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NBA coaching tales and the reality of who is the best in the business?

Steve Kerr’s decision-making rarely has been questioned.

From his days as a championship point guard with the Bulls and Spurs to the leap he made from the broadcast booth to the Warriors’ coaching job, Kerr has very few stumbles on his résumé.

Forgotten on his journey, however, was the job he almost took in 2014. Phil Jackson was running the Knicks — eventually into the ground — and Kerr was close to taking a bite out of the Big Apple rather than coaching the Warriors.

If he would have taken the Knicks’ coaching job, the Warriors had a Plan B for a roster on the verge of a championship run. His name was Fred Hoiberg.

While reports of how interested the parties were in coming together have been downplayed, Hoiberg privately thought the job with the Warriors was his, with all signs pointing toward Kerr going to the Knicks.

It obviously didn’t play out that way for Hoiberg, who was coaching Iowa State at the time. Kerr pivoted at the last minute and headed to the Bay Area, leaving Hoiberg to be hired by the Bulls.

Fast-forward almost a decade, and Kerr has four NBA championships with the Warriors, is regarded as a top-five coach in the league and is coaching Team USA in the World Cup.

Hoiberg, meanwhile, learned quickly about the dysfunction in the Bulls’ organization and was back coaching in college after three-plus seasons.

That raises the question about whether Hoiberg would have had the same — or at least similar — success Kerr has had if he would have been handed a Warriors roster tailor-made to become a dynasty.

It’s an interesting thought.

But it still doesn’t change the fact that Kerr ranks among the top five coaches in the NBA heading into the 2023-24 season.

Those who just missed out include the Bulls’ Billy Donovan, the Hawks’ Quin Snyder, the Kings’ Mike Brown, the Pistons’ Monty Williams, the 76ers’ Nick Nurse and the Pacers’ Rick Carlisle.

5. Kerr, Warriors

Yes, he was handed a ready-made title team. But there is also something to be said about dealing with championship personalities year after year and keeping a group focused.

If Kerr can continue winning post-Stephen Curry & Co., then there no longer will be an argument about just how good he is in the coaching chair.

4. Michael Malone, Nuggets

Malone was coaching up Nikola Jokic before he was known as the ‘‘Joker’’ and was a two-time NBA MVP. What lands Malone in the top five is his ability to excel in player development. His young talent gets better.

Even before the Nuggets’ run to the title last season, Malone coached them back from two 3-1 series deficits in the 2020 playoffs.

He taught a group how to crawl, then to walk, then — finally — to win.

3. Tom Thibodeau, Knicks

Name another NBA coach who has taken dysfunctional organizations such as the Bulls, Timberwolves and Knicks to the postseason.

Name another NBA coach who turned Joakim Noah into an MVP candidate, helped Nate Robinson become a player worth a multiyear contract extension, saved D.J. Augustin’s career, ended a 13-year playoff drought and took the Knicks to the second round of the postseason for the first time in a decade.

Thibodeau’s latest defensive prodigy? Look at what he’s done for big man Mitchell Robinson, who posted a 109.5 defensive rating last season.

2. Gregg Popovich, Spurs

The fastball obviously has slowed down, but ‘‘Pop’’ might have one last masterpiece to paint if he can turn rookie Victor Wembanyama into the next big thing.

And while Popovich’s five rings are stellar, it’s more than just the X’s and O’s players rave about when talking about him. It’s what he teaches them about life.

‘‘He challenged me beyond my imagination on and off the court to develop, to be a better individual,’’ Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan has said about his time with Popovich.

1. Erik Spoelstra, Heat

There’s nothing wrong with being a disciple of Pat Riley, especially when it comes to Spoelstra’s ability to do more with less.

Spoelstra has won with elite talent, such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but he also has made Finals runs with lesser talent, as evidenced by last season.

He is a master tactician and motivator who pushes players to do whatever it takes for the team to succeed. ‘‘Heat Culture’’ is a real thing, and Spoelstra is the face of it. 



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