Ten Fantastic Coaching Meltdowns

There’s nothing like a great rant by a coach or manager. It takes a specific combination of a bad loss, a bad question, and general craziness to create a truly momentous blow-up. But when they happen, it’s like mana from heaven for sports reporters. Professional athletes and coaches these days are so guarded, so careful to never let their true feelings show. Reporters have to try to bleed every ounce of color from their pre-screened, unemotional, stock answers. Now, perhaps reporters could ask better questions, but even a well thought-out question usually gets nothing good. So when a truly awesome rant is unleashed upon the unsuspecting media, it has the power to outlive a coach forever. With that said, here are my favorite ten tirades. With links!

Honorable Mention: Kevin Borseth, Michigan, 2/28/08. The rant itself isn’t that funny, but it’s one of the most jarring starts of a press conference you’ll ever see. I won’t spoil it, so just watch the opening 30 seconds, then click on to something better. But this particular rant comes after a loss to the Lady Badgers, so I had to throw it in there somewhere.

10) Roy Williams, North Carolina, March 2001. I liked this one because it involves monkeys. Seriously, you watch this and you have to watch it again. It’s truly bizarre. Usually you can figure out the context of a crazy coaching rant (a loss, a bad call, a bad question or article by the press). But this one you just wonder, “what the hell was that all about?” There’s not much context available for this, but I did find this New York Times article that might help explain it. Still, this is a man who works with college-aged boys full-time. You’d think he’d know better than to say what he says. This clip makes you wonder what happened next, and I can’t put this higher up without that information.

9) Herm Edwards, New York Jets, 10/20/02. Not a bad rant, but it comes after a Jets victory, so it’s kind of out-of-place. It’s not that he says “you play to win the game.” It’s the face that he makes while saying it, the posture he adopts, like it’s so patently obvious. Well if it’s so obvious, why are you saying it, Herm? There’s also some weird vibrato going on when he says “play” that kind of reminds you a little of the Old Dirty Bastard from the Wu-Tang Clan. But overall, this rant is “o.k” at best, and it hasn’t really replaced Edwards’ legacy as the worst clock-manager in NFL history. The whole rant just makes Edwards seem like a lame guy. If you’re gonna be smart, be smart. If you’re gonna be crazy, be crazy. But don’t be cliched, which is what this whole rant is. It’s the seriousness with which Edwards spews these cliches that make this rant miserable, like he actually thinks it’s revelatory to say that football’s goal is victory (so maybe there’s the answer to why he said it). Unlike what? Capoeira?

8) Dennis Green, Arizona Cardinals, 10/16/06. O.K., I actually can’t really make fun of Dennis Green for this. His Cardinals had just blown a 20-point lead in just over a quarter of play, and now he has to stand up in front of the press to answer questions. Think how devastated you would feel in that situation, how angry and cheated you would feel that you couldn’t keep your emotions to yourself, instead having to tell the world why your team lost. And history has vindicated Green a little, in that the Chicago Bears team the Cardinals played went on to the Super Bowl that season. So the loss can be at least partially attributed to the talent of his opponents, not just the ineptitude of his team. Still, this is a pretty funny rant, capped off by someone calling off-camera, “thanks, Coach,” at which point Green walks off the stage. You watch it and you get the feeling that you only got a taste of Green’s craziness. If the person who called that was the Media Relations director who then walks on camera, as I suspect it was, then in all likelihood Green would’ve gone even more crazy if he’d been allowed to stay at the podium. We’ll never know, so I can’t place this rant as high up as some of the others, where coaches are really given free reign to go as absolutely crazy as they want.

7) Bobby Knight, Indiana, March 1993. No rant list would be complete without some mention of Bobby Knight. The man has so many wonderful moments of absolute insanity. In this particular clip, Knight is asked about a player’s potential for next season. Knight responds by turning his water glass into a crystal ball, and he keeps up the gimmick for a solid minute and a half. Even the reporter starts playing along. Unintentionally funny is Knight’s “stroking” motion of the crystal ball, which should remind every man of his favorite pubescent activity. And Knight is just stringing the reporter along, thinking everything’s nice and playful, then he quits fooling around right at the end. Classic. Also classic is Knight’s chair throw against Purdue, 2/23/85. It’s a five minute clip, but you can pretty much get all of it by just watching from 1:00 to 2:00.

6) Joe Mikulik, Asheville Tourists, 6/25/06. I saw this tirade on SportCenter one night, and thought it was the best thing ever, until I saw guy at the top of this list. This is still a pretty awesome coaching meltdown, especially because from moment to moment, you just don’t know what this guy is going to do. Case in point: early on, he covers home plate in dirt, indicating that the ref couldn’t see it. But later on, after a solid bat-throwing routine, he comes back out and cleans off home plate. With bottled water, no less! This guy is like the Tracy Jordan of minor league baseball managers. Add to it some very clever musical selections by the PA guy in the stadium (my favorite is Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” as Mikulik steals one of the bases), and you get a solidly entertaining three and a half minutes.

