Finding Wooden's Heir: Who Is Greatest Living Coach?
More than a man of an era, John Wooden was an era itself. His dominance on the court, temperament in situations that would've made Job himself shatter a clipboard in half and his ability to distill any bit a philosophy in a two-sentence homily, marked him alone as a separate period of college basketball.
Building upon his pyramid of success, Wooden created college basketball's first and only true dynasty, and, until his death Friday, remained the standard by which all coaches were judged.
So who fills the void left by the UCLA legend?
FanHouse editors and writers nominated the greatest living coaches from their respective sports. Cast your vote for the best.
Men's College Basketball
Mike Krzyzewski, Army (1975-1980), Duke 1980-present
Major Accomplishments: Four national championships, 11 Final Fours, 868 wins, 12 ACC championships, 2008 Olympic gold medal
The man who had to spell his markedly Polish, and markedly un-voweled, name at his introductory press conference at Duke – It's K-R-Z-Y-Z-E-W-S-K-I for the spellcheck impaired – now improbably has more Final Fours (11) than letters in his last name (10). Although his last name has since been reduced to a single letter, Coach K's legacy has grown immensely in its place. By the time the 63-year-old retires, he will have radically altered the NCAA record book. Krzyzewski will eclipse Bob Knight's all-time win record as early as next season (He needs 35 more in addition to his 868 to eclipse Knight' 902), his four national championships trail only Wooden, and he will match Wooden's NCAA record of 12 Final Fours with his next appearance in college basketball's final weekend. He's won with the best talent (His '92 team is the last to go wire-to-wire No. 1) and, in 2010, with an unlikely assortment of players. When USA Basketball needed a coach to revive the program's sliding fortunes, it was Krzyzewski, not an NBA coach, that was offered the position and steered the 'Redeem Team' to gold. With a graduation rate well above 90 percent and a bench full of former players as assistants, Krzyzewski lives his credo as a coach for life.
-- Ray Holloman
Bob Knight, Army (1965-1971), Indiana (1971-2000), Texas Tech (2001-2008)
Major Accomplishments: Three national championships, five Final Fours, 902 wins, 11 Big Ten championships, 1984 Olympic gold medal, NIT and CCAT Championship.
The General was the most polarizing coaching figure in all of sports for many years. Known just as much for his chair-throwing, expletive-laced tirades as his immense success, Knight became the most famous person in the state of Indiana for a span of nearly 30 years. Don't let the press conference blowups and hilarious quips take away from what Knight's troops accomplished on the court, though. In fact, a few different strokes of luck and he could have won five national titles. The 1975 Hoosiers were 30-0 before a two-point loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight and the 1993 Hoosiers were arguably the best team in the nation until power forward Alan Henderson (11.1 points per game, 8.1 rebounds) went down with a torn ACL immediately before the NCAA tourney (the Hoosiers were ranked No. 1 in the final regular season AP poll). As things stand, Knight is the current record-holder for Division-I men's basketball victories and only John Wooden, Adolph Rupp and Mike Krzyzewski, a Knight protege, have won more national titles.
-- Matt Snyder
Dean Smith North Carolina (1961-1997)
Major Accomplishments: Two national championships, 11 Final Fours, 879 wins, 13 ACC championships, 1976 Gold Medal, 1971 NIT championship
Dean Smith majored in math while an undergrad at Kansas, which would prove prescient. He would need all the expertise possible to corral the towering numbers he put up as North Carolina's longtime coach. He won 879 games, the record at the time of his retirement, went to 11 Final Fours despite the NCAA tournament only including conference champions until 1975, and did so retiring at 66. Smith was as consistent as he was excellent. For 27 straight seasons, his teams won at least 20 games, and in 23 straight seasons, the Tar Heels qualified for the NCAA tournament, including a record 13-year run where the team advanced at least to the Sweet 16 every year. But Smith's legacy extends beyond numbers. He all but perfected the motion offense, contributed to the development of fast break offenses and employed the Four Corners offense to devastating effect. Smith was also an early proponent of tempo-free statistics, judging his team on points per possession. Socially, he was a progressive voice during his three decades as one of North Carolina's most visible personalities. And if a coach is judged on an ability to prepare others to succeed, Smith's coaching tree is more of a forest, boasting George Karl, Larry Brown, current Tar Heels' coach Roy Williams and several others. Not bad for a man hung in effigy after four years on the job.
