By Kevin York
While writing my post last week giving my thoughts on Forbes’ list of the ten most disliked athletes in America, I began wondering who would appear on a broadened list of the most disliked sports figures in America. How would coaches be included? What about owners? At the end of that post I decided I would do a follow up assessing the most disliked coaches in America. Since then I decided to do a larger series where I would look at coaches, owners and finally teams. Today I’ll focus on coaches. Watch for posts examining owners and teams in following weeks.
As I thought about disliked coaches, I started thinking about what makes a coach disliked. Two things immediately jumped out at me – success and arrogance. Everyone tends to hate a winner. It’s just a fact in sports. Call it jealousy, call it envy, hatred and dislike builds for people that see success, even moreso for those that consistently attain success. People also hate arrogance. It’s cool for a while if it’s your coach (everyone else hates it), but the minute your team begins to struggle, that bravado you used to love quickly becomes irritating. Rex Ryan is the prime example. Jim Harbaugh is a more recent one. Jimbo’s fiery personality played well to fans in the San Francisco area and really all across the NFL, especially after the quiet, conservative approach of Mike Singletary. However, his schtick began to irritate many non-Niner fans in his second year. The minute he encounters difficulties I can foresee San Francisco fans following suit.
I have my own thoughts on the most disliked coaches in America, but I wanted to get broader perspective for this post so I asked my fellow Couchletes for their thoughts, as well as my friends on Facebook. The coaches listed below, were chosen based on the feedback I received from those two sources (I got a lot of responses and couldn’t use them all). I listed them in alphabetical order as opposed to ranking them 1-10.
Although “the hoodie” has won over the hearts of fans throughout the New England area, much of the rest of the country despises him. Why? Success. Well, that and a little thing called spygate. Personally, I don’t dislike Belichik; I actually respect him, but can see why others wouldn’t like him. He carries a certain arrogance, but it’s not a boisterous, loud-mouthed type of arrogance, it’s more of a quiet “I know I’m smarter than you” arrogance. That’s the type of ego I can respect, he knows he doesn’t have to back it up with a lot of bluster.
Calipari is cocky and knows it, embraces it even, to the extent that he passes the cockiness onto his teams. That’s not the reason he’s on this list though; no, his status on this list is cemented because of his role in bastardizing college basketball by not just cherishing, but wholly and fully adopting, the one and done system the NBA now pushes on promising young players. Throughout his career he’s toed the gray boundary line of the NCAA, falling on the wrong side just as much as he’s ended up on the right side. Sure, he puts together good teams, but there are always questions about the legality of how he formed these teams. Quiz – how many Final Four trips has Calipari made throughout his career at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky? If you said four, you’re wrong. It’s only two, his two most recent while at Kentucky. The NCAA vacated Calipari’s Final Four appearances while at UMass and Memphis due to rules violations. Based on his past behavior, we’re probably just looking at a matter of time until his Kentucky trips are vacated.
Many people have built up a dislike for Carroll based on his tenure at USC, one that was filled with greatness, conference titles and national titles, but also egotism, vanity, swagger, and toward the end, scandal. Carroll’s Trojan teams didn’t win any favors through their frequent tendency to run up the score on inferior teams or their habit of running others noses in their supreme ability. That made it all the more ironic when Carroll bitched and whined about Jim Harbaugh and his Stanford Cardinal running up the score on Pete’s Trojans. When Carroll got to the NFL, his antics continued, most notably on two occasions that continued to build an anti-Pete following:
1.) After the Seahawks beat the Packers due to a horrendous, blatant missed call by the officials, Pete ran around the field, giddy as a school girl who just learned the popular boy asked her best friend if she likes him. After the game, he then talked about what a superb game his team played to ‘earn’ the win (both teams actually played really sloppy, Pete; what game were you watching?)
2.) In the Seahawk’s playoff game against the Falcons, Carroll tried to ice Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant prior to his field goal attempt at the end of regulation to win the game. Bryant missed the kick, but Carroll had been granted the timeout, leading ‘ol Pete to whine to the referees that he didn’t call a timeout. We all saw it, Pete. Fox was even so gracious as to pull it up on video to show all of America you clearly told an official you wanted a time out.
