Craziest Coach Confrontations in Sports History
Though yesterday's 49ers versus Lions game was a highly competitive slugfest that came down to the wire, most of the postgame conversation revolved around the brouhaha that took place after Jim Schwartz took issue with Jim Harbaugh's exuberant handshake and back slap.
And while the coaches were quickly separated before things got serious, the conversation surrounding the incident hasn't dissipated just yet. Which got us to thinking—what other coach confrontations have made a stir over the years?
The following confrontations took place between coaches and either fans, players or other coaches, and in some way were instigated or resulted from the coach's actions or words.
To the slides!
25. Todd Haley vs. Josh McDaniels
After a November game last year, Todd Haley of the Chiefs refused to shake hands with Josh McDaniels of the Broncos. Theories abounded as to why Haley stiffed him, though Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt had something interesting to say this July. From PFT:
“I don’t know if I can answer that within the locker room, but I know that it has something to do with the Spygate, the videotaping,” Colquitt said. “All the stuff like that. And I think that Haley was like, ‘Listen, based on that game I can tell what you are doing, and you are cheating.’. . .
“I think it was just a culmination of rumors and [McDaniels] had been involved in that in New England possibly before, and so Todd was just kind of saying, ‘Look, with the game plan we had and what you guys already knew we were gonna do, this is’ . . . basically saying it was ‘bush, bush league.’”
Whoa. If that's true, that's just...whoa.
24. Bill Belichick vs. Eric Mangini
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
23. Herb Brooks vs. Jacques Demers
Jacques Demers was ready to throw down!
22. Lindy Ruff vs. Bryan Murray
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
I can't seem to get this video to work, but you can check it out here.
Oh, and that's NSFW, by the way. Anytime you have a coach standing on the boards and yelling over the glass, you know you have a good confrontation on your hands.
21. Todd Grantham vs. James Franklin
I didn't see this game this weekend, but here's how we apparently got to the video above, where Georgia coach Todd Grantham goes bonkers (in slow motion!) on Vanderbilt coach James Franklin. From Jerry Hinnen of CBS:
The incident apparently began with Franklin gesturing towards a Bulldog player that may have been safety Shawn Williams; Franklin said afterwards he wanted to confront Mark Richt with a complaint but found Grantham instead. The exchange between the two escalated into the image above and nearly sparked an on-field brawl between the two teams.
Williams has since apologized. Grantham has come close to apologizing.
“First of all, I love my players and appreciate their hard work and investment in our program. I feel a responsibility and loyalty to protect and stand up for them. However, I feel it’s important to educate them in all areas of life. While my intentions were genuine, I feel it was unfortunate that things escalated to a confrontation. However, I’ll use it as a learning experience for myself as well as my players so that we all become better men.”
Yup, not an apology to be found there. You can stand up for your team without making a huge scene that embarrasses your university and takes away from the game played on the field.
20. Jim Harbaugh vs. Pete Carroll
What's your deal? From Yahoo! this September:
As new San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said this week, "He said, 'What's your deal?' I said, 'What's your deal?' And then from there, it's about as well-documented a six word sentence as there could be."
Harbaugh was talking about an exchange he had with then-USC head coach Pete Carroll in November of 2009, when Harbaugh was Stanford's main man and the Cardinals went for a two-point conversion in the process of beating the daylights out of the Trojans, 55-21. After the game, Carroll wasn't too pleased about Harbaugh's seeming need to pin the needle long after the game was decided.
Can't say I disagree with Carroll being annoyed in that case, though I also can't say I disagree with Harbaugh running it up a bit on USC—who had spent the past several years running it up on people—either.
In other words, I think they each had a right to wonder what the other's deal was.
19. Pete Rose vs. Dave Pallone
There is something so hilarious about the chest bump of aggression that managers will do as the ultimate act of discontent against an umpire's call.
And if they kick some dirt to put the exclamation point on their disgust?
Well, that's just priceless.
18. Tony LaRussa vs. Dusty Baker
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Here's the video from last season's words between the two managers during a brawl between the Reds and Cardinals.
