The Best Players Who Sucked at Coaching

Matt MartinezCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2011

The Best Players Who Sucked at Coaching

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    A great player doesn't necessarily understand how to orchestrate a winning team. A lot of the great ones can't understand what it's like not to have super-human abilities.

    They push too hard and expect way too much out of their sometimes mediocre players.

    Let's take a look at some of the most glaring cases of Hall of Fame talent as a player and historically bad behind the bench.

23. Art Shell

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    As a player, Art Shell was an Oakland Raider legend. He made eight trips to the Pro Bowl and was named to the NFL's 1970's All-Decade Team. A Hall of Fame selection in 1989, Shell was poised to coach in the NFL.

    That same year, Shell was named the head coach of the then Los Angeles Raiders. In his second campaign, Shell led the Silver and Black to an impressive 12-4 finish but lost in the AFC Championship game to the Buffalo Bills. The talented Raiders enjoyed success under Shell, but Al Davis decided Shell's run was over in 1994 after a respectable 9-7 record.

    Twelve years later, the crazy Davis brought Shell back. While in LA, Shell was 54-38. In Oakland, Shell tarnished his coaching marks as his team finished an abysmal 2-14 in 2006. 

22. Allan Trammell

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    Everyone from Detroit loves Tram; that is, until he was named manager. He and Lou Whitaker dominated the middle of the diamond for the Tigers in the 1980's. Tram won four Gold Gloves at shortstop and made the All-Star team six times. He hit a career .285 and was the MVP of the 1984 World Series.

    As skipper of the Tigers, however, Tram kind of sucked. His first season, Trammell won just 43 games and lost a staggering 119. That's a less than lousy .265 winning percentage! To make matter worse, Detroit didn't fire him after such a crummy showing. He posted sub .500 records over the next two years.  

21. Mike Singletary

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    Local San Franciscans will remember Singletary's nonsensical line: "We will hit people in the mouth," from local television ads. Unfortunately for the Hall of Fame linebacker, his teams just lost.

    While with the Bears, Singletary was a beast. The eight-time All-Pro was named Defensive MVP twice. He was the crux to the 1985 team's defense that went on to win the Super Bowl.

    As the Niner head coach, Singletary was more bark than bite. He was relieved with an 18-22 record as he failed to win the soft NFC West in two and half seasons at the forefront. 

20. Ted Lyons

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    Which Chicago White Sox pitcher has the all-time wins total all cinched up? If you answered the pictured above Ted Lyons, you are obviously correct. Though he is considered one of the worst players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Lyons got a plaque back in 1955.

    Over 21 seasons, Lyons racked up 260 wins to 230 losses. His career 3.67 ERA is the second highest amongst Hall of Famers. So, maybe I'm not making such a great case for Lyons as a player, but he was much worse as a manager.

    In three years as the Sox manager, Lyons finished fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively. His final year, Lyons led the South Siders to an embarrassing 51-101 record. Ouch. 

19. Dunga

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    As far as defensive midfielders go, Dunga was one of the best. A member of the 1994 World Cup champions, Dunga helped lead his country to the finals against France four years later.

    When he was offered the position to manage Brazil in 2008, Dunga jumped at the opportunity. But when a disappointing bronze medal at the 2008 games in Beijing was followed by a loss in the quarter finals to the Netherlands during the 2010 World Cup, Dunga was dismissed.

18. Frank Boucher

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    Frank Boucher got the highest honor in hockey when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1958 as a player. While with the Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Maroons and New York Rangers, Boucher scored a plethora of points at center.

    Behind the bench, Boucher saw immediate success. He won the Stanley Cup during the 1939-1940 season and all was looking up in New York. But Boucher's success was short-lived. Over the next 10 years, Boucher's teams only made it to the postseason three times.  

17. Dave Bancroft

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    Dave Bancroft is another one of those guys who shouldn't be in Cooperstown, but since he played in the 1910's and 1920's, he gets a free pass. 

    Bancroft smacked more that 2,000 hits and scored more than 1,000 runs with the Phillies, Braves, Giants and Brooklyn Robins. 

    In charge, Bancroft really stunk up the joint. As a player manager for the Boston Braves, Bancroft never came close to finishing .500, and he never placed better than fifth in four years.

