15 Athletes Who Will Make Awesome Coaches
To achieve the full proper effect of this article, please repeatedly play this theme song of the 90's sitcom, Coach, while reading. Now enjoy.
So, what makes an effective coach?
Is it strictly playing experience? How about elite championship pedigree? Does it matter how many trophies are collecting dust on your fireplace mantle?
Well, it's those. But at the same time, it's not.
Frankly, there's just some people who are meant to take the reigns and lead.
Many times it's not the superstars, the hotshots, or the flashy names that end up being the best coaches. Great players are a dime a dozen, but a natural leader? That's a diamond in the rough.
Coaching stems from the intangibles—the ability to garner player's respect, the sought-after skill to be entrusted to lead, and that rare knack for bringing out the best from your players, making individuals a well-oiled single unit.
Coaching is a mighty thankless job, too. Millionaire players, countless fans, powerful owners, and intimidating team management are all looking towards you for success. One botched play, and your city will turn on you like ravenous dogs.
You're the first to be blamed for failure, the first job to go on the chopping block, and the first one chewed-out when things don't go well. Let's face it, in a given year, all but one coach will enter the long off-season without a well-polished championship ring.
Thankless job or not, someone's got to do it. Those "someones" who have that special winning intuition, the ones who live and breathe the game, and who find leadership as natural as breathing.
Maybe these "someones" of tomorrow may just be these players of today.
15. Mark Recchi
Position: Right Wing
Years Active: 1988-2011
Teams: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins
Longevity is the name of the game when it comes to the career of hockey player, Mark Recchi.
His 22-year NHL career was spent accumulating goals, personal records and championship hardware.
He didn't let age beat him, either. As the years went by, Recchi kept up his training and worked even harder to stay at peak competitive shape.
Recchi's potential for great coaching lies in his ability to work with the younger players and instill his experience and wisdom, never letting them rest on their laurels or take the easy way out when it comes to teamwork.
"I want to be a piece of the puzzle on a winning club."
14. Charles Woodson
Years Active: 1998-present
Teams: Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders
Charity, wine, joking around with the President of the United States—cheesehead Charles Woodson has dipped his toe in many waters outside of professional football.
It doesn't seem all that crazy that the Green Bay Packer may one day dip his toe into the coaching waters.
There's no question that he knows the game like the back of his talented hand. From a career that spans a Heisman Trophy, multiple Pro-Bowl appearances, and a Super Bowl Championship, Woodson is notorious for his big plays during crucial moments, and he will undoubtedly be able to carry that skill over to the sidelines.
"Everybody wants to be a hero, so to speak. But it takes everybody. Those four downs, it was somebody different on those four plays. It was a team effort."
13. Mike Napoli
Position: Catcher/First Baseman
Years Active: 2006-present
Teams: Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Mike Napoli, the youngest player on this list, is also one of its grittiest. Napoli has been the field general for two of the American League's toughest teams—the Angels and the Rangers. He made his presence known, shining in October runs for both teams.
Six seasons in, he still has streaky moments during the regular season. But Napoli's red-hot 2011 postseason was a good indication that he knows when to come up big.
It's still a ways off, but Napoli may one day join the ranks of Joe Torre, Mike Scioscia, and Joe Girardi—managers who were tough catchers who came up big in clutch moments. This is, afterall, a man who went yard at his first Major League at-bat in 2006 off of Kate Upton's buddy, Justin Verlander.
"Our mentality was to win no matter what...It was a great game for us."
12. Chauncey Billups
Years Active: 1997-present
Teams: Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics
"Mr. Big Shot" may have a resume filled with All-Star appearances, Championship rings, and a Championship MVP, but it is charity contributions, well-documented philanthropic work and leadership ability that have earned him the respect of his fellow players.
Chauncey Billups embodies many of the extemporaneous qualities that make a great player an effective coach.
Plus, look at all of the teams he played for—that's a lot of connections down the line.
“Chauncey is a guy who scores, but he also distributes and knows how to run a team very well.”
11. Grant Hill
Years Active: 1994-present
Teams: Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons
Hey, if "Grant Hill Drinks Sprite" was a successful campaign that sold soda, just imagine his influential skills coaching an NBA team.
