The Top 10 Coaches and Managers in Philadelphia Pro Sports History
They are the men who control the players. Their decisions are often scrutinized, debated, and every now and again, appreciated.
It's a business where you're hired to be fired. Very rarely does a coach get an opportunity to leave on his own terms, going out on top of the mountain.
For every Fred Shero, there's a Wayne Cashman. For every Andy Reid, there's a Rich Kotite. Philadelphia fans are passionate about their sports. They know a bad coach when they see one.
But this list is not about the bad apples in the bin. This celebrates the best of the best, the cream of the crop. These ten men had a profound impact on Philadelphia's sports landscape, and for that, we salute them.
10. Dick Vermeil
Dick Vermeil is known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve. Vermeil was never afraid to shed a tear or two when talking about his players, his life, his job, or anything in between.
Today, Vermeil impressions are hard to get through without the impersonator breaking down and crying. But as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
For seven seasons, Vermeil roamed the sidelines for the Eagles. Although he never won a Super Bowl, he was a beloved figure in the city, and still is. He went 54-47 in his time with the Eagles, and led them to Super Bowl XV in 1980 against the Raiders.
He won the NFL Coach of the Year award that season, after a 12-4 finish.
Although Vermeil never brought the city a Super Bowl, he made the Eagles relevant again. He even beat the hated Cowboys a couple of times, which helped his legacy.
Vermeil still resides in the Philadelphia area, which goes to show how much he loved the city.
9. Larry Brown
Good coaches have been hard to come by lately for the Philadelphia 76ers. Doug Collins will be the seventh attempt for the Sixers to recreate the magic they had when Larry Brown was in town.
Brown went 255-205 in his seven seasons here, including a trip to the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001. Much like Vermeil, Brown didn't deliver a title, but his coaching abilities were evident. He's a Hall of Fame inductee, and his accomplishments are vast.
He may have been one of the few people to ever understand Allen Iverson, which prompted Iverson to call Brown "the best coach in the world". Brown has had successes in the college game and in the NBA. Numerous stops have greeted Brown along the way, but Philadelphia was a mammoth achievement for Brown that made the team relevant again.
While Brown has been known for stunting the growth of young players, he got the most out of his veteran players in his time here. In that fateful 2001 season, he got everyone to buy into his defensive system, which made the 76ers a tough team to beat. Though they lost in the Finals against the Lakers, Brown earned the Coach of the Year Award that season and Iverson won the MVP of the league.
The Sixers haven't had the same success since Brown departed in 2003.
8. Danny Ozark
A lot of people would expect to see popular Phillies manager Dallas Green on this list. Indeed, Green delivered the Phillies a title in 1980, but didn't have the same success and longevity that Danny Ozark had.
While Green brought the Phillies a title, Ozark certainly helped set them up for it. Overseeing a talented ballclub, Ozark twice won 101 games, and led the Phillies to the National League East title three consecutive seasons.
Many people will remember Ozark as a Jimmy Carter type of character, a generous and nice guy who just couldn't put the Phillies on top. But without him, it's hard to imagine that winning culture could have been bred.
He was replaced by Green late in 1979, and finished his tenure as Phillies manager with a 594-510 record, good enough for a .538 winning percentage.
Though he didn't produce a title, he did produce a winning mentality in the clubhouse.
7. Alex Hannum
While Alex Hannum was only in Philadelphia for two seasons, his impact on basketball in the city cannot be ignored.
In 1967, he led the 76ers to the NBA title after a regular season in which the team went 68-13. I guess it helps to have Wilt Chamberlain on your side. The win was a landmark victory for the Sixers, as it ended the Boston Celtics' eight-year championship run.
The next year, the Sixers went 62-20 under Hannum's watch, but fell short in the post-season as the Celtics won another title.
He became the first of three NBA coaches to win titles with two different teams, the others being Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.
While Hannum had success in the NBA and ABA, he will likely be best remembered for his two-year stint with the 76ers.
6. Greasy Neale
Earle "Greasy" Neale, who began his sporting life as a baseball player, ended it as an NFL head coach.
He coached 111 games for the Eagles, finishing with a record of 63-43-5. Until Andy Reid came along, he had the most wins in team history.
He joined the Eagles in 1941, and long before the Super Bowl ever existed, the NFL Championship was the crown jewel of football. The Eagles won two titles under Neale, in 1948 and 1949.
Neale coached Hall of Famers Steve Van Buren and Pete Pihos, key ingredients in the Eagles' two championship victories.
A two-sport athlete, Neale made his MLB debut in 1916 for the Cincinnati Reds, and also played for the Phillies.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969. Let's just say he won't be remembered for what he did on the baseball diamond.
5. Connie Mack
If you ask a baseball fan who Cornelius McGillicuddy, Sr. is, you might get a whole lot of puzzling looks. Ask them about Connie Mack, and they might be able to tell you about one of the most respected figures in baseball history.
