OT: Worst coach to ever win a major championship?

Submitted by M-Wolverine on May 7th, 2010 at 5:10 PM

I had on the radio, and they were kind of making fun of Doc Rivers, who won an NBA Championship as coach of the Celtics. And it got me to thinking....who IS the worst coach to ever win a major championship...who can't you believe got a ring...?  Their team had to be really good to carry him (or her), or the competition had to collapse and open the way, something happened that this person won one or more championships coaching their team...but you never felt they were particularly good at it.  

I'm thinking winning it all, in any sport...not someone lucks into a Big Ten Championship because they don't play Michigan or Ohio State that year...really accomplished something.  But still having very little to do with that accomplishment.  Who would you nominate, who drives you crazy that they've won it all?



May 7th, 2010 at 6:04 PM ^

Gotta be Larry Coker.


I don't know how anybody could say Switzer.  If you only looked

at his college record you'd say he's a great (if dirty) coach.


That alone makes him better than guys like Coker.


May 7th, 2010 at 6:41 PM ^

NBA-  Doc Rivers.  I'm not old enough to remember Westhead, but I'll claim it was harder to win in the NBA in the early 80's.

MLB- Bob Brenly, D'backs.  He almost single handedly game another title to the Yankees.  Just rode Schilling and Johnson to the title , while allowing KIm to blow 3 straight games on 3 straight days...He pitched him 3 straight days when he threw 30 + pitches the first and 68 pitches on the 2nd!!!!  Did nothing else.

Cfootball- Coker although I'lld be willing to listen to MIles in a few years.  Right now he gets an incomplete

NFL- Switzer if you only count NFL ,   I can't think of another example.  The Indy coach would have been a phenemenal chocie if they would have won.


May 7th, 2010 at 6:54 PM ^

I'm not a big fan of Doc Rivers, but I'm not really sure how it would have been harder to win in the NBA in the 1980s.  Back then there were 23 teams.  Now there are 30.  Mathematically speaking, any team's odds of winning it all are reduced.


May 8th, 2010 at 7:06 PM ^

Back then, they expected you to have 3 great players to win (or 9 really good ones if you went the Pistons route).  Now, you're lucky to have two.  And can win it with one.  When the Celtics put together those 3, though hardly up to the greatness of yesteryear, they're a good deal ahead of the rest of the League.  

Earlier in the thread it was said that Gasol wasn't a HoF.  So you're basically have a defending and maybe 2 time champ with one great player.  The 80's greats of the Lakers, Sixers, Celtics, Pistons and Bulls would be running off a ridiculous amount of championships in a row if they were around now.  They just had to get through each other then, and won less (other than the Bulls, who came in at the tail end as all those teams were declining and dead, and had the League to themselves...one much worse than the League now, even).


May 8th, 2010 at 7:18 PM ^

If your talent is spread out too.  With the Celtics, it wasn't.  They acquired 3 great players, in a time when most others good teams had two.  I'm not sure it's much different now.  No one really thinks anyone but the Lakers will come out of the West, and there are 2-3 Eastern teams bashing it out.  So the matching level of competition may be the same, yes.  But the quality you were beating to get there is way down because of it.  So maybe it's not "easier"...maybe it's just less impressive. 

But pick your favorite team of yesteryear, and compare them position to position, player to player...and they just don't match up as well now.  Because some great player that would be the second or third options for a team then is playing for a team in...Memphis.


May 8th, 2010 at 7:37 PM ^

I agree that the championship teams of yesteryear had better depth than teams now, but that's neither here nor there.  The question was whether it's easier for a coach to win a championship now than it was 25 years ago.  I don't agree that it is.  The talent is more spread out and teams have to win four best-of-seven series to claim the title. 


May 7th, 2010 at 7:22 PM ^

Les Miles took what saban left him and won at LSU. Not a National Powerhouse anymore. Maybe not worst coach to win a championship. But he isn't a championship level coach.


May 7th, 2010 at 7:33 PM ^

Well, let's try and figure this out. My opinions:

(1) NBA - KC Jones. He didn't have to coach at all with Bird, McHale, and Parish on the Celtics.

(2) NFL - John Gruden. He won with Dungy's team.

(3) MLB - Brenley, listed above.


May 7th, 2010 at 8:03 PM ^

The guy did a tremendous job in Oakland going to back to back AFC title games after inheriting a mess (as most Raider coaches do).  In Tampa, I felt like he provided an extra spark to get them over the hump.  That was a veteran team that had perennially underachieved in the playoffs with Dungy (who wasn't much of a clutch performer with the Colts either).  After two down years following the Super Bowl win and the exodus of some older players, he went 11-5 and then had back to back 9-7 seasons to close out his tenure (not exactly running the team into the ground as some here have suggested).

I think if he had stayed in Oakland they would have won the title there (his knowledge of the Raiders was I think the big difference maker in that Super Bowl).

Blue Bunny Friday

May 7th, 2010 at 7:57 PM ^

He inherited a team after the regular season was over. Then, won his first 6 games with a really hot Glenn Rice, and 3 other successful pros.

Sure, he had the other 2 final fours (unofficially), but those had very little to do with coaching. 


May 7th, 2010 at 9:19 PM ^

Fisher was mediocre, and his "ostrich approach" to discipline set the groundwork for Ed Martin to gain a foothold into the program, but he was far from the worst coach to ever win a major championship.  The fact that he took a team that chronically underachieved under Bill Frieder and won the tournament with it has to count for something.