A well-rounded player with a lengthy career, Hill has been a basketball staple for the last 20 years.
Hard-working, a team-player, and a high-profile community man, all under the umbrella of a solid role model, Hill certainly checks off many of the boxes of a man who could one day be an effective team leader.
"Yelling doesn't get your point across. It only makes it louder."
10. Michael Young
Years Active: 2000-present
Teams: Texas Rangers
This past June, a Men's Journal poll of 100 MLB players ranked Texas Rangers' infielder Michael Young as the "Most Underrated Player in Baseball."
That's Young's story. He may not be first off the table in your fantasy draft, or make the biggest bucks. But rest assured, Young is one of the game's most consistently solid names year in and year out.
Add in his experience playing at nearly every base and you've got a player with the perfect makeup to be an excellent manager one day.
"He is a core player for us—a guy you’re proud to have in the organization."
John Hart, Former Rangers GM
9. Peyton Manning
Years Active: 1998-present
Teams: Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts
Peyton Manning is many things:
- An all-time great quarterback.
- Spokesman for nearly every product under the sun.
- The reason Denver Broncos fans will say, "Tebow who?" this fall
- The Manning brother with fewer Super Bowl Rings.
...and one day, head coach?
While there isn't a track record of too many elite-level quarterbacks taking the helm of a professional team post retirement, Peyton Manning and his wealth of football knowledge seem right for the position.
Manning's knowledge of the game is unquestionable, and his dedication to studying plays is unprecedented in the NFL. Don't let his one season of injury snarl the fact that the man is simply a wizard on the gridiron.
If a head coaching job never came to fruition, don't expect Manning to walk away from the game. Positions in ownership or upper management could very well be in the cards for No. 18...as long as he doesn't look like this.
“You really don’t know a guy until you coach him, and the first thing you see is he has a tremendous work ethic. He is always well prepared.”
Jim Mora, former Colts' Head Coach
8. Jeff Saturday
Years Active: 1998-present (including one year on the Ravens' practice squad)
Teams: Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens
While Peyton Manning was working his Hall-of-Fame magic with the pigskin in Indianapolis for 14 seasons, he had a snapper.
Enter Jeff Saturday, a mountain of a man who spent nearly all of his NFL years as center for the Colts. He'll be trading the Colts' royal blue for the Packers' green and gold while snapping to Aaron Rodgers for Green Bay this fall.
A fan favorite, who is no-less popular amongst his fellow players, Saturday's credentials include four All-Pro teams, five Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl championship. Plus, he a member of the Executive Committee for the National Football League Players Association.
Perhaps someday, fans may be screaming "T.G.I.S." with Saturday calling the plays from the sidelines.
"...he's as good of a man as it gets."
Jim Irsay, Colts' owner
7. Steve Nash
Years Active: 1996-present
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks
Crowd favorite Steve Nash has proven to be one of the NBA's most respected and team-oriented players in Arizona and in the Golden State.
On-court skills aside, Nash is the ideal candidate for coaching because he makes the players around him better. He is a back-to-back MVP, works heavily with charity organizations, and even was one of four to light the Olympic torch during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
For a man who was named as Time's "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2006, his leadership skills and ability to inspire will rarely be called into question.
Lucky is the team who may one day snatch up Nash as a head coach.
“I always knew the guy was going to be a player, and the reason is not just the things on the court that he does.”
Donnie Nelson, GM, Dallas Mavericks
6. Chad Pennington
Years Active: 2000-2010
Teams: Miami Dolphins, New York Jets
Despite his injury-prone career and lack of Super Bowl bling, Chad Pennington remains one of the NFL's brightest and knowledgeable players in recent memory.
Planning and prepared, Pennington has the perfect mind for coaching football. As all the best quarterbacks, he understood that work done off the field is nearly as important as the work done on the field. He even took the Jets' playbook along on his honeymoon in 2001.
Risking trouble with the new wife to help the team? That's coaching material for sure.
“Chad knows how to be a leader and a locker-room guy. I like him a lot the more I’ve gotten to know him. He has a great attitude. He knows it’s a team game.”