National Basketball Association
Phil Jackson, Chicago (1989-98, Los Angeles Lakers 1999-2004 and 2005-present)
Major Accomplishments: Eleven NBA championships, One-time Coach of the Year (1995-96), Most Playoff Wins by a coach in NBA history (225) and Best Playoff Winning Percentage (.693), Hall of Fame inductee in 2007.
Forget calling Phil Jackson "The Zen Master," even if the moniker perfectly reflects the ideology of the most successful courtside caller the game has ever seen. His nickname should be "The Charmed Champion."
A back injury in 1970 may have kept him out of the New York Knicks' championship run, but it sparked his unexpected desire to coach as he soaked up the legendary lessons from Red Holzman. Nearly 20 years later, Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause gave Jackson his first head coaching job and an assistant named Tex Winter was retained on Jackson's staff. Winter taught Jackson the triangle offense that would be the framework of his legacy, and the only thing missing was a cast of characters worthy of his teachings. There was always a perfect match, from the game's best player in Michael Jordan to his only modern era threat for that crown in Kobe Bryant and so many of their memorable teammates along the way. Jackson was a master of motivation throughout, molding and managing egos and talents with his one-of-a-kind cerebral style.
-- Sam Amick
Major League Baseball
Earl Weaver: Baltimore Orioles (1968-1982, 1985-1986)
Major Accomplishments: 1970 World Series championship, four pennants, .583 winning percentage
The Hall of Fame manager led the Baltimore Orioles to one World Series title and four American League pennants, running the team for 17 years. His career winning percentage of .583 ranks ninth all-time, which is best among living managers. Weaver never had a losing season until his last year, 1986. His teams won over 100 games five times. Weaver wrote two books on baseball strategy, "Weaver on Strategy" and "It's What You Know After You Know It All That Counts." He is considered one of the first managers to fully the appreciate the value of on-base percentage, so he chose not to give up outs with "small ball." Weaver said he relied on: "Pitching, defense and three-run homers."
-- Jeff Fletcher
Tony La Russa: Chicago White Sox (1979-1986), Oakland A's (1986-1995), St. Louis Cardinals (1996-present)
Major Accomplishments: Two World Series championships, five pennants, 12 division championships, one wild card, 2,585 wins (third all-time)
The current manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, La Russa has been continuously employed as a major league manager for 34 years. He also managed the White Sox and Oakland A's, leading Oakland to three consecutive pennants and a World Series title in 1989. La Russa won the World Series with the Cardinals in 2006, making him and Sparky Anderson the only managers to win a World Series in each league. La Russa has been profiled for his managerial acumen in two books, George Will's "Men at Work" in 1991 and Buzz Bissinger's "Three Nights in August" in 2006.
Bobby Cox: Atlanta Braves (1978-1981, 1990-present), Toronto Blue Jays (1982-1985)
Major Accomplishments: 1995 World Series championship, five pennants, 14 consecutive division championships, 2,455 wins (fourth all-time)
The Braves were doormats of the National League before Cox arrived in 1990, and he helped lead them to 14 consecutive division titles, starting in 1991. The Braves won the World Series under Cox in 1995,and they reached the World Series four other times. Cox also managed the Braves from 1978-81 and the Blue Jays from 1982-85. He has announced his plans to retire at the end of his season. Despite all of his accomplishments, Cox is best known for being the most-ejected manager in major league history. He has been tossed from games 154 times.