16. Roger Bresnahan

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    "The Duke of Tralee" was a Hall of Fame catcher whose natural abilities were praised by his battery mate Christy Mathewson. He also introduced the shin guard in 1907. Before then, I imagine catchers had purple shins from the mass quantity of balls banging off of them.

    But Bresnahan wasn't much of a skipper. After four bad years with the St. Louis Cardinals as a player manager, Roger was given the same title with the rival Chicago Cubs three years later.

    Bresnahan, like many of the others on this list, never had a winning season.

15. Marion Campbell

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    During the 1950's and 1960's, Marion Campbell was revolutionizing the position of defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles. The two-time Pro Bowler stifled the rushing attack of his opponents. He was a true pioneer of the professional game.

    He was a terrible coach, though. And when I say terrible, I mean he was one of the worst in NFL history. With a nine-year career at the helm, Campbell put together a 34-80 resume with the Falcons and Eagles. He never had a season over .500, dashing any playoff hopes he might have had.

14. Diego Maradona

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    Nobody finished like Maradona; he truly had a nose for the goal. On the pitch, he owned his opponents. He scored 34 times for his native Argentina and 258 times for his club teams. His "Hand of God" goal is replayed every time the World Cup comes around, but his 60 meter strike later in that contest was dubbed the "Goal of the Century."

    Maradona couldn't capture that same magic as a manager. While with Mandiyu de Corrientes, Diego won only one match. A year later, he led Racing Club to a 2-6-3 mark.

    As Argentina's manager, Maradona won 14 of his 19 contests but couldn't find a way beyond the quarterfinals in the 2010 World Cup.  

13. Walt Kiesling

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    From 1926 to 1938, Walt Kiesling put both offensive and defensive linemen on their ass. His skills landed him in the Hall of Fame in 1966, but his skills as a head coach landed him a spot on our countdown.

    Compiling a dismal 30-55-5 mark in two different stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kiesling only fielded a winning squad twice. 

12. Mike McCormack

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    This 1984 inductee thrived as an offensive tackle for the New York Giants, but more notably the Cleveland Browns. During his career, McCormack made six Pro Bowls and helped Cleveland to back-to-back championships in 1954 and 1955.

    McCormack's best year as a head coach came in 1982, when he was fired by the Seattle Seahawks after going 4-3. Overall, Mike lost almost twice as many as he won with the Eagles and Colts. 

11. Magic Johnson

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    Magic Johnson might be the greatest point guard in the history of the game. He was big, had unreal court vision and excited crowds from coast to coast. He was a winner, too. A five-time NBA champion, Johnson won three MVPs and amassed more than 10,000 career assists.

    His longevity and success didn't translate to Magic in a suit. After losing five of his first six games as the Laker's head coach in 1993-1994, Johnson elected to buy a five percent share of the team.

10. Wayne Gretzky

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    "The Great One's" greatness on the ice cannot be challenged. If Gretzky had never scored a goal, he would be the all-time points leader. He netted a record 92 goals in the 1980-1981 season and tallied an NHL best 215 points in 1985-1986. Behind the bench, however, Gretzky wasn't so great.

    After retiring from the NHL, Gretzky grabbed a 10 percent ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes. Five years later, he became the team's head coach. 

    While at the helm, Gretzky missed the playoffs in four consecutive years. He never finished better than fourth in the Pacific Division (which is only comprised of five teams) and only put together a winning season once. 

    Wayne finished 143-161-24 in four years as head coach, and the Coyotes filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. 

9. Jimmy Connors

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    When Andy Roddick approached Connors to be his coach in 2006, Andy was looking to push his game to the next level. He wanted a career like Jimmy's.

    Connors won an impressive eight Grand Slam titles and was a French Open away from capturing a career Grand Slam. He won two Grand Slam doubles titles with Ilie Natase and spent more than five years at No. 1.

    I guess Connors' ability didn't translate to coaching because under Connors, Roddick struggled. During their 19-month relationship, Roddick's best finish at a Grand Slam event was a 2007 semifinal exit at the Australian Open.

    To be fair, Roddick has had some of the best competition in tennis history. Without Roger Federer, who knows what Roddick could have accomplished?

8. Norm Van Brocklin

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    Former Oregon Duck, Los Angeles Ram and Philadelphia Eagle Norm Van Brocklin put together a career that included nine Pro Bowls, an NFL MVP and two championships. He helped solidify the position of quarterback during a very different time in the NFL.

