Sporting News’ 50 Greatest Coaches List – Some Hits, Some Misses

The Sporting News pretty much stays out of the news these days, but they did raise some controversy this week when they released their poll of the 50 greatest coaches of all time. I absolutely agree with their choice of UCLA’s John Wooden as the greatest coach in any sport. As should be the case, the vote was not even close, with the Wizard receiving 57 first place votes, from the TSN panel of 118 “experts”. Unfortunately, many of their last 49 choices miss the mark.

The list includes only six additional college basketball coaches and five NBA coaches, and none of them, incredibly, is Larry Brown. His omission is the most glaring misstep on the list. The list contains ten NFL coaches, and eighth among them, and number 20 overall, is Bill Belichick, who should be the second-ranked pro football coach, following the list’s number two, Vince Lombardi. Also as to NFL coaches, the bottom two, Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells, at numbers 26 and 33 overall respectively, should be above the higher-ranked Paul Brown, George Halas, Joe Gibbs, and Tom Landry.

Their ranking of college football coaches is not too badly composed, but I would elevate Bud Wilkinson, number 29 overall, from the seventh spot among college football coaches, to the third spot, behind only Bear Bryant and Knute Rockne, and I’d make Rockne number one, not Bryant.

As to the five NHL coaches that made the list, perhaps Scotty Bowman deserves to be higher overall than number seven, and there are dozens of coaches from other sports who deserve the last spot, over Herb Brooks. He’s listed as an NHL coach, and that does not merit him a spot on the list. Call him an Olympic Hockey coach, and there is at least a sentimental and patriotic basis for his selection.

The list includes ten MLB managers, with the over-hyped, over-indluged, and over-rated NY Yankee Casey Stengel on top, at number nine overall. Give him Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, and the like, and he can win pennants. He managed three other teams, before and after the scumstripes, and to call his performances mediocre would be overly generous. He still owns, at least until the Washington National’s current season comes to a close, the worst single-season record in major league history, with the 1962 Mets. For my money, in following MLB as close as I have for more than 50 years, and in reading and studying much of early baseball history, the four best managers I have seen, are Walter Alston, Tony La Russa, Sparky Anderson, and Joe Torre. Their listings at numbers 35, 41, 38, and 32, respectively, are absurd. The four should all be in the list’s top 20 overall.

Finally, how could the panel waste valuable, limited positions on the list with the inclusion of not one, but two, woman’s basketball coaches?

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