Top 5 Coaches in Detroit Sports History


“Top 5 Coaches in Detroit Sports History”

The city of Detroit has a rich history of sports. One that many sports fans only dream they could relive.

The Lions had a great run in the 1950s. The Tigers have two World Series titles in modern times – 1968 and 1984. The Pistons have three championships including the Bad Boys era in the late 80s to early 90s. And the Red Wings have the third most Stanley Cups of any NHL team with 11.

With that much success, there are plenty of great coaches that have come through the Motor City. But who are the best of the best?

Let’s breakdown the top five coaches in Detroit sports history. College coaches are not included.

Honorable Mention – Jim Leyland

Three straight divisional titles to finish his Tigers tenure. But he never won the World Series and that matters. His teams were 1-8 in those games, and that’s not good. He finished with a 700-597 record in the old English D.

He won manager of the year in his first year with the Tigers. And he will always be a legend here in the city. But not winning a title will keep him off our list.

5) Jack Adams

He won three Stanley Cups as the bench boss for the Red Wings. Granted they were in the 1930s and 40s when there were only a handful of teams in the league. Either way he ushered the Red Wings into the NHL spotlight and set the bar for Detroit.

The NHL’s annual coach of the year award is named after Adams. He also won four Stanley Cups as general manager of the Wings in the 50s. Though we won’t take that into consideration for this list.

4) Sparky Anderson

This might not be popular but after reviewing Sparky’s year-by-year record, he’s kind of overrated. He was the skipper for the Tigers from 1979-1995, 17 seasons. Anderson won the division twice, that’s it. He finished second or better as many times as he finished fifth or worse, five times. He has the one World Series appearance when they win in 1984.

I didn’t grow up with Anderson, but I was led to believe this guy was a God. Doesn’t seem to fit the description of a guy who’s average divisional finish is 3.7. He won 90 games only three times with the Tigers. Leyland did that in half the time.

3) Buddy Parker

Any guy who can lead the Detroit Football Lions to a championship has to be high up on this list. Only won two NFL Championships with the Lions but that’s two more than the team has won since then. He won back-to-back titles in 1952-53. Detroit lost in the NFL Championship the following year.

Only spent six seasons in Detroit, but he made the most of his short stint. Don’t worry, when the Lions win the Super Bowl next year we’ll replace him with Dan Campbell.

2) Scotty Bowman

Bowman is a main reason our hockey team went from being the Dead Wings to playing in Hockeytown. He won three Stanley Cups and lost in a fourth appearance. Bowman had a 410-193-88-10 record as the Wings coach, including a .642 winning percentage in the playoffs.

He convinced guys like Steve Yzerman that playing at both ends of the ice matters just as much as scoring 200 points. He entrusted the Grind Line and our own Darren McCarty to hold down the fort against the opponent’s top line.

But he had an owner who wanted to win as badly as any fan. And would open up his check book like it’s a video game. The 2002 team had 9 Hall of Fame players on it. And that doesn’t include Pavel Datsyuk who hasn’t been enshrined yet.

That’s not a knock on Bowman in the slightest. He’s one of the game’s greatest coaches. No one here is arguing that. But he was fortunate to have Mike Illitch as an owner and coach in the no salary cap era.

1)Chuck Daly

The Pistons didn’t have a great history before Daly was hired in 1983. But in four seasons he had turned a floundering franchise around and got them to the conference finals. And if Isiah Thomas doesn’t panic and turn the ball over on the late inbound pass, they may have gone to the NBA Finals.

Daly led his team to the finals the following year where they lost in seven games to the Lakers. Then the Bad Boys won back-to-back championships. In those three seasons, the Pistons had defeated Michael Jordan and put to rest the Boston Celtics dynasty.

His teams weren’t short on talent either. Thomas is still known as one of the best point guards of all-time. Dennis Rodman was blossoming into the hall of fame defender he became. But it wasn’t one superstar that led the way during this era. It was the whole team, led by Daly.


For more from the author Jeramy Stover, check him out on Twitter here: @jstover96

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Photo Credit: © Leon Halip – USA TODAY Sports