NBA at large is immeasurable. His innovative coaching techniques, combined with his unique philosophy and approach to the game, not only led to an unprecedented level of success for the Bulls but also left a lasting legacy on the sport of basketball.

Tim Floyd (1998-2001)

Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1954. He did not play professionally. He also coached the New Orleans Hornets (2003-2004).

Bill Cartwright (2001-2003)

Born in Lodi, California in 1957. Played from 1979-1995 for the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and the Seattle SuperSonics. The Chicago Bulls were the only NBA team he coached.

Pete Myers (2003)

Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1963. Played from 1986-1998 for various teams including the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, and the New York Knicks. The Chicago Bulls were the only NBA team he coached.

Scott Skiles (2003-2007)

Born in LaPorte, Indiana in 1964. Played from 1986-1996 for various teams including the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, Washington Bullets, and the Philadelphia 76ers. He also coached the Phoenix Suns (1999-2002), Milwaukee Bucks (2008-2013), and the Orlando Magic (2015-2016).

Jim Boylan (2007-2008)

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1955. He did not play professionally. He also coached the Milwaukee Bucks (2013).

Vinny Del Negro (2008-2010)

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1966. Played from 1988-2001 for the Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, and the Phoenix Suns. He also coached the Los Angeles Clippers (2010-2013).

Tom Thibodeau (2010-2015)

Born in New Britain, Connecticut in 1958. He did not play professionally. He also coached the Minnesota Timberwolves (2016-2019) and the New York Knicks (2020-Present).

Fred Hoiberg (2015-2018)

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1972. Played from 1995-2005 for the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Chicago Bulls were the only NBA team he coached.

Jim Boylen (2018-2020)

Born in East Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1965. He did not play professionally. The Chicago Bulls were the only NBA team he coached.

Billy Donovan (2020-Present)

Born in Rockville Centre, New York in 1965. Played from 1987-1988 for the New York Knicks. He also coached the Oklahoma City Thunder (2015-2020).

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  1. Avatar Essie Kerr January 12, 2024
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