The Most Insane Coaches in Sports
There are the "nutjobs" in the coaching world, and then there are the nutjobs.
I'm not talking about the run-of-the-mill Mike Gundys and Will Muschamps of the world. They're fiery, and they're good for a solid press conference rant here and there, but they're not on the same level as the guys on this list.
The guys on this list are a rare, special breed. They make you doubt their sanity. They make you wonder whether they should be institutionalized. They have crossed the line from passion to borderline psychopathy.
But their eccentricities are why we love them.
15. Jim Harbaugh
Let's begin with the guy who is generally regarded as the most psychotic head coach in the world of the NFL.
Plenty of coaches throw sideline tantrums or fight with the referees or throw stuff and jump up and down when they don't get their way. Jim Harbaugh, though, always takes it a step further. The 49ers coach is the proud instigator of some of the most epic tantrums the NFL has ever seen, including this one from the 2013 postseason.
But even off the field, Harbaugh is a certified psychopath, as evidenced by this quotation he issued regarding Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride's commentary on San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith.
According to Deadspin, Harbaugh issued this statement in response to Gilbride's remark that Smith "gets away with murder" on the field:
Kevin Gilbride's outrageous, irrational statement regarding Justin Smith's play is, first, an absurd analogy.
Second, it is an incendiary comment targeting one of the truly exemplary players in this league. It's obvious that the Giants coaching staff's sole purpose is to use their high visibility to both criticize and influence officiating.
Yeah. He went there.
14. Neil Ioviero
He may not be a big name, but he's a winner, even if his methods are a little weird.
Division III baseball coach Neil Ioviero, who coaches at Kean University in Union, N.J., is a big fan of idiosyncratic ways of promoting team unity. According to The Star-Ledger, he has been known for making his players "carry a red, five-gallon canister filled with Gatorade to each game as a reminder the team still had energy left in its tank."
In 2009, he made his players wear Incredible Hulk gloves to illustrate their intention to "fight for wins." He has also used hockey sticks, army helmets and a four-foot tall stuffed monkey as props.
Apparently, it works for him. This season, the team advanced to its sixth Division III World Series in the last seven seasons.
13. Ozzie Guillen
Ozzie Guillen is crazy, obviously. It's not even a question. The laundry list of inappropriate and weird things he has done throughout his managerial career is seemingly never-ending.
It's not even the dugout tantrums that make him a crazy person or the fact that he expressed support for Fidel Castro despite the fact that, at the time, he managed a team whose home stadium was right in the middle of a Cuban-American neighborhood.
In 2012—after he seemingly hadn't made enough headlines for the Castro fiasco—Guillen told reporters that he employs a rather unorthodox way of recovering from a bad loss. After his Marlins took a 15-5 beating from the Red Sox, Guillen told reporters that all he needs are "seven Presidentes (beers) and a sleeping pill" in order to be ready for the next game.
Actually, that explains a lot. Like why he got released from his contract with the Marlins at the end of the 2012 season despite having three years remaining on it.
12. Jack Del Rio
So, in case there was any question, this is why you don't put an ax and a tree stump in your locker room for the players to fool around with.
In 2003, Jack Del Rio's motivational prop went horribly awry. The Jacksonville Jaguars head coach—now the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos—put an ax and a tree stump in the locker room early in the season to encourage his players to "keep chopping wood," according to ESPN.com.
Why they had to take it literally, we'll never know. What we do know is that punter Chris Hanson is no good at chopping wood. He wounded himself with the ax and had to be rushed to the hospital.
Next time, keep the mantras theoretical.
11. Andy Fleming
His program may not be as big as Tennessee basketball or Vanderbilt football, but given the following evidence, he takes it just as seriously.
Xavier men's soccer coach Andy Fleming doesn't play around with his in-game fashion. For him, it's the difference between winning and losing.
According to the NCAA's Champion Magazine, Fleming has worn the same pair of khaki pants during all seven of his wins in the Atlantic 10 tournament since 2010. But the psychosis doesn't stop there. Fleming can also be seen wearing a parka on the sidelines—always—during penalty kicks. And only during penalty kicks. No matter the weather.
10. Bruce Pearl 1.0
This one is far less offensive than, for example, bear hugging a female reporter in the midst of a live interview, but it's definitely still weird.
When he was at Tennessee from 2005-2011, Bruce Pearl made a name for himself for being fired up and engaging and personable. But despite all that, nobody really expected to see him on the sidelines of a women's basketball game shirtless and painted orange.
In 2007, Pearl planted himself in the student section for a game between the Lady Vols and Duke and was part of a group of students who painted themselves orange and spelled out "GO VOLS" on their chests, according to the Associated Press (h/t NBCSports.com).
You definitely won't see Coach K or Roy Williams doing that. Maybe that's why Pearl is now an "occasional" college basketball analyst for ESPN.
9. Bruce Pearl 2.0
When you are a prominent coach at a prominent college program, there are some things you just can't do. Like grope the most famous sideline reporter in sports.
In 2008, then-Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl got a little bit too excited illustrating to ESPN's Erin Andrews the way in which his team planned to shut down an opponent. Instead of merely telling Andrews, he demonstrated by grabbing her around the middle.
