By Tom Hunter (@)
The NCAA Football season started this past weekend, the NFL kicks off tomorrow, and the NHL is only a month away. So that means I’m running out of time to post nonsense offseason filler. With that in mind, here are my top-10 fictional coaches from movies and TV.
Before you get into the list, no Reggie Dunlop is not there – he’s an overrated coach in an overrated movie – and there will be no Gordon Bombay. I couldn’t with good conscious put Bombay on the list when he’s not even the best coach in his own movie.
It was very hard ot leave Lou Brown from Major League off the list, but he was the manager of an imensely talanted team. His only significant contribution was realizing his best pitcher needs glasses.
10. Danny O’Shea – Little Giants
The little brother of the hot shot figurehead of a small town football program, O’Shea assembled a group of kids more reminiscent of the Little Rascals than a Pee Wee football team. His team is made up of players that were either cut from the main team or who had never considered playing football before.
After growing up in his brother’s shadow, Danny is able to draw on personal experience and rally his team around embracing the role of the underdog.
If they all come together and do their best at the same time, the underdog could come out on top – and that’s exactly what happens. O’Shea takes a group of kids that don’t believe they belong and give them the ability to not only compete, but to succeed.
9. Joe Riggins – Bull Durham
Riggins was the epitome of a minor league manager. He’s tired, worn out and just wants to get through the baseball season.
“You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball. Sometimes, you win. Sometimes you lose, and sometimes … it rains.” – It is obvious that Riggins just gets baseball.
He pretends that he doesn’t give a shit when he needs to, he delegates to his pitching coach when he needs to, and he throws baseball bats while yelling at naked men in the shower when he has to. Tell me, what else is needed in a high-end motivator?
8. Tony D’Amato – Any Given Sunday
There’s not a whole lot to say. Just watch this speech
7. Irv Blitzer – Cool Runnings
While the story of Cool Runnings is not fiction, the character of their coach Irv Blitzer very much is. Blitzer is VERY loosely based on former American bobsledder Howard Siler, but he is for all intents and purposes a fictional character implanted into a true story for effect.
Blitzer was happily drinking himself to death in a tropical paradise when a superstar sprinter and his doofus best friend approached him in an attempt to learn about the sport of bobsled. The ex-Olympian went on to turn three sprinters – and said doofus – who had never been near ice and snow into a team that qualified for the Olympics.
As with coach Blitzer, the movie strays far from reality – and in reality the Jamaican team was sitting in last place when they crashed during their final run – but this is based on the fictional story and before crashing, the Jamaican team was on world record pace and closing in on a bronze medal during their third run. That’s a pretty impressive feat for a team that has to give almost all of the credit for their success to their coach.
6. Molly McGrath – Wildcats
Who? What? What the heck is Wildcats? If you’ve missed the cinematic debut of both Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, I feel sorry for you.
Molly McGrath as the daughter of a football coach who loved the game and wanted nothing more than to become a coach herself. Her desire was so deep that when the opportunity arose, she left her coaching job as a track and field coach at an all-girls private school.
Goldie Hawn as McGrath took over the Central High School Wildcat football program in a plot eerily similar to Michelle Phifer’s role in Dangerous Minds.
At a place that finds it necessary to have a police presence on campus during the school day, McGrath has her spirits beaten down by an overwhelming gender prejudice.
Eventually, she begins to win her players over. McGrath turns her rag-tag group of rebels into a cohesive team that is able to compete for the city championship.
While a bit formulaic, Wildcats is a movie that is focused on the coach as opposed to the players. In most cases, you feel for the players and hope they succeed for themselves. In Wildcats, the team is mostly faceless. They are players there to help the coach accomplish her goal.
With the added distraction of trying to win custody of her two young daughters, McGrath shows that she has the coaching ability and mental fortitude to not give up on a team that many coaches would have walked away from.
5. Mr. Miyagi – Karate Kid
Kesuke Miyagi was not only a karate instructor – he became Daniel’s friend, mentor and father figure. Mr. Miyagi is patient, tolerant and shows the ability to be imaginative.
Aside from coaching, Miyagi is able to identify talent. Working as a caretaker, he was able to spot the young kid that was worth coaching. He could have easily stayed in his quiet, unassuming life but Miyagi saw something in Daniel that was worth cultivating.
