Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky and 13 Great Players Who Couldn't Coach

Elliott PohnlFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2010

Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky and 13 Great Players Who Couldn't Coach

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    Great athletes don't usually make good coaches.

    Exactly why this is the case is open for debate.

    Sure, great athletes possess a knowledge of the game that is often unmatched.

    They also are insanely competitive, impatient and difficult to work with.

    With that in mind, this list is dedicated to the great athletes who have succeeded at the highest level during their playing careers and failed during their coaching careers.

    In an effort to expand this list a bit, we'll start with some of the worst coaches who weren't great athletes in the true sense of the word.

    Here's a look at 15 very good athletes turned very bad coaches.

Honorable Mention: Rich Kotite

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    Rich wasn't a great player and really sucked as a coach.

    Yes, he played in the NFL as a reserve tight end before he found his true calling in life.

    After getting off to a respectable start in Philadelphia, things went downhill in a hurry.

    The Eagles fired him after the 1994 season, and he was immediately hired by the New York Jets.

    He lasted two years and posted a 4-28 record with the undermanned Jets.

    That's just awful.

No. 15: Herm Edwards

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    Herm Edwards was a defensive back during his playing days who was most commonly remembered for scoring the stunning touchdown to complete "The Miracle at the Meadowlands."

    It seemed only natural that he would end up coaching the Jets.

    Although his run started out well, his motivational tactics soon wore off.

    He was eventually traded to Kansas City, where early success gave way to failure.

No. 14: Sammy Baugh

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    Baugh made the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his performance as a player, not for his accomplishments as a head coach.

    Known for being one of the first quarterbacks who actually threw the ball all over the field, Baugh dabbled in coaching after his playing days ended.

    He spent one season directing the Houston Oilers of the AFL, finishing with a 4-10 record in 1964.

    It could be argued he was a better actor than coach.

No. 13: Eddie Mathews

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    The Braves' great left the hot corner and tried his hand at managing, but it didn't work out very well.

    He went 149-161 during three seasons on the bench with the Braves and didn't direct his team to any postseason appearances.

    However, Mathews was managing when Hank Aaron belted his 715th home run.

    It could have been worse.

No. 12: Bart Starr

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    The iconic quarterback of the great Packers teams, Starr was given the chance to coach Green Bay.

    Loyalty might have been the only reason he lasted for nine seasons on the sideline.

    As head coach from 1975-1983, he posted only two winning campaign and a single postseason appearance.

No. 11: Forrest Gregg

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    Gregg had some good moments as a head coach, but some bad ones as well.

    The Hall of Fame tackle engineered the Bengals run to the Super Bowl in the 1981 season, but ended his NFL coaching career with a 75-85-1 record.

    After that, he was brought in to help repair Southern Methodist's football program, fresh off the death penalty following numerous NCAA violations.

    With nothing to work with, Gregg canceled the 1988 season and went 2-9 in 1989 and 1-10 in 1990 before resigning.

    You gotta give him credit for trying.

No. 10: Mel Ott

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    The slugging outfielder was the first National League player to belt 500 home runs, many of which came while he was also managing the New York Giants.

    Ott began managing the team in 1942, and lasted seven seasons.

    During that time, the Giants never finished better than third in the National League.  He finished his career with a 464-530 record.

No. 9: Mike Singletary

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    The jury is still out on what exactly Mike Singletary can do as a head coach.

    His overbearing enthusiasm prevented him from getting a head coaching job for years, then appeared to be just what the 49ers needed.

    But based on the results this year, his act could be wearing thin by the Bay.

    Unless the 49ers rebound to contend in the worst division in recent memory, he could be looking for work again.

    Whether it's firing coordinators or criticizing players, Singletary rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

No. 8: Magic Johnson

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    The Lakers executive tried his hand at coaching during the 1993-1994 season.

    Much like his talk show career, his stint on the bench didn't last long.

    Johnson posted a 5-11 record to finish the year, then decided to actually buy into the team as a part-owner.

    At least he knew his limitations.

No, 7: Kevin McHale

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    After his glorious career as one of the best NBA power forwards in history, McHale became one of the worst basketball executives ever.

    He spent time as a head coach in the 2004-2005 season with decent success, finishing 19-12 after replacing the fired Flip Saunders.

    He returned to the bench after Randy Wittman was finally fired in 2008, and compiled a 20-43 record.

    It will be years before the T'Wolves will be ready to contend again.

No. 6: Ted Williams

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    Ted Williams was a sharp as any player to play the game, and his astounding Hall of Fame numbers reflected his knowledge of baseball.

    His winning percentage as a manager was barely higher than his record .406 batting average in in 1941.

    During four seasons as a manager, Ted Ballgame posted a paltry 273-364 record.

No. 5: Bryan Trottier

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    The Hall of Fame center spent only part of one season on the bench as a head coach.

    It's hardly worth remembering.

    The longtime Islanders' star wwas 21-26-6 as head coach of the rival New York Rangers before being fired in the midst of the 2003-2004 campaign.

No. 4: Mike Ditka

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    Depending on who you ask, Mike Ditka is either a football genius or a moron.

    We'll chalk up the success of his Super Bowl Shuffle Bears' team to one of the best defenses ever assembled.

    For all of the great things he did in Chicago, Ditka made a fool of himself when he traded his entire draft for Ricky Williams.

    Not a smart move.

    Despite his failure in New Orleans, he will still be widely regarded as a legend.

    Don't believe the hype.

No. 3: Art Shell

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    Art Shell was a dominant tackle with the Raiders and a pretty good coach.

    At least, until he returned to the sideline in 2006.

    In his first stint with the then-L.A. Raiders, Shell posted a 54-38 record, captured a coach of the year award and led his team to the 1990 AFC Championship game.

    If only he had stopped there.

    Shell was coaxed out of retirement by Al Davis, who brought him in to fix the Silver & Black.

    His comeback ended after one season as the Oakland Raiders went 2-14.

    Sometimes it's better to stay away.

No. 2: Isiah Thomas

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    The man who destroyed the Knicks was never cut out for coaching, either.

    Although Zeke had some modest success during his three seasons coaching the Pacers, his return to coaching in New York was a complete disaster.

    Thomas went 55-108 in two seasons, unable to correct the mess he had created.

    Maybe things will go better for him now that he has moved to the college game.

    Then again, maybe not: Thomas' Florida International team went 7-25 in his first year on the pine.

No. 1: Wayne Gretzky

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    As much we would like to shock you at No. 1, it's impossible to ignore Gretzky's shortcomings as a head coach.

    Gretzky went 143-161-24 during four seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes.

    In case you want more numbers, that's good (or bad) for a horrible .473 winning percentage.

    At the least the Great One will still be able to hold his head high.