Thirty Great Sports Movie Coaches

Miracle 560x280It is not possible to create a formula for creating the perfect sports movie. The band of misfits, the underdogs (or underdog), the big game, and the superstar player falling from the mountain and climbing his way back to the top are some of the several elements that have been used to make sports movies that have seen success over the years.

Even if you used all the cliches in sports movie history, there is no guarantee that your film will be worth a watch. There are many elements that can turn a sports film from a complete mess into an instant classic. True stories usually lead the way when it comes to great sports films because people want to know that what they are watching actually happened. The viewers can fall into the film and go along for the ride, which is exciting to say the least. But there is one element that almost every single great sports film has used to great effect, and that is the coach.

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There has never been a great sports film that did not have that knowledgeable mentor that could always bring things back together in the end. A great coach can be the glue that keeps the team together or simply a mentor that helps someone become a legend. In honor of these great leaders in sports, we put together a list of the 30 greatest sports movie coaches ever.

30) Jimmy Dolan (The Air Up There)

  • Year: 1994
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Played By: Kevin Bacon

29) Pop Fisher (The Natural)

  • Year: 1984
  • Sport: Baseball
  • Played By: Wilford Brimley

28) Phil Weston (Kicking and Screaming)

  • Year: 2005
  • Sport: Soccer
  • Played By: Will Ferrell

27) Molly McGrath (Wildcats)

  • Year: 1986
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Goldie Hawn

26) Morris Buttermaker (Bad News Bears)

  • Year: 1976
  • Sport: Baseball
  • Played By: Walter Matthau

25) Skip (Bull Durham)

  • Year: 1988
  • Sport: Baseball
  • Played By: Trey Wilson

24) Kevin & Danny O’Shea (Little Giants)

  • Year: 1994
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Ed O’Neil & Rick Moranis

23) Bronson Peary (Eddie the Eagle)

  • Year: 2015
  • Sport: Ski Jump
  • Played By: Hugh Jackman

22) Paul Crewe (The Longest Yard)

  • Year: 1974
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Burt Reynolds

21) Coach Cotton (The Blind Side)

  • Year: 2009
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Ray McKinnon

20) Curtis Plummer (The Longshots)

  • Year: 2008
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Ice Cube

19) Jackie Moon (Semi-Pro)

  • Year: 2008
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Played By: Will Ferrell

18) Pete Bell (Blue Chips)

  • Year: 1994
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Played By: Nick Nolte

17) Ken Carter (Coach Carter)

  • Year: 2005
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Played By: Samuel L. Jackson

16) Gordon Bombay (The Mighty Ducks)

  • Year: 1992
  • Sport: Ice Hockey
  • Played By: Emilio Estevez

15) Bud Kilmer (Varsity Blues)

  • Year: 1999
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Jon Voight

14) Jimmy Dugan (A League of Their Own)

  • Year: 1992
  • Sport: Baseball
  • Played By: Tom Hanks

13) Sam Winters (The Program)

  • Year: 1993
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: James Caan

12) Wally Rig (Necessary Roughness)

  • Year: 1991
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Robert Loggia

11) Jimmy McGinty (The Replacements)

  • Year: 2000
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Gene Hackman

10) Reggie Dunlop (Slapshot)

  • Year: 1977
  • Sport: Ice Hockey
  • Played By: Paul Newman
  • As funny as the movie is, Slapshot is still a great dramatic sports film for several reasons. The main reason will forever be Paul Newman’s role as Reggie Dunlop, the team’s star player, coach, and owner. He did anything he could to keep his team alive, not just for himself, but for the men around him that lived for the sport.

9) Don Haskins (Glory Road)

  • Year: 2006
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Played By: Josh Lucas
  • Remember the Titans told the same story but for a different sport. Glory Road was the story of Don Haskins recruiting, and starting, black players in college basketball. It would change the course of history for the sport and it was all because of his ability to make decisions that were bigger than any one person on the team including choosing to only play his black players during the NCAA Championship game, and winning it all.

8) Irv Blitzer (Cool Runnings)

  • Year: 1993
  • Sport: Bobsledding
  • Played By: John Candy
  • If someone told you that Cool Runnings was a true story, would you believe them? It is truly an amazing story that happened during the 1988 Winter Olympics. But what made this story even better, the way Irv Blitzer took a group of track and field sprinters and turned them into Olympic qualifying bobsledders.

7) Tony D’Amato (Any Given Sunday)

  • Year: 1999
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Al Pacino
  • It is Al Pacino starring as a head coach in a Oliver Stone sports film. How can you not think he is going to be great? His speech in the end is quite possibly the greatest in sports film history, just watch.

6) Jack Lengyel (We Are Marshall)

  • Year: 2006
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Matthew McConaughey
  • The true story wins again. Only this time, it was a truly sad one that will forever be one of the most horrific tragedies in sports history. The fact that Jack Lengyel was able to put a team together and be a decent coach with the circumstances at hand, is amazing on its’ own.

5) Lou Brown (Major League)

  • Year: 1989
  • Sport: Baseball
  • Played By: James Gammon
  • Although this movie was not based on a true story, it was certainly written using many different stories from all the Major League clubhouses. That is what made Lou Brown such a great coach. He was a typical MLB manager only he found a way to get the best out of his players even as management tried to cut them down.

4) Mickey Goldmill (Rocky)

  • Year: 1976
  • Sport: Boxing
  • Played By: Burgess Meredith
  • Without Mickey, there would be no Rocky. He pushed him into the person he became and if there was any coach on this list that can take all the credit, it should be Mickey.

3) Herb Brooks (Miracle)

  • Year: 2004
  • Sport: Ice Hockey
  • Played By: Kurt Russell
  • Obviously based on a true story of one of the greatest upsets of all time, Herb Brooks is largely credited for that tremendous win over the Soviet Union. Thus his portrayal by Kurt Russell is a legendary performance which really shows the lengths he went to in preparing his team to take on the Red Machine.

2) Herman Boone (Remember the Titans)

  • Year: 2000
  • Sport: Football
  • Played By: Denzel Washington
  • There are very few sports movies that tackle racism in America during the 1970’s like Disney’s Remember the Titans. But the real star of the film was Herman Boone and his hard-nosed, rough style of coaching where skin color did not matter, only talent, during a time in America where everything was becoming a black vs. white issue.

1) Norman Dale (Hoosiers)

  • Year: 1986
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Played By: Gene Hackman
  • Although this movie came out decades ago, it remains a classic basketball film thanks to Gene Hackman’s portrayal of Norman Dale, a high school basketball coach in his first season with his new team. It teaches us that teamwork can go a long way.