5) Wally Backman, South Georgia Peanuts, 2007. You really can’t beat minor league baseball managers for fantastic meltdowns. And this one gets the added bonus of terrific sound and picture quality, since it’s an extra on a DVD. Anyway, this a truly classic manager rant, rife with so many expletives that Jay and Silent Bob might even ask “jeez, Wally, maybe tone it down a bit?” It also answers a question that many of us have asked from time to time: how many spare baseballs and bats are in a dugout? Answer: a lot. But, to be fair, Backman isn’t just a crazy a-hole. He is clearly concerned for player safety, as shown by his yelling “catcher, get out of the way” before throwing his 2,639th bat (numbers slightly elevated). And you can tell that Backman really put his heart and soul into this particular rant. He’s audibly winded by the affair, so much so that he and his ejected outfielder have to then go get a beer. I don’t think you’ll find this rant on too many other rant lists, but it really ought to be. I think I might start going to more Spinners and PawSox games just in case some weirdo manager flips out like this.

4) Jim Mora, Indianapolis Colts, 11/5/01. I have to throw this one in there, if only because it’s the most memorable. This will forever be what defines Jim Mora. I have no idea what his career winning percentage was. He coached the Saints and then the pre-Manning Colts, so my guess would be “not good.” But I bet that outside of New Orleans and Indianapolis, 95+ percent of all people who’ve heard of Mora at all only know him for this rant. First, he calls out his team, which is fine. They committed five turnovers. Had he stopped talking 20 seconds earlier, this likely would not have been a memorable rant (or one that analysts applauded him for, since he called out his team for horrible play). But then you have the classic case of a journalist asking exactly the wrong question. And what we get is “Playoffs?” It’s the parrot-like screech in Mora’s voice as he shouts this that makes it so memorable. “Play-offs.”It ‘s not really the funniest, nor the craziest rant in coaching history, but it’s so grating that once you hear it, you never forget it. Mora could cure cancer, make First Contact, and broker peace in the Middle East, all at the same time, and the thing he’ll be remembered for is “playoffs?”

3) John Chaney, Temple University, 2/13/94. Most crazy coaches are crazy in a benign sort of way. Think Grandpa in “The Simpsons.” They’ll say funny stuff, ramble, explode from time to time, but you never think they’re dangerous. Well…. meet John Chaney. This particular gem of a rant comes after a game against UMass and their coach John Calipari. I’ve never seen rants come to blows before, but this one nearly gets there. If Chaney hadn’t been restrained, he likely would’ve physically assaulted Calipari. As it is, he can barely be contained. You can hear him scream, “I’ll kill you,” “when I see you, I’m gonna kick your ass,” and “I’m gonna tell my kid to knock your (bleeping) kid in the mouth.” He’s probably talking about his players, but what if he’s talking about his actual progeny? Forget crazy, Chaney is downright scary, and that’s what makes this rant so priceless.

2) Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State, 9/22/07. Very rarely does a coach specifically go off on a single journalist the way that Gundy goes off on Oklahoman sportswriter Jenni Carlson. Many have questioned whether the latent discomfort that many athletes and coaches still feel at the presence of female sports journalists in the locker room caused Gundy to come down so hard on Carlson. But this rant is more than just misogyny disguised as outrage over journalistic integrity. It’s the way that Gundy manages to keep getting madder the entire time. He comes out, and you think things will be o.k. Then you seem him bring out the article, and you think there will be a rant, but you don’t know how bad. But with each sentence, Gundy gets madder and crazier. Even though he bashes the article, he kind of backhandedly bashes his quarterback (the subject of the article) too, saying that he gives his all at practice but doesn’t necessarily deliver on Saturday (you know… when it matters). And then it all builds to this glorious, ridiculous, hilarious shout of “Come after me! I’m a man! I’m 40!” There’s something about those last three lines that’s just so satisfying. By the end, you’re practically begging for some kind of absurd climax to this, and you finally get it in those three lines. Succinct, to the point, and bat-shit crazy. My favorite rant, but there’s still one tirade that’s even better.

1) Phil Wellman, Mississippi Braves, 6/1/07. Ok, technically, this isn’t exactly a rant. It’s more like a work of art. The Mississippi Braves are the AA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Playing against the then-independent Chattanooga Lookouts, Wellman gets ejected from the game for arguing with the umpire. What follows is really an homage to classic manager/umpire fights, with Wellman taking the time to show everything that previous coaches have done. He steals bases. He covers the plate with dirt, then outlines it. He pretends to eject the umps. It’s the “Shaun of the Dead” of coaching meltdowns. That in itself would be great, but then Wellman manages to take the crazy to never-before-seen levels. Wellman must have served in a war, because his pantomimed crawling through the mud, complete with hurling the rosen bag as a grenade, is just spot on. And then, as he’s leaving the game with not one but two bases (and one of the Lookout players is cracking up the whole time), he blows the crowd a kiss. Magnificent, Phil. Magnificent.

So there you go. Ten (12, technically) rants that hopefully put a smile on your face. Who knows where the next great rant will come from? My guess would be Rex Ryan. I’ll end this with one last link. I have often dreamed of either learning something like ProTools, Antares or GarageBand, or working with someone who already knows those programs, with the intention to create a techno remix of all of these rants. I thought it would become an instant hit, similar to the “Bed Intruder” song that remixed an interview with Antoine Dodson. Unfortunately, someone beat me to the bunch. Luckily for me, only 10,000 people have seen this, so I’m glad I didn’t waste a lot of time on the project. But as a summary of all the links that came before, here you go.

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