National Hockey League
Scotty Bowman: St. Louis Blues (1967-1971), Montreal Canadiens (1971-79), Buffalo Sabres (1978-1985), Pittsburgh Penguins (1991-93), Detroit Red Wings (1993-2002)
Major Accomplishments: Nine Stanley Cups, NHL-best 1,248 regular season wins, NHL-best 243 playoff victories
Bowman is the only man in the history of major professional North American teams sports (NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL) to lead three different franchises to league championships. A masterful teacher, his coaching was effective across generations, from the dynastic Canadiens of the 1970s to the dominant Red Wings early this century. Bowman won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in 1977 in Montreal and 1996 in Detroit. At age 76, he is still held in such high regard today that he is a Senior Advisor for the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks Stanley Cup win earlier this month resulted in the 12th Stanley Cup ring for Bowman as a coach or executive.
-- Christopher Botta
Al Arbour: St. Louis Blues (1970-73), New York Islanders (1973-86, 1988-1991 and one game in 2007-08)
Major Accomplishments: Four Stanley Cups, led Islanders to a record 19 consecutive playoff series victories, No. 2 in NHL history in regular season wins (782) and games coached (1,607)
While his mentor Scotty Bowman has shattered the record books for wins and Stanley Cups, Arbour merits discussion among the greatest living coaches for his unparalleled work with one franchise. In Arbour's second season with the Islanders, he took a third-expansion franchise to within one game of the Stanley Cup Final. In the second round, his team became just the second (after the 1942 Maple Leafs) to overcome a 3-0 playoff series deficit. Arbour's greatest achievement -- one of the most underrated in sports history -- is leading the Islanders to 19 straight playoff series victories. Behind Arbour, the Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups between 1980 and 1983 before losing in the Cup Final to Edmonton in 1984. The 19 straight series wins mark is unsurpassed and may never be broken in the modern era.
National Football League
Chuck Noll: Pittsburgh Steelers (1969-1991)
Major Accomplishments: Four Super Bowl championships, 209 wins (fifth-most all-time), 16-8 postseason record (fourth-best ever)
In 1969, the Pittsburgh Steelers were a middling to poor NFL franchise with a loyal local following but no real fans outside western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Within a decade, the black and gold from western Pennsylvania rivaled Dallas for the title of "America's Team'' after four Super Bowl victories is six seasons between 1974-79.
The reason was Chuck Noll.
He wasn't even the first choice to turn around the franchise after Dan Rooney, son of the team's founder, Art Rooney Sr., took over the day-to-day operation. Rooney first looked east toward Penn State and its very successful young coach, Joe Paterno, who after a lot of consideration decided to continue coaching college kids. His second choice was Noll, who had been a guard for the Cleveland Browns from 1953-59 but, more relevantly, had been defensive coordinator of the 1968 Baltimore Colts, who had finished 13-1 and then lost Super Bowl III 16-7 to the New York Jets.
Noll's defensive record in Baltimore carried over to the Steelers, where he built the "Steel Curtain'' defense, the primary reason for those Super Bowl victories. His first first-round pick was defensive tackle Joe Greene, who as "Mean Joe Greene'' became the heart of that defense. Noll's Steelers were 1-13 in his first season but had turned it around by 1972, when the "Immaculate'' reception that bounced off Frenchy Fuqua into the hands of Franco Harris got them to the AFC title game. Two years later, after a draft that produced four Hall of Famers in the first five rounds, they were off to the first of their Super Bowls.
-- Dave Goldberg
Bill Parcells: New York Giants (1983-1990), New England Patriots (1993-1996), New York Jets (1997-1999), Dallas Cowboys (2003-2006)
Major Accomplishments: Two Super Bowl championships, five league championships, eight division championships
Parcells' NFL coaching career ended before it started. Or at least it almost did. Parcells, who had been the head coach at Air Force in 1978, accepted an offer from the New York Giants' head coach, Ray Perkins, to coach linebackers. Then he turned it down because his wife Judy wanted to keep their children in high school in Colorado and spent 1979 selling real estate. He returned to coaching as an assistant with New England in 1980, where his charges nicknamed him "Tuna'' because, they thought, his build was like the fictional "Charlie the Tuna.'' He signed on as the Giants' defensive coordinator in 1981 when George Young, the team's general manager, broke his own rule: "The first time I ever hired a guy who quit on me.''
