Have you ever gotten into an argument with your parents? I know I have, and I am sure many of you have as well. It is commonplace for parents and children to disagree and argue, as parents seek to assert their authority and their children rebel against their subordinate status. In sports, we see similar battles: players and coaches routinely butting heads over a multitude of things, from playing time, to media interaction, to downright dislike for one another.
With sports, unlike with parent/child relationships, there are general managers and owners who are entrusted to hire players and coaches. They are in the difficult position of constructing a professional sports team, which often involves understanding the various personalities being brought into the locker room and onto the field. A great general manager once said that “forming a team is like putting together a puzzle, you have to find one piece at a time and in the end they all work together to make a masterpiece.” That is the goal at least. They want the athletes to all gel together and create a masterpiece, but unfortunately, that does not always work out.
There have been many many cases of players and coaches not meshing and ending up at each other’s throats, literally and figuratively. Sometimes it is good to have a good old fight to iron out some differences, and other times it is not such a good idea. Today we will get into the top 15 worst times a coach and a player got into it in sports. As one last effort to give the players and coaches a bit of a break, I will remind you that professional sports can be an extremely stressful environment and emotions run incredibly high, so it is understandable that sometimes things bubble over. Nonetheless, here are 15 players and coaches that at one point, absolutely hated each other.
15. Allen Iverson vs. Larry Brown
This is one of those scenarios where the player and coach are just complete opposites. Iverson was a stubborn young African American from a rough neighborhood, and Brown was an old stubborn white guy with multiple years of basketball knowledge under his belt. Fortunately, this is also one of those cases where they found a way to make things work. Iverson and Brown were rumored to hate each other during their days in Philadelphia, but after they led the 76ers to the NBA Finals, everything seemed to be smoothed over.
14. Lebron James vs. David Blatt
In his first season in the NBA, David Blatt helped lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, ultimately suffering a loss to the Golden State Warriors. In his second season, Blatt had the Cavs in first place, yet was still fired midway through the season. Many insiders believe James had a lot to do with the firing. There is no debate when it comes to LeBron’s treatment of his old coach. James regularly showed complete disrespect to Blatt and even on occasion would completely disregard what Blatt asked him to do and instead would call his own plays and all but coach the team himself.
13. Brett Favre vs. Brad Childress
After Brett Favre’s Hall of Fame career in Green Bay, he went on to play for other franchises, one of which was the Minnesota Vikings, coached by Brad Childress. Favre had his way of doing things and they worked for him. When Childress tried to tell Favre to do things a little differently, Favre did not take to kindly to it. Favre and Childress had what was referred to as a “heated discussion” after a late season loss, and rumors began to swirl that Childress was going to bench Favre for the season after the incident. Of course that didn’t end up happening and the Vikings season ended without much excitement.
12. Dwight Howard vs. Stan Van Gundy
Dwight Howard has proven to be one of the biggest divas in basketball, and also an overrated superstar. When he was in Orlando with coach Van Gundy, Howard was young and extremely difficult to manage. However, he was supremely talented, so Van Gundy was forced to work with him. During a press conference in 2012, Van Gundy acknowledged that he was aware of Dwight Howard telling the front office he wanted Van Gundy out. Howard rolled in and denied these allegations, but shortly after the press conference, Van Gundy was fired.
11. Terrell Owens vs. Steve Mariucci
Talk about sports divas, Terrell Owens just might be the cream of the crop. In 2003, Mariucci was relieved of his coaching duties and many if not all 49er fans place the blame on Terrell Owens. Owens was the young superstar receiver, and was viewed as the future of the franchise, set to take the reigns from Jerry Rice. Owens would never live up to those standards as he bounced around the league most of his career. Owens did, however, have a great Hall of Fame career, just not with Mariucci as his coach.
10. Rajon Rondo vs. Rick Carlisle
In 2015 the Dallas Mavericks made a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics in acquiring all-star guard Rajon Rondo. The Mavericks were supposed to be back. Rondo and Carlisle, however, didn’t see eye to eye on anything when it came to basketball action. The feud came to a head in the playoffs, when Carlisle played Rondo a grand total of 34 seconds in a game against the Houston Rockets. Ultimately, words were said through the media and the Mavericks let Rondo move on.
9. George Karl vs. Boogie Cousins
Another NBA diva, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, makes the list. Cousins and coach Karl were never able to make it work in Sacramento, and Karl was the one who felt the brunt of the feud. Karl was fired near the end of the 2016 season, due in large part to Cousins’ outspoken attitude towards his coach. The two were routinely at odds about which style of offense the team wanted to run and how many minutes Cousins was getting on the court. Cousins is beginning to get a reputation of being a coach killer. He’d better be careful, or he could turn into the NBA version of Terrell Owens.