Using obscure techniques, Mr. Miyagi is a born teacher. Whether it’s Karate or a simple life lesson, the way he imparts wisdom on Daniel is both natural and effective. What else can you ask for in a coach?
4. Chubbs Peterson – Happy Gilmore
He knows how to ease the tension. After having his career cut down in its prime, Chubbs turned into a joyless club pro – taking money from ‘big-assed’ accountants who wanted to lower their handicap.
That is until he found Happy Gilmore. Peterson was not only able to convince the life-long hockey player to hang up his skates, he was able to harness Gilmore’s greatest strengths and make him the best golfer on the professional tour.
Chubbs gave him the bare skills necessary to compete – but most importantly, he was able to get Gilmore to focus. Peterson cured his psychological hurdles and gave Happy the mentality to focus – and in a sport that is as much mental as it is physical, this was his biggest gift.
Even in death, Chubbs was able to inspire. The lessons he taught Happy remained with the young golfer and allowed him to win the tour Championship.
Peterson turned Fraser McLaren into Bubba Watson – thinking about it, that’s a rather impressive feat.
3. Wolf Stanton – Mighty Ducks 2
You almost certainly expected Gordon Bombay to be on this list, didn’t you? Sorry, he’s not even the best coach in the Mighty Ducks trilogy. That honor goes to Wolf ‘The Dentist’ Stanton.
Sure Stanton’s Iceland team lost to Bombay and USA in the finals of the Jr. Goodwill Games, but think about that for a second – Stanton was able to get Team Iceland to the finals of an international hockey tournament. In the preliminary round, Stanton led Iceland to an upset victory over the favourite Russians – one game after embarrassing Team USA 12-1.
We saw in real life what good coach can do when Ten Nolan had Team Latvia playing well above their heads for a few years. Stanton – the ex-NHLer – was able to not only build the Iceland hockey program to a level never before seen, but he was able to turn them into a force that was feared by anyone who they stepped on the ice with.
He’s cold, he’s ruthless and he’s not afraid to do whatever it takes to win. Plus anyone who goes by the handle ‘The Dentist’ automatically wins points with me.
2. Micky Goldmill – Rocky
Rocky Balboa is known as the ultimate underdog – and Mick is really the only reason he was able to achieve any sort of success.
After retiring from competition in the ring in 1947, with an incredible record of 72-1 (with 70 knockouts), Mick opened a boxing gym in Philadelphia that he named Mighty Mick’s Boxing. After a bit of a rocky relationship – pun totally intended – Mick began to train Balboa before his first fight with the Heavyweight Campion of the World – Apollo Creed.
With little time to work with and a fighter that was in way over his head, Mick was able to get Rocky to a split-decision victory – one in which the trainer wholeheartedly believed Balboa had won on points.
Although the work he did with Balboa in the first movie was impressive, the true test of Mick’s talent as a coach came in the sequel. While training for the rematch, Mick was able to turn Rocky from a southpaw into a traditional stance boxer – something unimaginable for a boxer of his age.
On top of the physical training, Mick was a spiritual and emotional guide for Rocky through the movie franchise. While the fifth movie is not very good in any way – it does give us a flashback scene in which we see just how much Mick meant to Rocky as both a fighter and a man.
Mick took an over-the-hill club fighter and made him the Heavyweight Champion of the world – an impressive feat no matter how you look at it.
1. Eric Taylor – Friday Night Lights
He’s the best. There’s no argument to be made that he’s not.
Coach Taylor is a masterful tactician. He is one of the best quarterback coaches in the state who has the ability to turn raw kids into NCAA scholarship athletes. He did it with Jason Street, he did it with Matt Saracen and he did it with Vince Howard.
Like most on this list, Coach Taylor showed the ability to coach up the underdog. He took the re-built East Dillon Lions program and turned them into a powerhouse. But maybe just as impressive as coaching up underdogs, Taylor was able to manage expectations and reign in a nationally ranked Dillon Panthers team that was supposed to win state. Not everyone has the ability to coach both the favourite and the underdog.
More than anything else, Coach Taylor is a motivator. He’s a caring father figure to the players that need it and a crusty old curmudgeon to the ones that need a kick in the butt.
Clear eyes, full hearts…