Coaching’s less than inspirational speeches

It’s been a tough month for coaches.  Denver Bronco Coach John Fox had open heart surgery.  Gary Kubiak, soon-to-be-former coach of the Houston Texans, suffered what has been called a pre-stroke.  University of Minnesota Head Football Coach Jerry Kill has left the sidelines because of repeated seizures.  The pressure on coaches is profound, particularly in the “win now” environment that exists in all sports.

Given the latest serious issues, I decided to pay tribute to this group while also taking a break from the seriousness of their work.  The best way to do that is to be reminded of some of the classic lines that coaches have provided to us over the years.  The following are among my all-time favorites:

  • “We have a great bunch of outside shooters.  Unfortunately, all our games are played indoors.”  –Weldon Drew, Head Basketball Coach, New Mexico State Aggies, 1979-85.
  • “The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it.” –Lou Holtz, ESPN Analyst and former head football coach.
  • “If lessons are learned in defeat, our team is getting a great education.” –Murray Warmath, University of Minnesota Head Football Coach, 1954-1971
  • “Son, you’ve got a good engine, but your hands aren’t on the steering wheel.” –Bobby Bowden, former head coach at Florida State
  • “If you’re a pro coach, NFL stands for “Not For Long.” –Jerry Glanville, former NFL head coach.
  • “There’s one sure way to stop us from scoring- give us the ball near the goal line.” –Matty Bell, former head football coach, Southern Methodist University
  • “There’s nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you.” –Woody Hayes, former head football coach, Ohio State University
  • “If you make every game a life and death proposition, you’re going to have problems. For one thing, you’ll be dead a lot.” –Dean Smith, former North Carolina Tar Heels Head Basketball Coach.
  • “I’ve found that prayers work best when you have big players.”–Knute Rockne, former Notre Dame football coach.
  • “We’re shooting 100 percent—60 percent from the field and 40 percent from the free throw line.” –Norm Stewart, former head basketball coach, University of Missouri.
  • “We didn’t tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking.”  –John McKay, while coaching football at USC.
  • “Emotion is highly overrated in football. My wife Corky is emotional as hell but she can’t play football worth a damn.” –John McKay, while coaching for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • “On this team, we are all united in a common goal: to keep my job.” Lou Holtz, ESPN Analyst and former head football coach.
  • “At Georgia Southern, we don’t cheat. That costs money and we don’t have any.” –Erk Russel, former coach at Georgia Southern University.
  • “Fans never fall asleep at our games, because they’re afraid they might get hit by a pass.” –George Raveling, former college basketball coach.
  • “The fewer rules a coach has, the fewer rules there are for players to break.” –John Madden, coach of the Oakland Raiders from 1969 to 1978.

There are many more great quotes from coaches at all levels, and I welcome you to share some of your favorites.  I will close with a few of my all-time favorites:

At the end of the press conference in late November of 2001, Colts’ head coach Jim Mora, Sr. responded to a question from a reporter asking about the Colts’ chances of making it to the playoffs. Coach Mora replied in a in a high pitched voice:  “What’s that?  Ah—Playoffs?  Don’t talk about—playoffs?  You kidding me?  Playoffs? I hope we can win another game!”

As you may notice from some of the quotes above, former college and NFL coach John McKay is one of the best of all-time, not for his coaching, but for his press conferences.  While at USC, he was asked about recruiting his son, John, to play wide receiver at USC.  He responded: “I had an advantage – I slept with his mother.”

But his best line of all time came during the 26 game losing streak of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late 1970s.  A reporter approached Coach McKay to discuss his team’s performance.  The reporter asked “What do you think of your team’s execution.”  Without hesitation, Coach McKay responded “I am all in favor of it.”