I don't really have an answer for this question because I have a tendency to respect anyone who wins a championship as a player or a coach, but I would definitely say no to Fisher even being considered.

South Bend Wolverine

May 8th, 2010 at 1:35 AM ^

I can't believe that no one mentioned this sooner in the thread.  His teams goon it up something awful, and he's had multiple disaster seasons.  Trouble is, the anarchy of college hockey playoffs, plus the fact that MSU will always recruit well in hockey (as we will as well, of course) lead him to stumble his way into that title a few years back.  Still pisses me off that he won, and that Kevin Porter didn't get one in his Hobey year.  Damn high-variance sport.


May 7th, 2010 at 9:18 PM ^

Don't most championship teams have good players? So why are you going to dock Phil Jackson? Sports are much more about the quality of your players than the quality of your coaching.

They answer has to be Westhead, because he was a loser over a decently sized career.

Pea-Tear Gryphon

May 7th, 2010 at 9:34 PM ^

How can Phil Jackson even be mentioned? He has 10 rings! It has to take good coaching to win Championships. If he's on the list, we might as well add Scotty Bowman. I mean look at the players he had to work with: Mahovlich (2), Lemaire, Lafluer, Tremblay, Dryden, Gainey, Robinson, Cournoyer with Montreal...Lemieux, Jagr, Francis, Tocchet, Barrasso with the Penguins (coming off a Cup in 91)...Yzerman, Federov, Konstantinov, Lidstrom, Hull, Shanahan, Robitaille, Datsyuk, Chelios, Hasek, Vernon, Osgood with the Wings.

That Bowman guy really must have sucked...I bet he couldn't have won one without all those players.

Dark Blue

May 7th, 2010 at 10:18 PM ^

I know that I've won some National Championships playing NCAA 10 and my play calling is pretty inconsisitent. So the answer to your question is me. I am the worst ever.


May 7th, 2010 at 11:12 PM ^

Straight up. Mike Keenan.

Universally hated in the NHL, yet just accomplished enough to have coached a dozen different teams. Won a Cup with Messier's Rangers, yet acknowledged widely as the most unlikeable dickhead in the history of coaching- by players and front office alike. 


May 8th, 2010 at 9:38 AM ^

Yes, yes, yes.  Crawford is a horrible coach, as well as Keenan.  He hasn't done crap since the Avs.  Plus he is just an overall douchebag.  He went after Scotty Bowman multiple times, plus the whole Steve Moore incident.  Sure, Burtuzzi has the rainstorm over his head because of Moore, but Crawford told him to do it.


May 8th, 2010 at 12:34 AM ^

Oosterban and Coker are probably the two NCAA football coaches on that list. They had virtually identical careers (won a national title the 1st year and eventually saw their programs plummet from not just their heights, but their historical norms). Coker can still write his story at UT-SA though while Oosterban, obviously, can not.


May 8th, 2010 at 12:45 AM ^

  • Didn't Tubby Smith win a NC at Kentucky?  If so, he's gotta be mentioned here somewhere.
  • He didn't win a Super Bowl, but he did somehow make one ... Bill Callahan.  What a horse's ass, how the hell was he ever successful at ANYTHING IN LIFE?


May 8th, 2010 at 4:08 AM ^

Slappie....Mike Keenan was/is a terrible coach. Messier won that Cup in New York, not Keenan....he's basically destroyed (albiet slowly) every organization he's coached in...thank God Mike Illitch was persuaded to not hire him instead of Scotty Bowman....

M Fanfare

May 8th, 2010 at 4:40 AM ^

Tom Kelly won two World Series with the Twins (1987 and 1991) but had a losing record for his manegerial career (1140-1244, .478) and had a sub-.500 record in 10 of his 15 years as manager. Lucky for him the two times he made the playoffs the Twins won it all.


May 8th, 2010 at 8:39 AM ^

going with tom kelly doesn't jim leyland have to be thrown into this conversation??? leyland has a .496 career winning percentage and the tigers are the only team that he has a winning record with... true he had a couple of great teams in pitt, a championship team BOUGHT for him in florida, but other than that what has he done since??? i'll give him a pass on the 1998 season because that team was sold off after the season was over, but he basically walked away from the rockies because he was "tired" of baseball... then he comes back and takes a tigers team that no one gave a chance to the world series and that has been it... since then his teams have underachieved, but yet the fans of detroit give him a free pass for it because of 2006...


May 8th, 2010 at 8:57 AM ^

I could have led the 2001 Maimi Hurricanes to the national title. The only game I can't fault him for losing was the 2002 championship game. The refs took that game into their own hands.


May 8th, 2010 at 11:13 AM ^

Tubby Smith hasn't done anything since winning it all with Pitino's team.  Definitely Larry Coker could take this title.  Doc Rivers was on the verge of being fired, then he was handed 2 hall of famers and all of the sudden he's great, I'm not buying it.  I hate to say this because I love Jon Gruden, but what has he really done since winning it all with Tony Dungy's team??

Blue boy johnson

June 26th, 2010 at 7:59 PM ^

save_me_forcier with his well thought out and reasoned arguments has convinced me, JIM "Dumb Ass" LEYLAND is the worst manager to ever win anything. Don't bother arguing with me, I'm frustrated, so of course, I'm right