Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy and The 10 Best Head Coach Tirades
As the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Arizona Wildcats prepare for Wednesday's Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, the surest place to expect fireworks may not be on the field, but in the media room. There, throughout the next few days, will be Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, who famously said, "I'm a man!"
The circumstances surrounding Gundy's tirade against a local newspaper that day over three years ago made him a hero to some and a laughingstock to others, but make no mistake, that outburst put Gundy's program squarely on the map, even in relatively down years when they might otherwise have fallen deep into the shadows of Oklahoma and Texas. The Cowboys should cruise to victory, so barring a too-adventurous columnist, Gundy will have little fuel for his fire this week.
Still, the rant is his calling card, the flashpoint moment that will remain a part of his legacy long after he retires. Where does Gundy rank among the all-time greatest coaching meltdowns? Actually, he is not even all that high. Read on, because this should be fun: These are the top 10 rants, rails and redresses ever by the leaders of sporting men.
10. Mike Singletary
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The Big Line: "Can't win with 'em; can't coach with 'em. I can't do it."
In 2008, Mike Singletary and the San Francisco 49ers were not winning. The former Bears linebacker thought he knew why, so he took to the podium in San Francisco to tell the press.
Tight end Vernon Davis had already earned a reputation as a disruptive influence and a lousy teammate. Singletary took it a step further, accusing Davis of not caring whether the team won and of being entirely selfish. He railed against Davis in a nearly unprecedented assault on an individual player's football character. The result? two years later, Davis has, by all accounts, substantially improved his attitude, but the 49ers missed the playoffs anyway.
9. Jim Mora, Part I
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The Big Line: "Playoffs?! Don't talk about the playoffs. Playoffs?!"
As you might have guessed, Mora was not a big believer in his team's playoff prospects after a tough loss in November of 2001. In fact, the Indianapolis Colts were 4-6 at the time, so he was more concerned with the really ugly way they had played on that day. When a reporter off-handedly asked him about the possibility that the team would make its way to the postseason, Mora cut loose. He was right, too: The team lost four of its last six to finish 6-10.
8. Kevin Borseth
The Big Line: "Watch 48 more hours of videotape, gain 10 more pounds, that's how you get ready for Sunday, okay?"
There are certain moments at which a coach's true level of engagement are always exposed. Thus, after the Michigan women's basketball team lost a game they led by 20 points at halftime, Kevin Borseth had to feel pressure to show just how ticked off he was.
The stage was set perfectly, the camera steadfast on the podium, giving the audience no warning: Borseth's long right arm preceded him into frame, slamming his notes against the podium as if hoping to collapse it. "That's how I feel!" he yelled into the microphone.
From there, the show was on. Borseth was understandably upset, but he obviously also contrived some of his fury for the sake of the cameras and for the sake of his team. He glanced at his notes between every paragraph of his tirade, leaving those watching to wonder if he had begun scribbling a rough draft with 10 minutes to play. Either way, his gangly, lurching and demonstrative outburst remains one of the biggest non-UConn stories of women's college hoops in the past few years.
7. Herm Edwards
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The Big Line: "You play to win the game. Hello?"
On the day before Halloween of 2002, Herm Edwards held his weekly press conference between games, and as they often did during the Edwards era with the New York Jets, things got a bit out of hand. New York had lost the week before, and were locked in a surprisingly tight race for the AFC East crown.
Edwards took issue when a reporter asked him about the potential silver linings of the loss, and television history was made. "You play to win the game," Edwards repeated, as he seemed to work himself up more with each retelling. Thanks for the tip, Herm. Incidentally, though, the Jets took his words to heart, as they won four games in a row and seven of the nine then left on their schedule to win that rather weak divisional title.
6. Jim Mora, Part II
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The Big Line: "We couldn't do diddly poo offensively."
You know the best part of that line? It isn't even a self censorship. Mora actually used "diddly poo" at that big moment, though he would later forget those manners, or else rediscover his inner sailor. His New Orleans Saints had taken it on the chin in the second half that day, to be sure, but Mora really tore into the team.