Parcells' arrival in the Meadowlands coincided with the arrival of the second pick in the draft, linebacker Lawrence Taylor. New York made the playoffs in 1981 for the first time in 18 years and Parcells and Taylor got the credit. Named head coach at the end of the1982 season, when Perkins left to succeed Bear Bryant at Alabama. Parcells barely survived his first year, 1983, when he went 3-12-1 and cleaned out a team riddled with drugs -- all but one of many players with drug problems, the one nicknamed "L.T.,'' were traded or cut and Parcells' team never turned back. It made the playoffs again in 1984 and 1985, won Super Bowls after the 1986 season and faltered only in 1987, a strike year. Parcells, who had heart problems, left after winning a second Super Bowl following the 1990 season, turned to broadcasting and returned in 1993 to coach New England, taking over a 1-15 team that he got to 10-6 within two seasons and the Super Bowl in three.
But he left there after losing the title game to Green Bay, heading for the New York Jets with the iconic line "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." He got the Jets to the AFC title game in 1999, then stepped down as coach, spending one year as head of football operations. In 2003, he took over in Dallas and in 2008, he took over in Miami as the head football man, leading a team that had won one game in 2007 to 11-5 and an AFC East title.
Overall, his record in 19 seasons as a head coach with the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys was 172-130-1 with two titles and a third trip to a Super Bowl. He also developed coaching talent well. His 1990 team had two future Super Bowl winning coaches as assistants _ Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin _ as well as future NFL coaches Romeo Crennel, Al Groh and Ray Handley and future Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis.
Bill Belichick: Cleveland Browns (1985-1990), New England Patriots (2000-present)
Major Accomplishments: Three Super Bowl championships, four league championships, eight division championships
Late in the 1990 season, the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, a 38-year-old named Bill Belichick, asked general manager George Young if he would be considered for the team's head coaching job, soon to be vacated by Bill Parcells. "No,'' Young said. "You're not ready to deal with the people away from the game.''
Young was prophetic. Belichick got a head coaching job the next year anyway but it was in Cleveland, where he had just limited success _ feuding daily with the media and posting a 37-45 record in five seasons, getting fired when the team left for Baltimore. Ironically, that was close to Belichick's hometown, Annapolis, Md., where he grew up as the son of an assistant coach at the Naval Academy and got his first job as an NFL assistant at age 23 with the then-Baltimore Colts.
After leaving Cleveland, Belichick rejoined Parcells, first with the Patriots and then with the Jets, where he was designated as the head-coach-in waiting. But when Parcells stepped down in 1999, he was head man for three days, then quit to go back to New England, presumably to get out from under the shadow of the man who had been his mentor.
It would be understating it to say he has been a huge success _ three Super Bowl victories and 126 victories in his first decade, more than any NFL coach in history. No, he would never win a popularity contest with anyone _ media, opposing coaches and fans or league officials _ but he's one of the most successful coaches ever..
He won his first Super Bowl with the Patriots after the 2001 season, won again in 2003 and then in 2004, the only repeat champions in a decade marked by parity. He survived "Spygate,'' the episode in which he was fined $5000 after a team employee was caught filming the Jets' signals from the sidelines and his team remains an annual contender, thanks in large part to Tom Brady, a sixth-round draft choice who with the Colts Peyton Manning are the standards for NFL quarterbacks.
Joe Paterno: Penn State (1966-present)
Major Accomplishments: 394 wins (most ever for FBS), two national championships, three Big Ten championships, 24 bowl game victories (most ever)
Arriving in Happy Valley as a 23-year-old football assistant after a college career at Brown University where he still, improbably, is tied for the all-time career interception record with 14, Paterno spent fifteen years as an assistant before becoming the head coach. That means 2010 represents Paterno's sixtieth consecutive year coaching on campus.