Joe Namath, NFL Hall of Famer
5. Ray Whitney
Position: Left Wing
Years Active: 1991-present
Teams: Dallas Stars, Phoenix Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks
Small in stature but huge in legend, Ray Whitney, a staple in the NHL for two decades, has proven that age is truly only a number.
Whitney lists two All-Star appearances (2000 and 2003) and a Stanley Cup Championship (2006) on his resume. In 2010, he was named captain of the IIHF Canadian Team.
The icing on the cake? His skills as a veteran are showing less signs of rust than the blades on his ice skates. Last season, at a robust age 40, he was outstanding.
"He’s a winner, a competitor and a leader..."
Dallas Stars' GM, Joe Nieuwendyk
4. Shane Battier
Years Active: 2001-present
Teams: Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets
Listed as one of the Sporting News "20 Smartest Athletes" in 2010, Shane Battier of the Miami Heat is an aggressive, book-smart player who puts the team's needs ahead of his own statistics.
Personal accolades and accomplishments pale in comparison to team achievements, even if that means less playing time or headlines not featuring the forward's name.
Coaching is a tireless job, with countless hours spent mulling over plays, strategies, and an opponents' strengths and weaknesses in trying to get the slightest advantage and upper- hand preparedness. This is exemplified by Battier's relentless work ethic.
All those positive words and this guy is on the Miami Heat?? No friends, not a typo.
"I try to prepare for my opponent as thoroughly as possible. I want to know every angle on the man I am guarding to give me an edge. I read many, many pages and go over strengths and weaknesses many times before a game. Proper Preperation (sic) Prevents Poor Performance. That is a motto I like."
3. Jason Varitek
Years Active: 1997-2011
Teams: Boston Red Sox
Jason Varitek may not have been a marquee name in Boston baseball over the past decade.
He doesn't have Big Papi's beastly power, the Cooperstown-esque aura of Pedro, the burly beard of Damon, or the comic whimsy of Manny.
But one thing Varitek does have: He is only the third Red Sox captain in the team's long and illustrious history.
Varitek donned the mask behind the mound when the 2004 team ended its monumental World Series' drought, and celebrated with the captain's symbol on his jersey when Boston hoisted its championship in 2007.
A tough competitor and fierce team leader, Varitek is the perfect candidate to wear a BoSox cap, but this time, as the team's manager. With the season they're having, Bobby Valentine may run for the hills, leaving that spot vacant sooner than later.
"He showed me how to be a player with honesty, hard work and integrity without ever having to say one word.”- Jonathan Papelbon, former teammate
2. Jorge Posada
Years Active: 1995-2011
Teams: New York Yankees
You won't find a captain's "C" embroidered on any single jersey in the Yankees' multi-million dollar locker room. But it's common knowledge that jersey No. 2 belongs to the Bronx Bombers' captain, Derek Jeter.
Jeter is the quiet and consistent leader of the Yankees. But his fellow "Core Four" member, Jorge Posada, was the fiery heart of the franchise's late 90s' run.
A proud ballplayer who fought to remain on the field through the last moments of his career, Posada has the competitive makeup and baseball know-how to one day be a very effective team leader.
It was quite clear that Posada retired from baseball feeling as if he still had gas left in the tank. It wouldn't surprise anyone to see him transfer that intensity and love of the game into a manager's job.
"...Jorge is the fiery guy. When guys need a little kick, Jorge is always there for them."
Joe Girardi, Yankees Manager
1. Derek Fisher
Years Active: 1996-present
Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors
NBA veteran Derek Fisher is a natural born-leader on and off the hardwood. The current president of the NBPA, Fisher has collected five NBA Championship titles in eight appearances.
Respected and admired by his peers, Fisher has the capability of bringing the best out of the toughest, most infamously pampered personalities in the NBA.
A calming influence in the locker room, a role model to his community, and a hard-worker who is beloved by fans, Fisher seems as close to a great potential coach as you'll find currently playing in the NBA.
"He's definitely the spokesman for this team as far as leadership goes."
Phil Jackson, former Lakers coach