Ah, prohibition. “The Noble Experiment,” kick-started by the 18th Amendment
Aside from a marquee player, a solid all-around team, and an owner or organization willing to get the right personnel in the room, having a good coach is crucial in the success of a franchise or a team. Rarely does a legend patrol the sidelines, and only one coach in each sport can be considered “the best,” when considering titles they’ve won and wins they’ve accumulated.
Here are the best coaches from the five major sports, and the two major college sports, based on titles and win percentages, appearances in title games, etc… Of course, these are up for debate, but these are the ones who stand above the rest to me, if only just barely.
NFL – DON SHULA
Bill Belichick may have something to say about this, as would Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, and a handful of other wildly successful football coaches. But Shula has a few advantages, including being the winningest coach in NFL history with a record of 347-173-6. That is far and away the best record of any NFL coach. On top of that, Shula is still the only coach to lead an undefeated team in the 1972 Dolphins. While he only won two Super Bowls, those other two bullet points set him apart.
NBA – PHIL JACKSON
Red Auerback, who won nine titles in 11 years with the Boston Celtics, is right behind Jackson. But it is Jackson and Jackson alone who has a ring for each finger and another to spare. Jackson’s 11 rings, six with the Bulls and five with the Lakers, is unmatched and will be hard for even the best coach in the game today, Gregg Popovich (five titles) to come close. Jackson had the best talent in the game wherever he went, but he still managed incredible egos and got it all to work.
MLB – JOE McCARTHY
Joe McCarthy is not a name familiar to the younger crowd, but there is no denying his prowess as a baseball manager. He managed the Cubs, Yankees, and Red Sox over a span of 24 years, but clearly he found his biggest success in New York. McCarthy has a total of 7 World Series titles with the Yankees and 9 pennants throughout his career from 1926-1950. He also has the highest winning percentage and the most wins as a Yankees manager at 1,460. That’s impressive in and of itself.
NHL – SCOTTY BOWMAN
There is no real debate as to who is the most successful coach in the ranks of hockey history. Scotty Bowman coached nearly thirty years in the NHL, but it wasn’t until the 90s when he found his first real success. He won his first Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 1991, and moved over to the Detroit Red Wings where he created a dynasty. With the Red Wings, Bowman won three Cups, and has 500 more wins overall (1,244) than the next closest coach, Al Arbour (782).
SOCCER – ALEX FERGUSON
Now soccer is a bit of a lost sport on me, but a number of different sites keeping records on soccer coaches point at Ferguson as the biggest champion. His resume speaks for itself. Ferguson has brought home 38 trophies, which is staggering. That breaks down to 13 league titles, two Champions League titles, four League cups, five FA cups, among others. He has also won 1,500 games as a head coach, so I will go with Ferguson because it doesn’t seem that there is anyone else close to his wins and titles.
NCAA FOOTBALL – JOHN GAGLIARDI
Another unfamiliar name to most, Gagliardi is the most successful coach in NCAA history despite coaching lower-level college football. Gagliardi coached for an astounding 64 years, 64! He won four National Championships for St. John’s, and he won the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference 27 times. While he doesn’t have the marketability or fame of Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden, or Joe Paterno, Gagliardi has almost 100 more wins than his closest competitor at 489-138-11.
NCAA BASKETBALL – JOHN WOODEN
Again, there is nobody close to the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. Wooden coaches the UCLA Bruins for 27 years, and his teams dominated the sport in the late 60s and early 70s. Wooden won 10 titles with the Bruins, which is unmatched in NCAA history. The next closest coach in the title department is Mike Krzyzewski, who just took home his fifth championship this week.