These two have spent a career opposing and snipping at one another, which is described in great detail in this article by Rick Hummel of STLToday.com. And yet apparently they are friends.
La Russa concedes the two have an unusual fashion sometimes in showing that friendship, but he said, "Heat of the competition."
Baker agrees. "We're both competitive guys," he said. "He doesn't take much and I don't take much, you know what I'm saying?"
17. Arsene Wenger vs. Alan Pardew
The video pretty much explains it all.
With the way this season is going for Arsenal and Arsene Wagner, I'd probably avoid him at all costs.
16. John Tortorella vs. the World
Amazingly, this compilation didn't include Tortorella giving the business to New York Post writer Larry Brooks.
You really want to see this.
15. Jim Schwartz vs. Jim Harbaugh
If you've watched five minutes of SportsCenter at any point last evening or today, you know exactly what happened with this incident.
Frankly, I'm with Schwartz on this one, though I think he probably let the emotion of a tough loss cloud his judgment when pursuing Harbaugh. He could have shrugged it off and spoken to him later about it. Not that Harbaugh cares one way or the other, I'm sure.
14. Jose Mourinho vs. Tito Vilanova's Eye
From The Huffington Post comes the context of this very peculiar eye-poke by Jose Mourinho:
Coming shortly after Lionel Messi netted the game-winner with a powerful volley, the fracas was triggered by a particularly violent and needless tackle by Madrid's Marcelo on Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas. Before Barcelona's prodigal son could hit the field, the benches were cleared.
Amidst a flurry of pushing, shoving and slapping that would have looked familiar to baseball fans, the Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho calmly strode up behind Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova and appeared to plunge a finger into his eye.
I'm not sure if he went for the full finger plunge or was mockingly going for something more akin to a cheek tweak. Either way, it was a really lame gesture on his part.
13. Roger McDowell vs. Justin Quinn
And now, we present the most hilarious press conference ever.
If you aren't familiar with the story, go here. To paraphrase, Atlanta's pitching coach, Roger McDowell, made homophobic and inappropriate comments toward a group of fans last season in San Francisco.
When Justin Quinn protested that there were kids in the stands, McDowell approached him wielding a baseball bat and asked him how much his teeth were worth.
12. Glen Sather vs. the Fans
It's pretty amazing that footage exists of this 1980 brawl between the Oilers and Penguins, or that the camera caught the perfect perspective of Oilers coach Glen Sather shaking the glass in an effort to get at the fans.
Apparently, Sather had beer poured on him from fans and he and his players were not to happy about it. Though as you can see on the video, Sather also threw a water bottle at one of the Penguins.
An ugly scene.
11. Jeff Van Gundy vs. Alonzo Mourning
The above came from 1998 in Game 4 of the first-round series between the Knicks and Heat.
I'm not sure if I've ever seen a coach look quite so silly as Van Gundy did hanging off of Alonzo Mourning's leg.
10. Don Zimmer vs. Pedro Martinez
It was Game 3 of the ALCS in 2003, and as things often do between the Yankees and Red Sox, it got chippy. Pitches were thrown at players, benches cleared, Zimmer headed toward Pedro and the rest is history.
I think the funniest quote of the incident came from the Yankees Jason Giambi. From ESPN:
"I was more surprised to see Zim get across the field that fast," Jason Giambi said later. "You don't spend as many years as he has in the game without getting involved."
(By the way, I'm not sure I would recommend watching the rest of the video after Pedro's head toss—it's pretty corny. But it's the best clip of the incident I could find.)
9. Tom Cable vs. Randy Hanson
Here's what Hanson said at the time, via Yahoo!:
“From my blindside, Tom Cable threw me from my chair and into a piece of furniture that a lamp sat upon,” Hanson told Yahoo! Sports Friday during an extensive interview at a Bay Area restaurant. “He was screaming, ‘I’ll f——- kill you! I’ll f——- kill you!’ And I have no reason to believe he wouldn’t have killed me if they hadn’t pulled him away.
