In Boston, we’ve had the privilege of watching many of the top coaches in sports. The perfect example is currently with the Patriots. As we’re approaching another key game for the Pats this week, there has been a lot of discussion about what coach Bill Belichick has planned for the Indianapolis Colts. Belichick has been a mastermind when it comes to scheming and planning against opposing teams. He does an outstanding job of taking away the oppositions strengths. Patriots Nation can always feel confident that a solid game plan will always be prepared and adjustments will be made during each game. As Belichick continues his greatness, now is a good time to take a step back and rank the best coaches in the history of Boston sports. We’ve watched many championship teams who were led by outstanding coaches that had a significant impact on the Boston sports scene.
In our newest Titletown Ten post, we will rank the top ten coaches in the history of Boston sports. The criteria is head coaches since 1950.
10. Don Cherry, Bruins, 1974-1979. Cherry came to the Bruins in a time of transition during Bobby Orr’s last years. He led a team that continued to contend for championships which included four consecutive first place finishes. Although the Bruins did not win a championship under his leadership, he kept the winning ways in place and kept the team relevant in Boston. Had it not been for the too many men on the ice call in Montreal in 1979, he may have gotten more credit as a head coach in a historical context.
9. Joe Morgan, Red Sox, 1988-1991. In his four seasons as Red Sox manager, Morgan led the team to two AL East division titles. This included 1988 where the team went on a 46-31 run to end the season creating what was known as “Morgan Magic”. Although he didn’t lead the Red Sox to the World Series, he finished in the top four in the Manager of the Year voting in three of his four seasons as manager and he led a contending team.
8. Bill Parcells, Patriots, 1993-1996. Why would a coach who had two losing seasons in four years be on a list of top coaches? It’s simple. Parcells turned the New England Patriots from a loser to a winner. Before Parcells arrived, the Patriots were arguably the worst franchise in the NFL. They were an annual loser. He was brought in to change that. With the help of Drew Bledsoe, he did exactly that. He led the Patriots to two playoff appearances including the Super Bowl. More importantly, he helped make the Patriots relevant. Many fans forget that it was Parcells and Bledsoe who changed the Patriots culture to a winning one.
7. Doc” Rivers, Celtics, 2004-2013. When Rivers took the Celtics coaching job in 2004, the team was not very strong from a talent perspective. Things got worse the following two seasons as the team didn’t qualify for the playoffs. It looked like Rivers would never have been considered on a list like this one at that point. Danny Ainge worked his magic in the 2007 offseason and brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston. Rivers did an outstanding job of managing three superstars including Paul Pierce and implemented a team first mentality. This resulted in the Celtics 17th NBA Championship in 2008 and multiple strong playoff runs under his leadership.
6. Claude Julien, Bruins, 2007-Present. The Bruins were in disarray prior to Julien taking over as coach in 2007. He implemented a defense first mentality that resonated with the young players. The team bought in. After making the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, the young players became seasoned veterans and were ready to take the next step. Julien led the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship and to another Finals appearance in 2013. Under Julien’s leadership, the Bruins have made it to the playoffs in seven out of eight seasons.
5. K.C. Jones, Celtics, 1983-1988. Jones certainly wasn’t the most animated coach on this list, but his success was impressive. He led the Celtics to the NBA Finals in four of his five seasons as head coach. This included the Celtics 15th and 16th NBA Championships. Granted, the talent he had was as good as any team we have seen in Boston sports, but it takes a good coach to get superstars to blend together. Even if Larry Bird told him to give him the ball and have everyone else get out of the way when the game was on the line, it still worked!
4. Tom Heinsohn, Celtics, 1969-1978. Heinsohn’s impact on the game of basketball has been tremendous as a player, coach, and announcer. His coaching contributions were frequently overlooked up until his recent induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He led the Celtics to two NBA Championships and five consecutive first place finishes. The Celtics teams from the 70’s certainly did not have the same impact as the teams from the 60’s and 80’s. However, their success was quite evident under Heinsohn’s leadership.
3. Terry Francona, Red Sox, 2004-2011. Francona was the perfect manager for a Red Sox team with a variety of talent and personalities. Francona managed to get the best of out of players like Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. While leading the Red Sox to two championships, Francona helped change the mindset of Red Sox baseball. Once ridiculed by opposing cities, the Sox became a winner and champions with a strong leader. No one in Red Sox Nation wants to go back to what it was like to be a Red Sox fan before Terry Francona became the manager.
2. Bill Belichick, Patriots, 2000-Present. 4 Super Bowl wins. 6 Super Bowl appearances. 12 Division Titles. Belichick is now being considered as the greatest NFL coach of all time. He is still the best coach in the game today and he has strong potential to increase these numbers. He always does what’s in the best interest of the team. He gets the most out of his players. He makes outstanding in-game adjustments. All of these skills have led the Patriots to being one of the greatest football teams of all time. What an impressive resume.
1. “Red” Auerbach, Celtics, 1950-1966. In his final ten years as the Celtics head coach, Auerbach led the Celtics to nine NBA Championships. Over the course of a decade, he didn’t win the championship in just one year. The Celtics were loaded with talent including Russell, Cousy, Havlicek, and Heinsohn. The fact that Auerbach was able to motivate this team to win at this level is simply amazing. It’s been unmatched in any sport. He is not only the best coach in the history of Boston sports. He could be argued as the best coach ever in any sport.
This list brings back a lot of great memories. There are a lot of great leaders here. There’s potential to add another one to this list down the road as Brad Stevens steers the Celtics in the right direction.
Thoughts on our rankings? As always, we appreciate any feedback our readers can provide.
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