The Worst Coaches And Managers Who Got More Than One Job

20) Don Nelson

To be Don Nelson is to be about contradictions. Nelson is the winningest head coach in NBA history, yet he’s on this list. He’s been NBA Coach of the year three times, which is the same number of times he’s been fired. The reason is simple: Despite having 1,335 regular-season wins, Nelson is a .452 coach in the play-offs, which is why he has never coached an NBA Champion.

19) Tony Granato

It is rare that a lousy coach gets more than one job; its even rarer they get more than one job with the same team. Granato was the head coach for the Colorado Avalanche on two separate occasions. In the first go-around, Granato coached a Stanley Cup favorite loaded with talent like Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne’,  Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk, and Alex Tanguay. They dropped it the the second round of the playoffs, and Granato was the scapegoat for this “dream team’s” choke job.

But the reward for this gagging was another shot behind the bench.  In 2008-09, Colorado again hired Granato to be the coach, except this time instead of names like Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne’, Granato had a bench full of nobodies. He couldn’t coach talent; with none he led the Avs to their worst season ever.  Then he was fired…again.

18 ) Marcel Lachemann

Everybody remembers the Gene Mauch-led collapse of the 1964 Phillies. But most forget Marcel Lachemann had the reins of the California Angels in 1995, when on August 24 the Angels enjoyed 8.5-game lead.  Even after the Halos dropped nine straight, they regrouped and still held a six-game advantage on Sept. 12. Then came their nine-game fold-job in a month, which meant the end’ the final nail in the coffin being driven by the Mariners in a one-game playoff.

Despite this mega-fold, Lachemann’s expired contract was re-newed for 1996.  The Angles eventually realized the error of their ways; Lachemann was gassed after a 52-59 start to a season in which California finished in the AL West cellar.

17) Mike Hargrove

People may ask why Hargrove makes this list aster he captured five straight division titles with Cleveland from 1995 to 1999. That’s until it is pointed out what happened afterward.

From 2000 to 2003 leading the Baltimore Orioles, he averaged less than 69 wins per season, going 275-372 (.425). The topper to that in Baltimore was when he batted uber-hero Cal Ripken Jr. seventh in the lineup in his final game. This meant Ripken got to see his Hall of Fame career end from the on-deck circle watching Brady Anderson strike out. The Orioles were miles form the pennant race, and in a game that meant nothing in the standings, but was the swan song of arguably the greatest ambassador baseball has produced in the last 50 years, Hargrove buried Ripken in the lineup behind luminaries like Tim Raines, Sr., Luis Matos, Jeff Conine, Chris Richard, and Tony Batista.

Was it any wonder why the O’s lost 98 games in 2001?  “The Human Rain Delay’s” managerial career was capped by a tooth-drilling two-and-a-half seasons with Seattle from 2005-07, going 192-210 (.478) and two last-place finishes in the AL West.

16) Tyrone Willingham

Willingham’s career is like a roller coaster, The way up was exhilarating; he managed to build Stanford into a respectable football team before being hired by Notre Dame. In his first year in South Bend, he led Notre Dame to a 10-3 record, but a loss in that season’s Gator Bowl was the top of the roller coaster. The ride down went through two moribund seasons at Notre Dame, after which he was canned. Then he was hired by Washington, where he took the Huskies to new lows including a 0-12 season during his final year in 2008.

15) John McNamara

McNamara has a career full of idiocy-defining moments, but nothing could ever top Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. McNamara’s misplaced sense of sentimentality let him be completely blind to the face that Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner could barely get on and off the field without a walker because of his bad ankles. do little more than hobble around on his bum ankles.  This is why McNamara didn’t replace Buckner with Dave Stapleton as a defensive replacement to protect the lead as the Red Sox were mere outs away from their first World Series win since 1918;  he wanted Buckner to be on the field for the final three outs.  You know the rest.

14) Pick a Van Gundy

  • a) Jeff Van Gundy

Easily the stupidest coach in the history of the NBA, and there’s a host of quotes to prove it.

“Our guys competed really hard for the most part. It’s wasn’t like we overwhelmed them with talent, that’s for sure.”

“When you score that little in a quarter, it’s probably part defense and part you’re missing some shots that you normally make. So we’re not going to pound ourselves on the chest because I remember three or four they had right in a row at the basket over our midgets where the ball just happened to fall out. We try to play good defense yet we understand how good of an offensive team they are.”