With a career record of 394-129-3 Paterno is the all-time winningest coach in major college history and in 44 seasons as head coach he has had winning records in 38 of them. Paterno has two national titles alongside three Big Ten championships -- Penn State didn't join the league until 1991 -- and even if he's recently received lasik surgery and no longer needs them, his iconic black eyeglasses will be a staple at Happy Valley home games for decades to come.
Despite his success, Paterno has always remained a fervent fan of a college football playoff. Perhaps that's because he's never forgotten the four undefeated teams of his that finished the regular season and won their bowl games yet received no title consideration. Most recently that occurred in 1994, when Paterno's team finished second in the country and never received a chance to play for the championship.
After losing a court battle over the publication of his salary, in 2007, it was revealed that Paterno made just over $500,000 a year, far beneath many of his less successful contemporaries. Asked if that was too little money given his success, Paterno bristled, "I've got all the money I need."
-- Clay Travis
Women's College Basketball
Pat Summitt: Tennessee (1974-present)
Major accomplishments: Most national championships in women's basketball with eight. Only Division I coach to reach 1,000 wins. 18 trips to the Final Four. Career record of 1035-196.
So maybe she has to share her space at the top of the marquee these days with rival Geno Auriemma at Connecticut, but Summitt is still perhaps the most recognizable figure in the game -- not to mention college basketball's all-time winningest coach. She has 1,035 career victories and the iciest stare in all of sports. She is demanding and unrelenting and unquestionably hard on the players who take the court wearing orange and baby blue. But just ask Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker. She gets results.
-- Michelle Smith
Geno Auriemma: Connecticut (1985-present)
Major Accomplishments: 7 NCAA titles; 11 Final Fours, career record 735-122, six-time Naismith Coach of the Year.
Before Auriemma arrived, Connecticut had just one winning season in program history. But today, the Huskies are the biggest brand-name in the game and it's all thanks to the fiery, hard-driving head coach who knows how to get the best out of his players. Auriemma is the current crown prince of women's college basketball. His team has won two straight titles and 78 games in a row, making a serious run at the NCAA record of 88, owned by John Wooden's UCLA team. He will coach the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 in London. Auriemma gets the best players in the country to come to his program and then gets them to play at their best, even in the face of nightly blowout victories. The list of players who have come through his program is an Hall of Fame induction ceremony waiting to happen: Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Rebecca Lobo, Swin Cash, Tina Charles and Maya Moore.
Sir Alex Ferguson (East Stirlingshire 1974, St. Mirren 1974-78, Aberdeen 1978-86, Manchester United 1986-Present)
Major Accomplishments: Eleven English Premier League Championships, two UEFA Champions League championships, nine-time EPL Manager of the Year. 1999 treble (Premier League title, FA Cup and Champions League)
Ferguson built Manchester United into the premier brand name of English Premier League football, and perhaps the game worldwide, after taking over the lagging club in 1986. He's had tremendous talent, with stars like David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, and has turned it into the most impressive cache of victories anywhere in the world, packing the club's trophy case as densely as the stands at Old Trafford. The zenith of Sir Alex's career came in 1999, when his team won the EPL title, FA Cup and Champions league, scoring twice in injury time for the 2-0 win and only such treble in EPL history.
John McDonnell (Arkansas, 1972-2008)
Major Accomplishments: 40 NCAA championships, 84 league titles, 30 time national coach of the year.
Few coaches can look down upon John Wooden's 10 national titles, but only one can wonder what all the fuss is about. McDonnell, who took over the Arkansas cross country program in 1972 and all three disciplines in 1977, won 42 national championships (two were later vacated because of violations involving sprint star Tyson Gay), coached 25 Olympians and 184 All Americans. McDonnell certainly had more opportunities to win championships than other NCAA coaches, but his 12 consecutive titles in indoor track from 1984-1995 are the record for any Division I team in any sport. As for dominance, from 1984-85 until his retirement in 2008, a total of 69 NCAA championships were awarded. McDonnell won 40, everyone else combined for 29.