    "The Dutchman" also tried his hand at coaching—and failed miserably. The Hall of Famer lasted 13 seasons as a head coach with the Vikings and Falcons and won more than he lost only three times. His teams never made the postseason, as he went 66-100-7 on the sideline.

7. Milt Schmidt

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    Milt's 93 and still kicking, so I hope he doesn't see his spot on our countdown. First, let's praise him.

    Schmidt was awesome for the Boston Bruins from the 1930's to the 1950's. He centered the "Kraut" line that won two Stanley Cups. He scored 575 points in 776 games and won the Hart Trophy in 1951. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame more than 50 years ago, and he deserves it.

    As a coach, Schmidt was given a very long leash. In four of his first five seasons in charge, Schmidt led the Bruins to the postseason. He should have retired after that run because over the next eight seasons, Boston never finished higher than fifth.

6. Billy Herman

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    Never trust a guy with two first names; that's my No. 1 rule. Billy Herman is no exception.

    On the diamond, no one was more consistent than Herman both defensively and with the bat. The 10-time All-Star was enshrined in Cooperstown as part of the 1975 class. He batted an impressive .304 over his career with the Cubs, Braves, Dodgers and Pirates.

    Herman is another one of those guys whose gifts on the field didn't turn into a gift to teach a lesser player. Billy first got his chance to manage at the ripe age of 37. As a player manager, he led his Pirates to a seventh place finish in the National League.

    Two decades later, he was given a three-year stint with the Red Sox. More awful stats to throw your way: a 128-182 record and nary a finish above eighth.

5. Ted Williams

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    Any baseball fan can tell you what Ted Williams meant to the game. He's the last guy to hit over .400 in a season, made 19 All-Star game appearances and is arguably the best pure hitter of all-time.

    What most baseball fans can't tell you is what Williams' managerial career was like. Though he was hampered by a not-so-talented Washington Senators team from 1969-1972, Williams only won more than he lost in one campaign. In four years, he finished 273-364, good enough for a .429 winning percentage.

    Once the Senators moved to Texas, Williams only lasted one more season as skipper. It's a good thing, too. It didn't seem like he had them headed in the right direction. 

4. Alex Delvecchio

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    From 1951 to 1974, Alex Delvecchio was a Wing. He was a winner. In 1952, 1954 and 1955, he hoisted the Stanley Cup. He skated in 13 All-Star games, is eighth all-time in games played and is 27th all-time in points scored. He wore Detroit's "C" for 12 years, and his number hangs over the ice amongst the Red Wing's finest players.

    But even with all of his ability on the ice, Delvecchio couldn't get it done in a suit instead of a sweater. As the Wings' head coach, Delvecchio never cracked .500 and his teams couldn't finish better than fourth.

3. Bart Starr

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    It's funny to think that one of the NFL's most storied quarterbacks fell all the way to the 17th round in 1956. Starr was a two-time All-Pro, a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time Super Bowl MVP. He led the Packers to five NFL championships during his fabled 16-year career.

    As a coach, Starr was lacking. And it's not like Green Bay didn't give the legend a chance. Starr was given the reins for nine years. During that time, he failed to win his division and put together a less than legendary 52-76-3 record.

2. Isiah Thomas

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    Nobody messed with Zeke on the hardwood. He was a floor general. With the Detroit Pistons, Thomas won back-to-back championships, was selected to 11 All-Star games and averaged more than 19 points and nine assists in 14 seasons.

    He's been an awful coach. Though he made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons as the Indiana Pacers head coach, Thomas never got out of the first round. When the Knicks gave him a shot three years later, he went 56-108 over two years.

    His depressing pedigree led to an opportunity with FIU. The Golden Panthers have gone 18-44 under his tutelage.

1. Ebbie Goodfellow

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    If you're not a Red Wings historian, than the name "Poker Face" Goodfellow should not be familiar. Ebbie is a Hall of Fame defenseman/ forward who played all 14 of his seasons in Detroit. Back in the late 1920's through the early 1940's when Goodfellow was skating, far fewer regular season games were played.

    In 554 career games, Ebbie scored 134 goals and assisted on 190 others. 

    When he got the tap to coach the Chicago Blackhawks in the early 1950's, it was ugly. And I mean Carrot Top ugly. In two years, Goodfellow won just 30 contests, lost 91 and tied 19. Suffice it to say, the Hawks never sniffed the Stanley Cup under Goodfellow's watch.