Andrews attempted to avoid appearing rattled, but it didn't really work, and the awkwardness was palpable.
After the game, Pearl called and texted her to apologize. Or so he claims.
8. Miguel Herrera
Most coaches really enjoy winning. For one, winning usually means they get to keep their jobs. Winning also usually means more money.
But no one loves winning as much as this guy does.
Earlier this year, Club America embarked on a stunning comeback against Cruz Azul, scoring in the 89th minute to narrow a 2-0 deficit and tying it up four minutes later before eventually winning its first league title since 2005 on a penalty kick.
And Herrera reacted with a stirring celebration that would put even Jim Harbaugh to shame. There is hip thrusting, there is fist pumping, there is blood-curdling screaming. It's all there.
7. Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick is infamous for many things. His distaste for the media is one of them. His willingness to humiliate underperforming players is another.
But perhaps he is most infamous for the heinous gray sweatshirts he wears on the sidelines during game days.
Belichick has never been one of those coaches who feels the need to dress up—or even dress in clothing that is one step above pajamas—when he's calling the plays. But why the hoodie with the sleeves cut off? Why do his arms require so much breathing room?
In 2012, Belichick explained to "StyleBoston" (h/t BusinessInsider.com) that his short arms are to blame for his quirky habit: "Most of the time the sweatshirts that I have just would come all the way down past my fingers. So I cut them off to have a little more comfort. It's all there is to it."
6. Bobby Valentine
Bobby Valentine didn't have much to be proud of in the aftermath of his very brief tenure as the manager of the Boston Red Sox.
Valentine was no more than a holdover until the team could reel in John Farrell. The team's lack of enthusiasm for him was well documented, and Boston notably posted one of its worst seasons in team history under his reign, going 69-93 for a last-place finish in the AL East. To nobody's surprise, he was fired post-2012 and now serves as the athletic director at Sacred Heart.
But at least Valentine gave us this.
The manager couldn't make a pitching change without sniffing the baseball while waiting for the reliever to charge in from the bullpen. He told NESN.com, "I like the smell of it. Must be the [Delaware] mud mixed in with that Taiwanese leather. I don't know why I do it. It’s kind of weird."
Nope. Not weird at all.
5. Bill Synder
Plenty of coaches enjoy texting their players. It's an efficient and easy form of communication. You don't have to waste your time calling and waiting for someone to pick up. You can carefully plan out what you want to say and say it concisely.
Bill Snyder really likes texting. Maybe a little too much.
The Kansas State head football coach not only texts his players to offer instructions and set up meetings, but he also makes sure to text them motivational messages prior to games, according to former running back Daniel Thomas.
"We usually get them every 20 minutes. Seriously," Thomas told a group of reporters in the summer of 2010.
4. Jim Tressel
What is really to blame for Jim Tressel's epic downfall?
He must have run out of sweater vests.
The former Ohio State head coach and current "Vice President of Strategic Engagement" at the University of Akron was infamous for his nerd-chic attire during games and was never seen without his trusty red sweater vest, no matter the temperature or the elements. The sweater vests were his trademark and a prime indicator of his superstitiousness.
Case in point: Tressel never wore the same sweater vest twice, according to Jim Weber Yahoo! Sports, donating the used ones to charity once he was done with them.
3. Mike Singletary
Mike Singletary is most well known for his affinity for calling out his own players when they don't perform up to his standards.
But when they don't get the message verbally, the former 49ers boss and current Vikings assistant coach takes it a step further.
In 2008—Singletary's first season as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers—he used some creative means to relay a motivational message to his players at halftime. The Niners were down 20-3, and in order to illustrate the idea of a team getting its butted kicked, the coach dropped his pants, according to ESPN.com.
Singletary explained, "I used my pants to illustrate that we were getting our tails whipped on Sunday and how humiliating that should feel for all of us. I needed to do something to dramatize my point; there were other ways I could have done it but I think this got the message across."
2. Les Miles
Les Miles obviously is doing something right. The head coach of LSU has an 85-21 overall record as a head coach, he has two championships to his name in the toughest conference in football, and he won a national title with the Tigers in 2007.
But who knew his secret was as simple as eating grass?
Miles thinks its important to not only know his opponent but also to gain an intimate understanding of the ground he and his players are walking on when they go on the road. That's why he makes sure to taste the grass wherever his team is playing.
He told the Associated Press (via Yahoo! Sports), "I have a little tradition that humbles me as a man, that lets me know that I'm a part of the field and part of the game. You should have seen some games before this. I can tell you one thing: The grass in Tiger Stadium tastes best."
1. James Franklin
It's a given that college coaches have to think outside the box in order to win recruiting wars. Many of them will do anything in order to emerge victorious the battle to get a commitment from a five-star recruit.
But few of them will go as far as Vanderbilt's James Franklin.
The Commodores coach goes a step beyond offering scholarships to kids who aren't in high school yet. He will offer scholarships to kids who aren't even born yet.
The coach/certified crazy person told SI.com, "If I see a 6'6" man walking in the mall with his wife, and she's 6'2" and she's pregnant, I'll go up and offer their unborn child. I'm not exaggerating. I do that all the time."