Top 15 Horrible Athletes Who Made Great Coaches

Coaching is one of the most thankless, stressful occupations in the world. It requires dozens of hours of unseen preparation for a game in which the result can change based on the slightest mistake from a player or a bounce in the wrong direction. No matter the reason for the result, the head coach or manager is always responsible for the conduct of his players on and off the field of play. Once a champion is crowned at the end of the season, players go off to celebrate and relax while enjoying their victory. A successful coach is not afforded this luxury because they must immediately begin preparation for the following campaign, where every other team will be looking to knock the champion off its lofty perch.

Conventional wisdom says that great athletes do not always make good coaches and throughout sports history there are examples of this. From Wayne Gretzky to Larry Bird, many legends on the field of play have found it difficult to transition to life on the sidelines. What is far more common is for athletes to have a strong background in the sport and a familiarity with the competition level. This allows them to transition into a role that does not require athletic prowess to succeed. However, this list is dedicated to the individuals that were never able to find success on the field and instead changed their perspective to gaining a strategic advantage over their opponents.

Being an athlete at a skill level lower than your teammates and opponents is never an easy feat. To continue on this path, an individual must develop into a particular role and create a tactical approach that is superior to that of their opponents. Doing this requires an intensive study of the mental aspects of their sport and an ability to improve the play of those around them. This list features professional coaches that have managed to carry these abilities over long after their playing careers have ended. While they may not have found the glory they originally sought on the field, they were certainly able to find it coaching their teams to victory from the sidelines.

15 Ken Hitchcock 

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

14 Erik Spoelstra 

William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

13 George Karl 

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

12 Chuck Noll 


11 Tommy Lasorda 

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

10 Rafa Benitez 

9 Branch Rickey 


8 Joe McCarthy 


7 Tony La Russa 

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

6 Bobby Cox 

Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

5 Jose Mourinho 

4 Pat Riley 

3 Woody Hayes 


2 Bill Belichick 

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

1 Arsene Wenger 

Arsene Wenger had the misfortune of not being able to find a reputable club at an early enough age and when he was finally discovered by French 3rd Division club Mutzig, Wenger was already 20. He eventually played several professional season with Mulhouse and RC Strasbourg, while assisting with the youth and reserve teams toward the end of his career. Wenger bounced from Nancy-Lorraine to Monaco and Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight before landing at Arsenal in 1996. He cemented his place in club history as their longest serving and most successful manager with 15 trophies to his name.

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Top 15 Horrible Athletes Who Made Great Coaches