The Dark Horse Candidates
Nate McMillan has 722 career wins at the time of this article, which places him at 18th all-time. He is 57 years old, which reasonably gives him another 10 years in the league or more if he chooses to postpone retirement. To even come close to the current record at his current pace of winning 44 games a season, it will take until 2041. By then, McMillan will be 76. I doubt he’ll be coaching at that age, given that his career hasn't been that illustrious so far.
Rick Carlisle is a very good NBA coach and has amassed 859 wins in 20 seasons with three teams, so he will need 16 more seasons to break the record, and by then he will be 78. Popovich is 73, so Carlisle coaching until he is in his late 70s isn’t incredibly far-fetched, especially when you consider the rapid growth of medical technology.
However, this projection is based on his winning percentage over his entire career. Carlisle spent time with the “go to work” Pistons, the final seasons of the Reggie Miller-led Pacers, and the Dirk Nowitzki Mavs. Currently, he is coaching the awful Indiana Pacers. The Pacers do have some young talent, but won’t be a Carlisle-average .539 winning percentage team anytime soon, so my age 78 projection might be a little early.
Doc Rivers is the only other active coach who has surpassed 1,000 career wins and will need eight more full seasons to catch up to Pop. By that point, Rivers will only be 68. This seems more than reasonable. He has only missed the playoffs five times in 23 seasons and is one of the most prestigious coaches in the league. He only ever brings his talents to contenders.
However, he only has one ring to show for it. He is a choke artist in the playoffs. Mike Prada breaks it down below.
The continual playoff blunders might catch up to Rivers soon, and depending on how his pairing of Joel Embiid and James Harden goes in the playoffs this season, he could very likely become a Ben Simmons-type outcast. He can only coast on his 2008 title for so long, so it seems unlikely that he remains on his current pace to break the record around 2030.
Let's look at some of the more serious contenders.