8. Derek Fisher vs. Matt Barnes
This in an interesting case. Derek Fisher was the coach of the New York Knicks and Matt Barnes plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. However, the two have such an intense feud that it must be included on our list. Fisher has been seeing Barnes’ ex-wife, and Barnes is not too happy about it. The two had a physical confrontation before the season, resulting in suspension and fines for both. Fisher has since been fired by the Knicks. Wouldn’t it have been if somehow Fisher had been hired by the Grizzlies, rather than David Fizdale?
7. Joe Torre vs. Alex Rodriguez
During the 2006 playoffs, Alex Rodriguez was in a major slump, prompting manager Joe Torre to bump him down to 8th in the lineup. Rodriguez was publicly upset with the demotion and it was the fuel for what became a feud between him and his coach. After Torre retired from the Yankees, he released his book, which recounted times when even A-Rod’s teammates would refer to him as A-Fraud.
In the book, Torre also claimed Rodriguez was the most entitled player he has seen. Rodriguez and Torre have reportedly hashed things out since the book release, but there is no doubt that the Yankee clubhouse was not as fun as it appeared.
6. Billy Martin vs. Reggie Jackson
Keeping it with the pinstripes, we go to the ultimate instigator coach, Billy Martin, and the pertinacious superstar, Reggie Jackson. These two didn’t get along from the get-go! Martin was an old school, in your face, classic New Yorker. Jackson was a prideful, arrogant superstar sent in to save the Yankees, and in 1977 he did just that, winning World Series MVP honors along the way. Before Jackson joined the Yankees, he was quoted as saying, “I hate Billy Martin, but if I had to play for him I would probably love him.” Needless to say, Jackson never grew to love Martin.
5. Magic Johnson vs. Paul Westhead
Paul Westhead was gifted a coach’s dream job when Jack McKinney was hospitalized in 1980. Westhead took the Los Angeles Lakers, led by rookie Magic Johnson and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to an NBA championship in his first season. The following season saw the Lakers lose to the Houston Rockets, and that is when things fell apart.
There were rumors that Magic was never a fan of Westhead, but it’s hard to fire a guy after winning a title. After the loss to Houston, however, the Lakers did fire their coach, and many believe it was on the orders of Magic Johnson.
4. LeSean McCoy vs. Chip Kelly
Chip Kelly was brought into Philadelphia to implement his high powered offense for the Eagles, and you would think that a running back with the speed of LeSean McCoy would be ideal for that system. Things are never as they seem, are they? McCoy and Kelly never got along and McCoy was upset at the way he saw Kelly run the organization. McCoy contended that Chip had a thing against black players and McCoy wanted nothing to do with Chip Kelly. Ultimately, McCoy was moved to Buffalo, and Kelly was later fired as Eagles coach.
3. Lou Piniella vs. Rob Dibble
Dibble was a relief pitcher for the late 80s, early 90s Cincinnati Reds teams coached by Lou Piniella. Dibble had just come off a stint on the disabled list, suffering a shoulder injury, and Piniella was reluctant to give Dibble his closer spot back. Dibble went to the media to voice his frustrations. Lou got word of Dibble’s comments, and the rest is history. Piniella went storming out of his coach’s office looking for Dibble, and he found him. The two got into a physical altercation right there in the locker room with cameras rolling.
2. Bob Knight vs. Neil Reed
Bob Knight is infamous for his temper and wild actions. Most of us are likely aware of the time he threw a chair across the basketball court. Well, in 2000, Knight was still with Indiana University when he was accused of choking his player, Neil Reed. Knight denied the claim, but later, video was released confirming the choking. Knight was fired shortly after and his 29 year stint with the college was over. To be fair, it was not only Reed who felt the wrath of coach Knight. Knight was routinely in altercations and dust ups throughout his career.
1. Latrell Sprewell vs. P.J. Carlesimo
Arguably one of the most famous player/coach incidents is the time Sprewell choked his coach during practice. Spree was not having a good day when coach Carlesimo got on him about something. Sprewell reportedly said to PJ, “Not today, I am not in the mood for it today.” P.J. being P.J. went ahead and continued coaching Latrell, and Latrell decided he had heard enough. Sprewell was released by the Warriors after the incident, but was able to continue his career for many years.
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