"The players did a horrible job, the coaches did a horrible job, it stunk. Stunk," he said. Diddly poo usually does, I suppose.
5. Mike Gundy
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The Big Line: "I'm a man!"
Gundy's Cowboys won on the day of this rant, but that bore little relevance to Gundy's favored topic: A story had appeared in The Oklahoman that painted the team's recently benched starting quarterback as a rather coddled, somewhat selfish young man—and that was if the reader sympathized with the subject.
Waving the paper around for the room to see, Gundy began tearing into the reporter. He screamed about the wretchedness of attacking a player who, in his words, "does things the right way!" He implored the press to come to him, or criticize him, rather than his athletes. After all, he said, "I'm a man! I can take it!"
How that rather dramatic and visible defense against a rather unexceptional allegation made his young player look less coddled is hard to say, but Gundy did earn some points for defending his players, for standing toe-to-toe with a sports media for whom no lines or boundaries have ever been especially clear and for being really, really rhetorically excellent in his execution of the argument. He could have been a fire-and-brimstone preacher from the old school.
4. Hal McRae
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The Big Line: "No, no, don't ask me all thes dumb-ass questions."
McRae managed the Royals on their way from perennial Yankee foils to basement dwellers of the American League, so perhaps his sense of history made him more prone to the anger he displayed on this night.
He lashed out violently about a question over his decision not to pinch-hit with the bases loaded during that night's game, standing up, yelling profanely, throwing his phone (a corded device, back then, and thus a rather more dramatic statement than it might be today), kicking his chair, stomping out into the hallway and threatening the reporters from whom he apparently felt a great deal of undue judgment. It was a great show, though at least one or two of those reporters probably had to retire their shorts after this brush with the fiery McRae.
3. Dennis Green
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The Big Line: "The Bears are who we thought they were! And we let them off the hook!"
One can hardly fault Dennis Green for feeling fed up, or even shell-shocked, after a discombobulated second half in which the Chicago Bears scored twice on defense and once on special teams, but not at all in the traditional way, to beat his Arizona Cardinals 24-23 in October 2006.
Still, Green's disgust morphed from the merely viewable to the eminently replayable when he began batting the podium back and forth, visibly shaking with rage over a loss to a very good team he nonetheless thought his team should have beaten. By the time he stomped out of the press room, the spotlight was squarely fixed on his back.
2. John Chaney and John Calipari
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The Big Line: "Some things never cease to amaze me."
At No. 2, I give you two coaches for the price of one—although Calipari's price is rather high to begin with.
After a game between Temple and UMass in February 1996, John Chaney took exception to the play of Calipari's Minutemen players. Naturally, his recourse was to storm into the middle of Calipari's press conference, rant and rave rather vehemently about the way his players had been criticized for the same style of physicality (and rather heavy-handed attempts at manipulating the officials), then charge up the side aisle toward Calipari.
Calipari came down to meet him, and the fireworks really would have been impressive if security personnel had not kept the two narrowly apart. The tale of the tape says Chaney would have won, and so does Chaney: "I'll kill you!" he shouted. "Remember that, when I see you, I will kick your ass!"
1. Lee Elia
Notice that I am not supplying a Big Line for this, the grand-daddy of all coaching tirades? Elia left little printable material with which to work. The man simply lost it.
The date was April 29, 1983, and Elia's Chicago Cubs had just lost—again. This time, though, they had heard it a bit from the home crowd, one considerably less robust and respectable than the society types that pack Wrigley Field to its gills in the modern era. Unappreciative of the fair-weather fanhood, Elia laid into Cubs fans, ranting on for nearly four minutes of almost uninterrupted obscenity and vitriol. By Elia's reckoning, 85 percent of the world had a job, while the other 15 percent came to Wrigley to drink and boo. It was a dark day for Elia, who was not long for the job, but he made his point emphatically and it will never be forgotten.
DISCLAIMER: This video is uncut and uncensored, and Elia swears frequently throughout.