Pro sports has a long standing tradition of turning its former players into its future managers and coaches. It started back in the day with the role of the player/manager. Some athletes across all sports have excelled in this role, including the great Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. However, greats like Ty Cobb have struggled mightily in that position.
The focus of this Top 10 List is on former players who have gone on to become managers or head coaches in their sport. You won’t find guys like Joe Torre on this list. You also will not find greats like Casey Stengel or Sparky Anderson, two guys who didn’t do a lot as players but are Hall of Fame managers. This list will feature only guys who have been mediocre as both players AND as managers/coaches. Enjoy!
10. Lloyd McClendon (.244 career hitter / .430 W% as manager): McClendon could very easily be higher on this list, but I thought he was a great guy to leadoff for this group. McClendon was a decent hitter during his eight big
Lloyd loses his shit.
league seasons, retiring with an OPS+ of 94. However, he was your typical, mediocre National League fill-in player. He would pinch-hit and he could play multiple positions. His highlight was a player came in the 1993 NLCS when he was forced to start and responded with a .727 AVG and a home run before the Pirates went down to the Braves. McClendon’s last season as a player was in 1994 with the Pirates. He returned to the Steel City in 2001 as the Pirates manager and promptly guided them to their first 100 loss season in 16 years. None of the McClendon led Pirates clubs finished higher than 4th in the division and he was fired in the middle of the 2005 season. I’m totally sure how he kept his job for that long. Say what you want about the Mad McClendon, but the guy could really throw a tantrum. In 2001, McClendon was arguing with the 1st base umpire and ripped the base out of the ground and ran off of the field with it. He was fined $1,000.
9. Vinny Del Negro (9.1 ppg as a player / About to be fired by the Bulls): Del Negro was a painfully average basketball player. For the most part, Vinny was a bench player. He put together a decent run in the mid-1990s with the David Robinson-led San Antonio Spurs, averaging 14 a game during the 1995-96 season. When Vinny called it quits as a player in 2001-2002, he had career averages of 9.1 ppg and 3.2 apg. Not exactly an all-league sort of player. The circumstances that led to Vinny being named a head coach in the NBA are a bit fuzzy. Let me put it this way, the guy must have some dirt on several higher-ups in the NBA. Del Negro managed to turn his job as a radio commentator into a front office position with the Phoenix Suns. Then, prior to the 2008-09 NBA season, Del Negro was named the head coach of the Bulls despite having ZERO coaching experience. All he’s done since then is put up a total record of 82-82. His Bulls teams have gone 41-41 in both seasons he has coached. In many ways he is perfectly mediocre.
8. Herm Edwards (9 seasons, zero Pro Bowls / .422 W% as NFL coach): Herm Edwards is probably best known for his
awesome soundbites as an NFL head coach. His postgame comments were hardly mediocre, but really, the guy never got great results. As a player, Edwards was a pretty decent defensive back and spent the bulk of his NFL career in Philadelphia with the Eagles. Edwards peaked as a player during his first two seasons, picking off a combined 13 passes in those two years. However, he never reached those heights again and was out of the league after nine seasons. Edwards then worked his way up the coaching ranks and was hired as the head coach of the Jets for the 2001 season. Herm put up a pair of 10-win seasons, but that was pretty much it. After a 4-12 season with the Jets he was fired, only to be quickly hired by the Chiefs. He had a 4 win season in KC and a 2 win season and was canned after the 2008 season. He has one of the worst winning percentages in the history of the NFL for someone who has coached in at least 100 games. Ladies and gentleman, Herman Edwards!! Get excited!!
7. Hal McRae (3 All Star games in 19 seasons / .458 W% as manager): Hal McRae might be the best player on this list. He was a pretty good hitter in the 1970s and 1980s spending most of his time as a designated hitter for the Kansas City Royals. He retired with over 2,000 hits and a .290 average. However, he was very limited defensively and was never really a guy you were afraid of. He wasn’t exactly the star of any team he played on. McRae retired as a player at the age of 41 and was hired to lead the Royals as manager only four years later. McRae did okay in Kansas City, posting three winning records in four years (including the strike shortened 1994 season). McRae was known to flip his lid from time to time as a manager and never led a team of his to the post season.
6. ML Carr (10 ppg in 10 seasons / .293 W% as coach): ML Carr is one of the worst coaches in NBA history. He took the Boston Celtics franchise and ran the baby right into the ground in the mid-1990s. Carr put together a mediocre first season as coach with a 33-49 record, narrowly avoiding the humiliating 50-loss mark. In his second season, the Celtics went 15-67 and Carr soon found himself out of work. Since then Carr has spent some time working in the WNBA. Don’t let him tell you this was a lateral move. As a player, Carr was decent. Never known as a scorer, he was a decent defensive player. Carr led the league in steals in 1978-79 while playing for the Detroit Pistons.
