SPORTS

Stars Who Become Coaches Are Often Flops

3/1/2006

When great ones decide to coach, the results are often ugly. The conventional wisdom is that it’s the card-punching players, the Pat Quinns and Mike Scioscias of this world that make the best coaches mostly because the game didn’t come so



When great ones decide to coach, the results are often ugly. The conventional wisdom is that it’s the card-punching players, the Pat Quinns and Mike Scioscias of this world that make the best coaches mostly because the game didn’t come so easy to them. They are better able to relate with their team’s lesser talents, help them address their limitations, and eventually overcome them. Mentoring takes great patience and often stars become frustrated when their players don’t suddenly morph into younger clones of themselves in their heyday. While there have been anomalies like Larry Bird and Larry Robinson who is noted below, just as shooting stars burn bright and then burn out, star athletes bit by the coaching bug tend to fade fast.

Ted Lindsay
Teams Coached Detroit Red Wings, Record: 5-21-3
A rottweiler on the rink, Hall of fame winger Ted Lindsay earned the nickname “Terrible Ted” during his playing days. His rock’em sock’em style landed him the penalty box for a whopping 1808 minutes over his career. The “Terrible” tag became a double entendre when Lindsay signed on to whip the Red Wings into shape at the tail end of their 1979 campaign replacing Bobby Kromm. Lindsay was released from his duties twenty games into the 1980 season after the “dead things” failed to reanimate—managing to muster only three victories.

Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain
Teams Coached: The 1974 edition of the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors
Record: 37-47
As a player Chamberlain averaged an awesome 30.1 points per game over fourteen seasons, won the league MVP five times, and allegedly made love to 20 000 women. As a coach Chamberlain wasn’t quite so prolific. Chamberlain lasted just one lackluster season with the Conquistadors and it ended ignominiously in defeat in the first round of the playoffs to the Utah Stars.

Bart Starr
Teams Coached: Green Bay Packers Record 52-76
The Cheese heads legendary passer spearheaded the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl I and II victories earning him MVP honors in both championship games. During a nine-year run on the sidelines from 1975-1983, Starr’s Packers stunk as bad as moldy muenster. They managed just one postseason appearance in 1982, a short-lived drive that was easily derailed by the Dallas Cowboys 37-26 in the NFC Divisional Playoff.

Larry Robinson
Teams Coached: Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils Record 195-210-64*
Affectionately known as “Big Bird” because of his imposing size, Robinson won six Stanley Cups, thee Canada Cups and two Norris Trophies for being the league’s best defenseman over his twenty year playing career. As a coach Robinson’s winning ways have continued. He led the New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup title in 2000 and he got them back to the finals the following year where they were outmatched by the Colorado Avalanche in a seven game sizzler.
*Still active (Record as of press time)

Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Teams Coached: Los Angeles Lakers Record: 5-11
A magician on the hard court, Johnson led the Lakers to five championships in the '80s and was an integral part of the original 'Dream Team'' which won gold at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona. In 1994 Magic took up the Lakers coaching reigns for the final 16 games of the season. The team rallied at first winning five of their first six games but followed that with nine straight losses, the longest skid in team history. Magic declined an offer to return the following season as the head coach, instead purchasing an ownership interest in the Lakers and taking a front office role with the team.

Ted Williams
Teams Coached: Washington Senators, Texas Rangers Record: 273-364
The Splendid Splinter was the best hitter baseball has ever seen. Williams was the last player to bat .400 in a season, he won a pair of triple crowns and league MVP honors and was elected to 17 all-star teams. While his coaching career got off to a good start in 1969, he managed the Washington Senators through their first winning season, things soon deteriorated. Williams winning percentage fell markedly in each of his subsequent seasons manning the bench.

Maurice “Rocket” Richard
Teams Coached: Quebec Nordiques Record: 0-1**
The man who made the Montreal Canadiens the Montreal Canadiens led Les Habitants to Stanley Cup glory eight times over his eighteen year career with the team (1944, '46, '53 and 1956-1960). Richard’s coaching career however was over as quick as one of his wrist shots by the keeper. Named the first head coach of the WHA’s Quebec Nordiques in 1972, Richard realized coaching wasn’t his cup of cocoa after getting shutout in the opener against a Cleveland Barons squad backstopped by Gerry Cheevers.
**Due to poor WHA record keeping it is unclear whether Richard coached one or two games before being replaced by Maurice Filion.

Jury is still out on WAYNE GRETZKY Head Coach: Phoenix Coyotes
Wayne Gretzky may have been the "Great One" as a player but tasked with transforming
the Phoenix Coyotes into playmaking whizzes with jedi-like reflexes and prescient ice vision is a tough slog. The Coyotes were easy prey last season winning just 22 contests, and he’s already bested that but with the club unlikely to crack into the playoffs, the juries still out on Gretzky, we’ll have to give him another season behind the bench before we can really grade his effectiveness behind the bench.

Copyright © Mike Dojc, 2006

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