Yes, they are the same person. And yes, Connie Mack was, quite frankly, one hell of a manager.
He managed 7,755 games, the most in MLB history. He has the most wins (3,731) and most losses (3,948) of any manager in history, and stuck around in the dugout until he was 87 years of age. Suffice to say, the man known as "Mr. Mack" loved the game of baseball.
Mack managed the Athletics from 1901 until 1950. They moved to Kansas City before heading off to Oakland, but Mack's entire managerial career took place in Philadelphia. He won five World Series. Imagine losing a World Series in 1931 and keeping your job another 19 years. Talk about job security.
He was also at least a part-owner of the Athletics from 1901 until 1954, when the team was moved to Kansas City. That left the Phillies as the only team in town.
Shibe Park, which was opened in 1909, was renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953, and it stayed that way until the Phillies closed it in 1970.
Mack was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.
4. Andy Reid
When the Eagles hired the little-known Andy Reid prior to the 1999 season, fans didn't know what to expect. He was coming from Mike Holmgren's staff in Green Bay, which has produced 14 NFL head coaches. He was replacing Ray Rhodes, who had just finished off a less than stellar 29-34-1 run as Eagles coach.
The rest, as they say, is history. Reid has gone 108-66-1 in his eleven seasons as Eagles head coach. He has led the Eagles to five NFC Championship games, five division titles, and one Super Bowl. However, much like Vermeil, Reid has been unable to deliver the Super Bowl victory that many fans desire.
The second-longest tenured head coach in the league behind Jeff Fisher of Tennessee, Reid helped develop Donovan McNabb. Now, he'll have the unenviable task of trying to do the same with new quarterback Kevin Kolb.
While Reid came from the Mike Holmgren coaching tree, there may need to be an Andy Reid coaching tree sometime soon. Since his time here, Reid has helped produce Brad Childress, Steve Spagnuolo, and
3. Charlie Manuel
After the 2006 season, many looked at Charlie Manuel as another failed attempt at trying to bring success to the Philadelphia Phillies. Two years into his managerial job with the team, and no playoff appearances.
After all, he was hired by general manager Ed Wade, who departed Philadelphia after the 2005 season.
New general manager Pat Gillick hung on to Manuel when he came aboard in 2006, and despite missing the playoffs that year, he stuck with him. Good call, Pat.
Manuel has since won three straight division titles, two National League championships, and a World Series.
In doing so, he's become the most beloved sports figure in Philadelphia.
Manuel's Phillies are again battling for the playoffs again in 2010, and with numerous injuries to his team, he has led them to a respectable season thus far. Should the Phillies make the playoffs once more, Manuel could be in the running for his first ever Manager of the Year Award.
2. Billy Cunningham
Around Philadelphia, Billy Cunningham is basketball royalty.
As a player, he was on the 76ers' 1967 championship team.
As a coach, he led the 76ers to the 1983 NBA Championship. And along the way, he made it quite easy to root for him.
And that nickname... oh that nickname. What's better than "The Kangaroo Kid"? He got it for his great leaping ability, so they say.
The Sixers didn't need him to leap, shoot and play defense when he was wearing that suit. They needed him to coach, and boy did he ever. He went 454-196 with the Sixers, leading them to the title in 1983 after a 65-17 regular season.
The Sixers were the only team Cunningham ever coached. As stated in the intro, it's rare that a coach can go out on his own terms, but Cunningham did. After the 1985 campaign, Cunningham walked away from the game and into retirement.
But before that, he made a lot of Philadelphia memories.
1. Fred Shero
"Win today, and we walk together forever."
It was the line that Fred Shero wrote on the chalkboard in the locker room prior to Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins.
Didn't want to spoil the ending, but the Flyers won that game, the Cup, and the hearts of Philadelphia fans forever. I guess Shero was right.
Better yet, the Flyers won the Stanley Cup in 1975. While they fell short in 1976, you can't help but note Shero as the greatest coach this city has ever seen.
He helped brand the Flyers as one of the toughest teams in NHL history. The "Broad Street Bullies" were the most feared team to play in the league on a night in, night out basis.
Shero led the Flyers to three 50-win seasons in the mid-1970's, three Cup Finals appearances, and two Cup wins.
He was also an innovator, becoming the first coach to utilize systems, study film, train during the season, and have morning skates. To say the least, Shero trailblazed his way through the game of hockey, and for that, he should be recognized.
Not only should he be recognized as the best coach in Philadelphia, he should be recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame. Believe it or not, Shero is not in the Hall of Fame. It's a shame he isn't a part of the Hall, because there are few men more deserving than Shero.
Shero did go on to coach the New York Rangers after he departed the Flyers following the 1978 season.
We'll forgive you, Mr. Shero. After all, it wouldn't be Broad Street without you.