Thursday, November 23, 2017
Sports

The greatest coaches never to win it all

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As foregone conclusions go, some things are approaching the death-and-taxes stratosphere: summer humidity in Florida, a Kardashian seeking attention, and Mike Martin coming up short in Omaha.

FSU's 7-4 loss Wednesday to LSU in the losers bracket of the College World Series left Martin 0-for-16 in the CWS in his 38 seasons as 'Noles coach. As a result, Martin -- who rivals Bobby Bowden as the folksiest and most endearing presence in FSU athletics history -- remains entrenched in that paradoxical pantheon of legendary coaches or managers who never have won the big one.

Call it an elite, highly respected group no one really wants to join. Some earned titles as players, and others captured championships or gold medals as assistants, but all remain ring-less in a head coach (or managerial) capacity. They are, by definition, the greatest coaches never to win it all.

Dusty Baker

AP photo

With 1,809 career regular season wins and counting as a manager, Baker is 16th on Major League Baseball's career victories chart. What's more, he has led four teams to the postseason including the 2002 Giants, who made the World Series. He might never have made this list had it not been for that Bartman dude at Wrigley Field in 2003, when Baker had the Cubs within a victory of the National League pennant. (We kid, we're not blaming Bartman.)

Frank Beamer

AP photo

Of the 10 winningest major college coaches ever, Beamer (238-121-1 in 29 seasons at Virginia Tech) is the only one without a national title. Not that it really tarnishes his reputation; Beamer transformed a middling independent program into a Power Five force that played for a BCS national title (in 2000). Upon retiring at the end of the 2015 season, Beamer had led the Hokies to 23 consecutive bowl appearances, a stretch that included eight consecutive seasons of at least 10 victories.

Bud Grant

Times files

Most aren't aware Grant -- arguably the most stoic figure ever to occupy an NFL sideline -- won four Grey Cups in the Canadian Football League before embarking on his legendary tenure with the Minnesota Vikings (161-99-5). Still, Grey Cups don't qualify as pro football holy grails. The 17th-winningest coach in NFL history, Grant is the first coach to lead a team to four Super Bowls, coming up well short each time. The Vikes lost those four Super Bowls by an average of 15.3 points.

Mike Martin

AP photo

A pillar of consistency with a drawl, Martin has led the 'Noles to 38 consecutive NCAA regional appearances. With 1,944 career wins, he needs only 32 more to become the winningest college baseball coach of all time. If he never wins a national title, he seems the sort who won't allow that unfulfilled goal to gnaw at his psyche. Still, 16 trips and no titles? You'd think the 'Noles would've fluked their way to at least one championship.

Don Nelson

AP photo

Think about this: The winningest coach in NBA history (1,335 victories) has fewer title rings as a coach than Erik Spoelstra or Paul Westhead. Nelson won a ton of titles as a player with the Celtics in the 1960s and '70s, but never even reached the NBA finals in parts of 31 seasons as a head coach.

Bo Schembechler

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In terms of major college football, only Joe Paterno and Tom Osborne reached the 200-win milestone in fewer games than Schembechler (234-65-8). In his 20 seasons as Michigan coach, the Wolverines won or shared 13 Big Ten titles, and finished ranked in the top 10 of both major polls (AP and UPI) 16 times. Yet he never won the big one, which probably still elicits grins from Buckeyes fans abroad.

Marty Schottenheimer

AP photo

The sixth-winningest coach in NFL history (200-126-1), Schottenheimer holds the distinction (or notoriety) of having the most wins of any NFL coach never to reach a Super Bowl. His excruciatingly close calls (see 1986 and '87 Cleveland Browns) overshadow the fact this guy possessed some serious coaching chops. In 20-plus NFL seasons, Schottenheimer had only two sub-.500 teams.

Jerry Sloan

AP photo

While the fact Sloan (1,221 career wins) never won a title is unfortunate, the fact he never even won an NBA Coach of the Year award is a travesty. The third-winningest coach in league history, Sloan had the tough luck of coaching in the Michael Jordan era. He led the Utah Jazz to the 1997 and '98 NBA Finals, losing to you-know-who both times.

C. Vivian Stringer

AP photo

With 980 career victories, Stringer, Rutgers' women's coach the last 22 seasons, ranks sixth on the career Division I basketball coaching list -- men or women. She's the first women's coach to lead three different teams (Cheyney State, Iowa, Rutgers) to the Final Four, but finds herself grinding in one of the few prominent American sports in which parity hasn't yet prevailed (see UConn).

Barry Trotz

Getty Images

At 713 career victories, Trotz, who helped build the Nashville Predators from scratch and coached the franchise for its first 15 years, ranks sixth on the NHL's all-time wins list. Yet none of his teams have ever reached a conference final. He's taking well-deserved heat in Washington, where the Capitals finished with the most wins (55) in the regular season this past year, but were bounced by the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Penguins in the second round.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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