Chizik might not have the national presence of some of the other coaches on this list, but those that do know of him, don’t like him much. Chizik gained some national notoriety for his one season tenure as co-defensive coordinator at the University of Texas under Mack Brown, though he only held the position for one year before leaving to become head coach at Iowa State. Chizik signed a six year deal with the Cyclones, but only served two of those years, leaving after compiling a 5-19 record to become the head coach at Auburn. He was one of the earliest examples of college coaches showing no loyalty to the school paying them. Chizik became best known for winning a national championship at Auburn behind the play of one year wonder, quarterback Cam Newton. So far you’re probably reading this thinking, he doesn’t sound that dislikable. Unfortunately that national title season was stained with controversy surrounding Newton. The quarterback originally started his college career at Florida, before being suspended from the team for stealing a laptop from another student (which was found to be in his possession). He transferred from Florida to a junior college for a year, before coming to Auburn. However, suspicions were raised that Newton’s father had run a play for payment scheme before choosing Alabama, attempting to get interested schools to pay substantial sums of money to get Newton. It was found that Newton’s father made this type of arrangement with Mississippi State, but oddly enough, Newton chose Auburn, leading many to speculate that Chizik and Auburn had come to a similar arrangement. While the NCAA was unable to find proof of payments after launching one of its laughable ‘investigations,’ the damage to Chizik was done. He now carries the reputation of a dirty coach.
My fellow Couchletes will disagree with me on this one and blame his inclusion in the list to my personal distaste for Harbaugh; however, I wasn’t considering including him until his name was mentioned by others after asking about the most disliked coaches. I mentioned him in my opening and will now expand on it a bit. The 49ers were a lowly team when Harbaugh took the reigns as head coach. So in his first season, when he started winning, people thought it was a good story. They looked past his sideline ranting and raving antics. Harbaugh gained more national attention in his second season after leading San Francisco to the NFC Championship game. More eyes were on him now and those eyes became tired of brash and blustery personality. Jimbo, you’re not a player anymore. It’s time to learn to keep your emotions in check. You don’t need to run up and down the sidelines screaming like a lunatic. And I know this will astonish you, but your team does commit penalties. So please, stop bitching and whining like a spoiled child every time a penalty is called on your team. The league and the officials aren’t out to get you.
Lane Kiffin has always come across as a snot-nosed little brat. His father is the great defensive coach Monte Kiffin, and I question if Lane used his family roots to skirt by. As a head coach, Kiffin certainly hasn’t been impressive. He seemed like a good assistant at USC under Pete Carroll, convincing Raiders owner Al Davis of this so much that Davis made him the youngest head coach in NFL history. He lasted less than two years with the Raiders, being fired four games into his second season. He compiled a 5-15 record with Oakland. He then left to coach the University of Tennessee, lasting one 7-6 season before being poached by USC to become their head coach. In his one season in Knoxville he raised a lot of chaos though, being investigated for NCAA violations and also publicly accusing then-Florida head coach of violations. Lane Kiffin’s an immature hot head.
Petrino is currently the head coach of Western Kentucky, not really a hot college football job, huh? The reason he’s there is due to his past mistakes. While serving as head coach at Arkansas, Petrino crashed his motorcycle. After initially saying he was alone on the motorcycle, it came out that a former Arkansas volleyball player, whom Petrino had just hired for the football staff, was on the back of the bike with him. He later revealed that the woman was not just a passenger during the crash, but was someone he’d been having an affair with, prior to even hiring her to his football staff. Petrino was fired for the incident. But that’s not all that gets Bobby on this list. Petrino was hired as football coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, with the intent of building the team into a winner around star quarterback Michael Vick. Of course, Vick would not play that season after facing federal dog fighting charges. After 13 games, Petrino put together a 3-10 record and decided to take the head coaching job at Louisville. He essentially left the team in the middle of the night, informing his team through four sentences typed on a piece of paper placed on each locker. Classy.
Rexy’s spot on this list is due to his boisterous and often obnoxious personality. While there are weird, yet funny, stories about him such as his foot fetish with his wife and his tattoo of his wife wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey, Ryan hasn’t really done anything like Petrino, Calipari or Chizik. His personality just rubs a lot of people the wrong way.
Success breeds jealousy, envy and dislike. Saban is the Bill Belichik of college football. For all intents and purposes, he’s a respectable guy, making sure his team plays the right way. But, damn he’s seen a lot of success, which brings out haters.
Williams may seem like an odd fit for this list. He’s largely on it just because he pissed off so many people for leaving Kansas for North Carolina. He denied the Tar Heels once and then succumbed to them three years later.