WHO would want to be a coach?
That’s what Louis van Gaal must be thinking after Manchester United were dumped out of the UEFA Champions League group stages on Tuesday night.
Gary Neville, the new Valencia coach, might be having similar thoughts following los Che’s defeat to a hitherto winless Olympique Lyonnais side on Wednesday.
No matter the sport, it’s the toughest gig going around.
But there are a special few gaffers who have stumbled upon the magic formula and turned talented teams into dynasties.
Here are our top five coaches in the modern era of world sport, starting with one of American football’s more divisive figures…
5. Bill Belichick
Any NFL fan who doesn’t support the New England Patriots will probably say Bill Belichick is a shiftless prick who belongs nowhere near this list.
However, for all the controversy, the gamesmanship and the accusations of downright cheating, there is no denying Belichick knows how to win.
Heck, he even managed to drag the Cleveland Browns – who haven’t won a conference championship since 1969 – into the 1994 AFC Divisional Game during his first gig as a head coach in the National Football League.
But it’s at Foxboro, Massachusetts, where the former Wesleyan lacrosse captain has built his empire.
Since taking the reins at the turn of the millennium, Belichick has coached the Pats to four Super Bowl wins (2001, 2003, 2004 and 2014) and six AFC Championships (2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2014).
New England’s triumph at Super Bowl XLIX saw him match Chuck Noll’s record for number of wins as a head coach, as well as Don Shula’s high mark of six appearances.
Belichick’s partnership with star Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a record-breaker too, as no other HC/QB combo has shared as many wins together since the American Football League merged with the NFL in 1970.
Love him or hate him, you can’t knock those numbers.
4. Jose Mourinho
Like Mr. Belichick, Jose Mourinho is not everybody’s cup of tea.
The Portuguese football manager is renowned for a highly pragmatic style of play which, to put it lightly, is often less than pleasing on the eye.
Former Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff even went as far as to proclaim: “Mourinho is not a football coach. To play at home with seven defenders, you must be very afraid.”
His charismatic persona has not always been appreciated by his peers, either – just ask Arsenal boss and long-time rival Arsene Wenger.
But you can’t argue with results, and Mourinho has achieved plenty of those.
He first came to prominence at Porto, where he won the Champions League, the UEFA Cup and back-to-back Primera Liga titles in only two seasons at the club.
Those exploits in Europe earned him the top job at nouveau riche Chelsea in 2004, where Mourinho captured consecutive Premier League titles – the first in the club’s history – during his first two campaigns in England.
In 2008 he took over at Inter Milan and led the Nerazzurri to their first European Cup triumph in 35 years, along with two Serie A titles.
Next was Real Madrid, with whom he broke Barcelona’s stranglehold on La Liga by steering los Blancos to their 32nd Primera Division gong.
Then in 2013 he was back at Chelsea, and in 2014-15 the Blues were crowned Premier League champions for the first time since the ‘Special One’ left Stamford Bridge.
All told, Mourinho’s career trophy haul includes eight top-flight league titles across Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, seven domestic cups, two Champions League triumphs, one UEFA Cup and four Super Cups.
But perhaps Mourinho’s most impressive achievement is a nine-year, 150-match unbeaten run in league home games, which started at Porto in 2002 and only ended towards the end of his first season at Madrid in 2011.
3. Ric Charlesworth
Many of our readers won’t even have heard of this guy before.
A few might remember him as a middling first-class cricketer who played in the Sheffield Shield for Western Australia in the 1970s.
Others might know him as a former Labor politician who held the Federal seat of Perth between 1983 and 1993.
But one look at his resume confirms Dr. Ric Charlesworth as one of the most successful sports coaches of the modern era.
A silver medallist with the Australian men’s hockey team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Charlesworth began coaching the national women’s team in 1993.
He oversaw an era of utter Aussie dominance as the Hockeyroos claimed back-to-back Hockey World Cup crowns in 1994 and 1998, along with four Champions Trophy wins (1993, 1995, 1997, 1999).
They also won Olympic gold at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, and took top honours at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
In 2009 – nine years after leaving his post with the women’s team – Charlesworth decided it was time to apply some of that magic to the men’s team.
The Kookaburras proceeded to win consecutive Champions Trophy titles in 2009 and 2010, the Hockey World Cup in both 2010 and 2014, and the gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
For those playing at home, that adds up to four World Cups, six Champions Trophy wins, and gold at two Olympics and two Commonwealth Games.
With those numbers, it’s little wonder sports historians regard Dr. Charlesworth – who quit the Kookaburras after the 2014 World Cup – as the greatest Australian coach since Davis Cup legend Harry Hopman.
2. Phil Jackson
It seems ridiculous now to think Phil Jackson was knocked back by so many NBA franchises during the 1980s.
The one they call the ‘Zen Master’ was viewed as something of a subversive at that time, due in part to his new-age ideas on the twin arts of coaching and man management.
But the Chicago Bulls saw something in the former New York Knicks player, appointing him as an assistant to Doug Collins in 1987.
Two years later he was promoted to head coach – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Blessed with the superstar offensive talent of Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen, Jackson’s Bulls won three consecutive NBA Championship titles between 1990-91 and 1992-93.
They repeated the dose from 1995-96 to 1997-98, before a long-running feud with Bulls general manager Jerry Krause saw Jackson ushered out after six titles in nine seasons.
He then took up with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999 and produced immediate results, somehow containing the otherworldly egos of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal en route to a third career three-peat (1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02).
He won two more NBA Championships with the LA Lakers (2008-09 and 2009-10) to bring his overall tally to 11 titles – a national record – before calling it quits in 2011.
Aside from holding the highest winning percentage of any coach in the NBA Hall of Fame, Jackson remains the only head coach to win more than 10 national championships in any of the United States’ major professional sports.
1. Sir Alex Ferguson
When you think of great sports coaches of the modern era, there’s one name which immediately springs to mind.
But the beginning of Alex Ferguson’s inimitable managerial career was about as modest as it gets.
After calling time on his playing days in 1974, the former Rangers and Dunfermline striker ventured into full-time coaching with East Stirlingshire in the Scottish Second Division.
The gig paid £40 a week and the club didn’t even have a goalkeeper on their books at the time.
But he earned a big reputation during successful spells in charge of St. Mirren (1974-1978) and Aberdeen (1978-1986), and not just for his results on the park.
Ferguson’s strict disciplinary style was already well-known by the time he arrived at Manchester United in 1986, and his fierce dressing-room sprays – affectionately dubbed “the hair-dryer treatment” – would become the stuff of legend during his time at Old Trafford.
That vintage fire-and-brimstone approach famously put him offside with star players such as David Beckham, Roy Keane and Paul Ince, thus embodying one his most quotable mottos: “No player is bigger than the club.”
But the results speak for themselves: 13 Premier League titles (an English record), five FA Cups, four League Cups and two UEFA Champions League crowns in 27 glorious years at the Theatre of Dreams.
To put that record into perspective, the second-most successful club in the EPL era is Chelsea with four titles.
Ferguson called time on his coaching career in 2013, and Man United haven’t won a thing since.
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