“(McGrady) played super hard today. He just doesn’t make (shots) at home.”

But Jeff will always be best remembered for being Alonzo Mourning’s ankle bracelet.

  • b) Stan Van Gundy

The Magic somehow win despite Stan Van Gundy. For some reason, he thinks Jameer Nelson is an elite guard in this league. For some reason, he let’s his bench players chuck up shots any damn time they want to. Maybe he thinks they are all Hedo Turkoglu five years ago. How many more times do we need to see the Magic ahead in the 4th quarter when Van Gundy decides to quit giving the ball to Dwight Howard?

13) Ron Zook

Ron Zook took the reins of the Florida Gators from Steve Spurrier and promptly turned them into a team that couldn’t beat Mississippi State. That ain’t gonna fly in Gainesville, which is why the Florida faithful flew his ass out of town. Unfortunately for Illinois fans, that flight landed in Champaign-Urbana. Other than the miracle Rose Bowl season of 2007, Zook never had a winning season at Illinois, and he finished up his career with an overall record of 57-65.

12) Dennis Green

Dennis Green made his way into the NFL by posting a single winning season amongst eight on the sidelines at Stanford and Northwestern. But once he hit the professional ranks, he suddenly improved to mediocre. To be honest, I’ve never seen anybody survive so many times in which he should have been fired. I don’t mean like how Tom Coughlin was rumored to get fired every other week until he won this most recent Super Bowl; I mean like “pack your office and get the hell out” fired.

Through his first six years with the team, Green never posted a losing record and Vikings went to the playoffs five times.  But the trouble started when then fans and the local media started flaying Green for creating a team of playoff choke-artists,; it wasn’t until his sixth season the Vikings finally won a playoff game. This led to Wheelock Whitney and Jane Dyer, who were two members of the Vikings’ ownership board, to contact Lou Holtz in 1996.  The idea was to bring Holtz in to replace Green. The rumors really started flying when Holtz abruptly announced his retirement from Notre Dame subsequent to meeting with the Vikings.

Green took this all so personally that in November 1997, he published his autobiography No Room For Crybabies, in which he responded blasted his critics and started personal vendettas against the Twin Cities sports media. To top it off, he threatened to sue the Vikings in response to the Lou Holtz rumors.

How many people do you know threaten their bosses and survive? Green survived to create the classic “should have been fired then” moment. Flash the clock to 1997; the Vikings and the Falcons are tied at 27 in the NFC Championship Game. The Vikes’ have the ball, there’s 30 seconds on the clock, and it’s third down – three yards to go from their own 30-yard line. The Vikings have two timeouts remaining and the Falcons have none.  The Vikings have what was at that time the most  explosive offensive in NFL history; Dennis Green has at his disposal quarterback Randall Cunningham, receiver Randy Moss, and really only needs 30 yards to get the NFL’s best placekicker at the time a shot at a game-winning field goal.

Instead, Green decides to play it safe and takes a knee to run out the clock. Rather than taking a shot to win the game, he merely hopes the Vikes will get the coin flip in overtime. While the do win the coin toss, the Vikes prove the flaw in Green’s plan by allowing the Falcons to score first and win, 30-27.

Believe it or not, Green survived this idiocy for four more seasons. It would be even more amazing that he got another job after that, except it didn’t surprise anybody at the time the Cardinals would make a bad hire.

11) Pierre Pagé

It’s pretty sad when a resume reads more like an epitaph. In all fairness, Page was a pretty good general manager, but in eight seasons as a head coach in the NHL (with four different teams), he only ever had one winning season. He has since been banished to Europe, where he has enjoyed some success. But he will never coach in the NHL again; they’ve seen enough.

10) Dave Shula

Just because you dad is a great football coach doesn’t mean you will be one. Enter Dave Shula, son of Hall-of-Fame coach Don Shula, and abject failure. The warning signs were there; Shula sucked as both an assistant and coordinator in Miami and Dallas. However, as proof that some people do in  fact fail upward, the Cincinnati Bengals hired Shula at their head coach in 1992.  19 wins and 57 losses later, Shula was finally shown the door by Bengals’ owner Mike Brown.

Care to hazards a guess as to what happens to the coach who reached fifty losses faster than any other coach in NFL history? He ends up working for his dad running  Shula’s Steakhouses.

