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4 Tom Thibodeau
Thibodeau, who spent more than two decades as an assistant before finally getting his first head-coaching opportunity, with Chicago in 2010, has thrived using a disciplined system and a relentless defensive mentality. He tied the NBA record for wins by a rookie coach (62) and has the Bulls safely in the playoffs this year, despite playing without '11 MVP Derrick Rose since the start of the season.
5 Erik Spoelstra
Think coaching superstars is easy? Ask Mike D'Antoni. A Riley disciple, Spoelstra, 42, is a skilled tactician whose greatest gift is a Jackson-like ability to manage oversized egos. And he's not winning only because of his Big Three: Before LeBron James and Chris Bosh arrived, Spoelstra averaged 45 wins in two seasons.
6 George Karl
The venerable Karl is an innovative offensive mind who coaches a player-friendly up-tempo style. Though he can be combative, Karl's candor is respected by players, and his success—he is the only active coach with more than 1,000 wins—speaks for itself.
7 Rick Adelman