The alleged attack left Hanson with a broken jaw. Here's what Napa County district attorney Gary Lieberstein determined when the case went to court, also via Yahoo!:
Ultimately Lieberstein concluded that accounts given to Napa Police investigators by the three assistants who witnessed the incident (Cable refused to submit to questioning) were “credible” and that any physical or verbal interaction between the two men did not rise to the level of assault. Lieberstein said he believed that Cable had bumped into defensive backs coach Lionel Washington, who then collided with Hanson, causing Hanson to fall out of his chair.
8. Bob Knight vs. the World
There was 1997, when junior Neil Reed alleged that Knight choked him during a practice. From Sports Illustrated:
"At that point coach thrust right at me, just came right at me," Reed said. "[He] wasn't far away enough to where I couldn't see something coming, was close enough to come at me and reach and put his hand around my throat, he came at me with two hands but grabbed me with one hand."
After a number of other allegations surfaced (which are included in the link), Indiana took action. From IndyStar.com:
He was fined $30,000, suspended for three games of the 2000-01 regular season and ordered to make a general apology for his actions and a specific apology to the secretary. Most importantly, the board issued a "zero tolerance" policy, under which any new incident of inappropriate behavior would result in immediate termination.
Not long after, Knight was dismissed after freshman Kent Harvey claimed Knight grabbed him roughly and scolded him because Knight felt Harvey spoke to him in a disrespectful manner.
7. Kevin Gilbride vs. Buddy Ryan
A house divided cannot stand.
Is there any wonder where Rex and Rob get it from?
6. An Actual Coach Fight
This video apparently comes from a 1997 CHL game between Wichita and Tulsa. It got so bad that the coaches actually threw punches at one another.
When hockey brawls, man, hockey brawls hard.
5. Billy Martin vs. Everyone
T.G. Higgins/Getty Images
Sports Illustrated does a concise job of summing up Martin's many incidents as a manager.
While managing the Twins in 1969, he got into a bar fight and clocked pitcher Dave Boswell so hard that Boswell needed 20 stitches. In 1977, in arguably his most famous fight, but one that wasn't really a fight, Martin and superstar outfielder Reggie Jackson nearly came to blows on national television in a Fenway Park dugout (pictured). Martin had pulled Jackson from the game for what he perceived to be loafing, and when Jackson confronted him, Martin had to be restrained from attacking Jackson.
Finally, in 1985, Martin and pitcher Ed Whitson got into a brawl at the team hotel in Baltimore. Both men claimed the other started it, but the result was a broken arm and two broken ribs for Martin from a fight that took three rounds to finish.
What a sweet guy that Billy Martin was.
4. Latrell Sprewell vs. P.J. Carlesimo
In most of these incidents, it has been the coaches that have instigated or been the primary perpetrators of the confrontations.
Which is why I wasn't sure to include this one, as Latrell Sprewell obviously attacked and choked Carlesimo in 1997, as even the players attested to and decried at the time. Still, there was an obvious rift between the coach and player that had been building for quite some time, ultimately leading to Sprewell choking Carlesimo in practice.
For the full account, I recommend checking out more here.
3. Lenny Randle vs. Frank Lucchesi
Texas Rangers second baseman Lenny Randle wasn't happy that Frank Lucchesi was benching him in favor of Bump Wills in 1977. Lucchesi wasn't sure why a player who wasn't producing was griping, and told reporters such. When the two approached each other before an exhibition game, Randle went after the manager. From ESPN:
"Lenny stepped back and hit Frank and hit him two or three times as he was going down and then hit him while he was on the ground," said Rangers mouthpiece Burt Hawkins. "Frank said he didn't remember a thing after he was hit the first time."
Good thing. Lucchesi lay on the ground in a bloody heap, suffering from a broken cheekbone, a concussion, and a lacerated lip, and would have to be operated on. Lucchesi later called it a "sneak attack," and claimed his hands were in his pockets. Randle disputed the latter point: "There was no way Frank had his hands in his pockets. He always uses his hands when he talks."
2. John Chaney vs. John Calipari
This is just priceless.