5. Gary Kubiak (5 starts in 9 NFL seasons / 31-33 as a coach): Gary Kubiak started a mind-boggling 5 games in 9 NFL seasons. Dude barely got off the pine. Kubiak spent his entire career, after being drafted in the 8th round of the NFL Draft, backing up John Elway. So, we can’t really blame him for staying on the bench. In his limited action, Kubiak posted a pretty dismal QB rating of 70.6 and threw 14 career touch downs. Since “retiring”, Kubiak has been the man calling the shots for the Houston Texans. In his four seasons there, Kubiak has not seen a lot of improvement, winning between six and nine games each season, including a high of nine in 2009. For some reason, Gary and his wife have given each of their three boys a first name starting with the letter “K”. Hopefully none of their middle names start with K.
4. Jim Zorn (67.3 QB rating / 12 wins in 2 seasons as a coach): If Jim Zorn had been able to hang in there as a coach for more than two years he would be much higher on this list. As a player, Zorn was painfully mediocre and it’s entirely possible that he used up all of his favors and luck by staying in the NFL as a player for 11 years. Zorn spent most of his career in Seattle with the Seahawks before making cameo appearances with Tampa Bay and Green Bay. Zorn has the distinction of leading the league in interceptions and times sacked in separate seasons and threw 30 more picks than TDs for his career. Zorn was named the head coach of the Redskins before the 2008 season. He led the Skins to a disappointing 8-win season in 2008 and then followed that up with a 4-win season, making him the most obvious fire in the history of organized sports once the season ended.
3. Ron Washington (414 hits in 10 seasons / Did cocaine while managing the Rangers): Ron Washington was a utility
Cocaine is one hell of a drug.
infielder as a player. He was a regular for the Twins in 1982, but spent the rest of his career as a back up for five different clubs. When Washington was done as a player in 1989, he retired with an OBP below .300 and an OPS+ of 79, meaning he was about 21% beneath your average player. Yikes. Washington emerged as a big time managing prospect while working in Oakland. He was hired before the 2007 season to lead the Texas Rangers. He has a .496 winning percentage in Texas and was said to be on the hot seat before this season started. Then, before the 2010 season started, it was revealed by Washington himself, that he did cocaine last summer while managing the Rangers. Somehow the guy has kept his job. I don’t understand.
2. Sam Mitchell (8.7 ppg in 13 seasons / .452 W% as a coach): Sam Mitchell ranks high on this list due to his longevity. He was never considered a “good” player but stuck around because he was good buddies with Kevin Garnett. Sam was a member of the first ever Minnesota Timberwolves team and averaged 13 points a game during his first two years in the league. He also found time to lead the league in fouls during his second season. Mitchell was reliable, seldom missing time due to injuries and played on some damn good teams in Minnesota and Indiana. When his playing days were over, Mitchell worked as an assistant and was eventually hired to lead the Toronto Raptors. Mitchell clashed a bit with the Raptors star Vince Carter. This helped lead Carter to (I believe this) tank on purpose and force a trade out of Toronto. Either way, the Raptors never won more than 47 games with Mitchell and when he was fired after 17 games in 2008, he was 33 games under .500 as a coach.
1. Phil Garner (16 seasons, 99 OPS+ / One playoff appearance in 15 years as a manager): Phil Garner is blessed with on of my all-time favorite nicknames, Scrap Iron. “Scrap Iron” worked primarily as an infielder during his 16 seasons as a player. He spent most of his career with the Pirates and Astros. He was named to three All Star teams and played until he was 39 years old. Garner was never really great at any one things, but could play all over the infield and wasn’t a total zero at the plate. When his playing days were done, Scrap Iron moved to the bench for good. He got his first job managing the Brewers in 1992. That season the Brewers won 92 games. No Garner-led team has won that many games in a season since then. Garner actually hung in Milwaukee for seven more seasons after than and posted a losing record in each season, but never lost more than 93 games. He really just kept doing enough to NOT get fired; until, ya know, he was fired. Garner was fired in 1999 and was hired to manage the Tigers in 2000. Scrap Iron lasted only two full seasons in Detroit and was fired after starting 0-6 in 2002. He took the 2003 season off, but in 2004 he was hired to manage the Houston Astros. It was in 2005 that Garner led a team to the playoffs for the first time. Sadly, he was right back around the .500 mark the next season and sucked the year after that. In 15 years as a manager he has a mediocre winning percentage of .483.
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