Film Room: The Greatest Coaches/Managers in Sports Movie History (Part II)

“Players win games, coaches lose games.” It’s an age-old saying in sports that the players get the credit for a win, while the coach or manager seems to always get the blame when things go awry and the team loses. But a coach’s impact on a team begins long before the first game is ever played. A coach’s responsibility is to make sure the high-priced athletes on his roster are prepared to play. This also includes having to manage the ego of numerous professional athletes. It also requires finding talent in the most unlikely of places. This is no easy task because while a coach’s influence on the team can lead to victory on the field and championships, that same coach can quickly lose the respect of his players and lose the team, essentially losing his job.

Sports have seen their fair share of great coaches, and every great coach has his own unique style of coaching which in turn can be seen by his players. For every great team, there is usually a great coach on the sidelines or in the dugouts. The same is true in Hollywood, because for every great sports movie, there’s usually a great coach which pushes his team to new heights. Here is Part II of the Greatest Coaches/Managers in Sports Movie History.

***WARNING*** Out of respect to our younger followers, please be advised that this post will contain explicit language, perhaps not suitable for youngsters. Thank you!


Jimmy McGinty – The Replacements  

Jimmy McGinty (left) & Shane Falco in The Replacements

The strict ‘non-fiction coaches only’ policy makes this selection a little more difficult considering the likes of Herman Boone and Sean Porter aren’t in contention. However, I don’t think there is a football movie coach who did more with less than Jimmy McGinty, played by Gene Hackman. When the Washington Sentinels and the rest of professional football go on strike, Sentinels owner Ed O’Neil, played by the late, great Jack Warden, offers McGinty the opportunity to coach the Sentinels and its ‘replacement players.’

Great coaches take pride in finding talent in unusual places, and Jimmy McGinty is no different. McGinty seeks the services of one-time, big-time college quarterback Shane Falco, whose meltdown during his senior season Sugar Bowl cost him his professional career, to lead. McGinty also enlists a Sumo wrestler offensive lineman, a speedy wide receiver who can’t catch, a deaf tight end and my personal favorite; Daniel Bateman, a former S.W.A.T. officer. Not only does McGinty believe in Falco and second chances, but he makes his team believe that they can win; a true sign of a great coach as the Sentinels head into the playoffs

Memorable Quote: “When the Washington Sentinels left the stadium that date, there was no tickertape parade, no endorsement deals for sneakers or soda pop, or breakfast cereal. Just a locker to be cleaned out, and a ride home to catch. But what they didn’t know, was that their lives had been changed forever because they had been part of something great. And greatness, no matter how brief, stays with a man. Every athlete dreams of a second chance, these men lived it.”


Edwina Franklin - Eddie

Coach Eddie

This is an uphill batter going against Pete Bell of Blue Chips and a totally unorthodox selection here. But before you criticize, let’s look at the facts; the New York Knicks are also-rans in the NBA and comprised of players with little talent or who are too distracted by things off the court. Enter Edwina Franklin, a.k.a. Eddie played by Whoopi Goldberg. Eddie, who is a diehard Knicks fan and attends every home game, is the lucky winner of a promotional gimmick that enables her to be an honorary coach for the second half. As luck would have it, Eddie becomes the full time coach and eventually Eddie connects with her players both on the court and off it and earns their respect. And as any great coach can attest; respect is as crucial to a team’s survival as the talent on the roster. After gaining the teams’ trust and respect, Eddie turns the Knicks into legitimate championship contenders and a playoff berth.

Memorable Quote: “Do you remember that people pay to come and see you guys? People spent $2,000 on season tickets up in the nosebleed sections because they think you guys are worthwhile. And what about the little kids? Oh, forget about them, huh? The little kids who actually think you guys are heroes - stupid them!”


Morris Buttermaker - The Bad News Bears

Never Without a Cold One; The Bad News Bears' Morris Buttermaker

And we are talking about the Walter Matthau verision, not the Billy Bob Thorton one. This selection is very similar to Brett’s Lou Brown selection because both manage a team of misfits and do so in an extremely comical way.

Buttermaker is a former minor league baseball player who is a short-tempered, alcholic pool cleaner who takes the job of coaching a Little League. Despite his team of Bears being misfits with zero baseball talent, he accepts the coaching job because he needs the money. Even though he throws beer cans at one of his players he does instill in his ballplayers perseverance, teamwork and self-respect are more important in both life and baseball, than actually winning. He makes the list despite being half in the bag throughout most of the film and having his team sponsored by Chico’s Bail Bonds.

Memorable Quote: “All I know is when we win a game, it’s a team win. When we lose a game, it’s a team loss.”


Reggie Dunlap – Slap Shot

Paul Newman’s character makes the list for best hockey badass AND for best hockey coach in this unforgettable 1977 classic. Player-coach Dunlap makes the list as the best coach because of his unusual tactics to motivate his team as well as to make sure the Charlestown Chiefs are not relocated. Whether it was recruiting the fighting Hanson Brothers or leaking a false story that a retirement center in Florida has plans to buy the struggling minor league club, Dunlap stops at nothing to instill the will to win in his players; another quality every great coach needs to possess.

Memorable Quote: “She underlines the fuck scenes for ya? Jesus, if she underlines the fuck scenes for ya, she must worship the ground you walk on.”


Frankie Dunn - Million Dollar Baby

Clint Eastwood (left) as Frankie Dunn in Million Dollar Baby

While it is extremely difficult to knock Brett’s selection of Mickey Goldmill from the Rocky franchise as one of the most beloved and best quoted movie characters of all-time, it can be argued that the better manager throughout the Rocky franchise was in fact Tony Duke. To further prove this point, Mickey took a brute in Rocky and he finished his career with 57 wins and 24 loses. Hardly impressive numbers. Lest we forget that Rocky was exactly 1-3 in fights during the movies that Mickey was alive; with losses coming against Apollo Creed, Thunderlips and Clubber Lang.

Million Dollar Baby’s Frankie Dunn, on the other hand, is one of the best in the business trainers and mangers in the business. He takes Maggie Fitzgerald (My honorable mention for badass boxer) from a thirty-one year old poor waitress to the top of women’s professional boxing. More so than just what he does with Fitzgerald in the ring, but he truly is a father figure to her outside the ring. He instills to all his boxers the golden rule that applies to being in the ring and in life; always protect yourself. How many other coaches or managers would risk their own freedom to spare one of their athletes the agony of a painful deterioration like Frankie Dunn does? Clearly, Frankie Dunn did more with less than Micky Goldmill.

Memorable Quote: “I think someone should count to 10.”

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