9) Wade Phillips

If Wade Phillips were in the business world, he would be one of the great vice-presidents of all time; so good in fact he keeps getting hired as a CEO because nobody remember how crappy he was as a CEO the last time…largely because he was so good as a VP since then.  Hence, the football life of Wade Phillips. Great defensive coordinator becomes lousy head coach becomes great defensive coordinator becomes lousy head coach. Wade has ridden that roller coaster through three head coaching gigs. Despite the fact he has an 82-59 records as a head coach, he always seems to find a way to tank his own teams.

8 ) Rick Neuheisel

You’ve got to love a guy who is both and cheat and a loser. His 87-59 career record hides the fact that he’s only coached six winning season in 12 as ahead coach. Couple that with the following laundry list, and it is a wonder this guy got three jobs.

  • After the 1997 season, the Colorado Buffaloes were forced to forfeit their five wins due to having played an ineligible player
  • Before Neuheisel coached his first game for the Washington Huskies in 1999, he had already violated NCAA recruiting rules by visiting high school players before the NCAA approved date to do so.
  • In 2008, The Seattle Times ran a series of articles which accused Neuheisel and Washington athletic director Barbara Hedges of overlooking numerous discipline problems–including outright criminal behavior–during the 2000 season.  These allegations included safety Curtis Williams being allowed to play despite being issued an outstanding arrest warrant for assaulting his wife,  linebacker Jeremiah Pharms being under investigation for robbing and shooting a drug dealer after police found his fingerprints at the scene, and tight end  Jerramy Stevens being under investigation for rape.  Also, when Stevens later crashed his truck into a retirement home, Neuheisel only suspended him for half a game.

7) Dusty Baker

OK, there’s two ways to describe what an idiot Dusty Baker is.  There is the math-based approach, which in baseball invariably means a big dose of that Bill James’ Sabermetrics used for telling us the ways that a baseball team will score the most runs. The  theory of operation behind Sabermetrics is that team who get more base-runners score more runs. It is all really pretty logical when you think about it. Dusty Baker has refused to accept this.

The other way to look at is with simple common sense since this is a simple concept to grasp; more base runners equals more runs. The speed of the runner isn’t terribly important; it’s just more of a bonus, largely because there are all kinds of ways base-runners can score without the need for speed. Baker rejects this; his belief is that slower runners “just clog up the basepaths.” This  is why we are still waiting for that Dusty Baker-led world Series winning team.

6) Norv Turner

Picture a team that is consistently over-penalized, turnover laden, plays terrible fundamental football, and yet still piles up statistics.  Chances are that team is coached by Norv Turner.  Norv Turner has the worst winning percentage of any NFL coach whose career lasted at least 200 games. His career record of 107-113-1 indicative of his poor game management skills.  But, the Chargers just won’t fire him.

5) Buddy Bell

Buddy Bell had three different three-year stints as a manager with three different teams. He only ever had a winning season (82-80)  in 2000 with Colorado. Bell  posted identical .399 winning percentages in  Detroit and Kansas City.  This helps to explain how in nine major league seasons as a manager Bell finished in last place  six times. In all fairness, Bell was a great player; he was a five-time All-Star and won six Gold Gloves.

4) P. J. Carlesimo

Carlesimo may be the least-liked guy on this list. His authoritarian, dictatorial style which was punctuated by screaming at people constantly was far more suited to the college ranks where coaches have all the power. Once he got to the NBA, it was just a matter of time before  somebody beat the crap out of him.  While that never happened per se, Carlesimo will be more remembered for his having been nearly-strangled by Latrell Sprewell than his career coaching record of 204-296.

3) Isiah Thomas

For the sake of fairness, Isiah Thomas is one of the greatest NBA players ever, and a Hall-of-Famer.  To this day, the mention of his name to a Knicks fan may get you any reaction from violent nausea on their part to getting you punched in the face.

The fact that Thomas coached an under-performing Pacers club to a first-round play-off exit in 2003 wasn’t enough of a warning sign for the Knicks. Later that year, New York brought in Thomas as President of Basketball Operations which ultimately led to his performing the coach and general manager duties. The pinnacle of the Thomas regime was his taking the Knicks to the highest payroll in the league while having the second-worst record and his dooming the future of the franchise by trading for Eddy Curry with what turned out to be seven future draft picks, including two lottery picks in talent-rich drafts. As far as the coaching was concerned, Thomas went 56-108 while at the helm of the Knicks.

2) Rich Kotite

What can be said about Rich “Decline the Penalty and Punt” Kotite that isn’t summed up in his nickname? Thanks to the fact that I like to watch both the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets, I had front-row seats for watching who was easily the worst coach in any sport in the last 30 years. It simply is not possible to make a list of horrible coaches that doesn’t include this butt-loaf.

The early successes with the Eagles were largely due to the team punishing defense, not the offensive genius Kotite was supposed to be.  Kotite was fired in Philadelphia in 1994 after going 40-56 in four seasons.  The Jets years were brutal; in two seasons Kotite went 4-28.  He stepped down after his second season with the Jets and he never returned to coaching again.

1) Gene Mauch

Nobody seems to learn the lesson; safety regulations exist for a reason. Somebody somewhere somewhat smarter than you already knew that you shouldn’t stand on the top rung of the ladder.  That’s why there is usually a sign or a label; some sort of warning that what you are about to do is a bad idea.

Gene Mauch should have come with just such a label. Clearly, the other signs were not visible enough…the collapse of the 1964 Phillies, the malaise that was the Montreal Expos in the early 70′s, and the Angels’ playoff choke-jobs in the 80′s…Mauch kept a level of respect in baseball that he kept getting hired even after just having been fired for complete ineptitude.

- Dubsism is a proud member of the Sports Blog Movement

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12 responses

  1. I know that his success in the playoffs is lackluster, but how can you put the winningest coach in NBA history on this list. You have to respect that feat.

    1. Not really. Let’s be honest, being the all-time most winning regular season coach in the NBA is like being the minor-league home run champ. It doesn’t mean anything. All its done for Nelson is make sure his name comes up whenever there’s a coaching vacancy. If you need a coach, and you think Don Nelson is the answer, you need a new question. In a league whose fans value championships as a measure of success, why would anybody want a coach whose upside is 50-32 and out in the first round of the play-offs?

  2. Dick (don't call me Richie) Marple | Reply

    Recently read a SABR article about the 1964 Phillies collapse. The writer noted that besides the infamous burning out of starters Chris Short and Jim Bunning, Mauch found other ways to lose. He often batted rookie Dick Allen second in the power-challenged Phillie batting order. At least twice in the September slide, Gene had Allen bunting in the first inning after the lead- off hitter reached base. Both sacrifices were properly executed, neither runner scored and the Phillies lost both games. Dick Allen (.291-29-91) led the league in total bases. Mauch’s career-long obsession with the first inning sacrifice surely contributed to his well-deserved #1 ranking on your list.

    1. That didn’t help. Neither did his insistence on pitching to Paul Molitor in the ’82 ALCS. Nor did letting Donnie Moore pitch to Dave Henderson in the ’86 ALCS…self-inflicted gunshot wound, anybody?

  3. I originally read this post on my iPhone and actually could feel the tension rising as I scrolled down the countdown. (He has to have Kotite and Mauch on here…he just has to…) Felt so much “Philly pride” when they went #2 and #1. Watching a Rich Kotite press conference was like watching a balding 12-year old try to explain why he just blew the National Spelling Bee. And Gene Mauch, he made so many wrong decisions in such a short period of time he could have easily been elected POTUS had he chosen to run for a higher office than Manager.

    1. “Watching a Rich Kotite press conference was like watching a balding 12-year old try to explain why he just blew the National Spelling Bee.”

      I literally shot coffee out of my nose at that line…Perfect!

  4. Goodness, Dub, this list is so chock full of goodies, I don’t know where to begin.

    Every time I scrolled down, I found another gem. Nice work.

    1. I really thought I might get a Van Gundy and/or Zook riff out of you.

  5. Fantastic list here JW, however, I particularly enjoyed your usage of the McNamara and Mauch Topps cards. Brought back the memory of me thinking: “Why the heck do I have 20 plus of each of these cards.”

    1. I almost used the mid-70′s Topps player/manager card for Mauch with the Twins.

  6. Great post, I kinda forgot about PJ. I was so happy when Sprewell choked him, he deserved it for sure!

    I have to say I loved when the Chargers keep retaining Norv. The guy should be an OC, not a HC…

    Are you saying Isiah wouldn’t have found Jeremy Lin if he was still running the show?

    1. If Isiah still ran the Knicks, Lin would be delivering pizzas right now.

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