Most sports movies have coaches in them, some beloved and some not so much. During the ’80s, there were several coach characters in movies and on television, some more memorable than others, and I have compiled a list of my favorites for you.
To qualify for the list, the coach had to appear in a movie released during the ’80s or in a television series that ran for at least a part of that decade. A couple of my favorites that could not make this list include “Jimmy Dugan”/Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own (1992), “Morris Buttermaker”/Walter Matthau from The Bad News Bears (1976), “Irv Blitzer”/John Candy from Cool Runnings (1993), “Phil Brickma”/Daniel Stern from Rookie of the Year (1993), “Coach Klein”/Henry Winkler from The Waterboy (1998), “Jimmy McGinty”/Gene Hackman from The Replacements (2000), “Patches O’Houlihan”/Rip Torn from Dodgeball (2004) and “Ken Carter”/Samuel L. Jackson from Coach Carter (2005) among so many others. Those guys couldn’t make this list because they weren’t from the ’80s, but there are still many more that can. So here is our list of FICTIONAL COACHES FROM ’80s MOVIES OR TELEVISION:
Honorable Mention: “Yoda” from The Empire Strikes Back (1980) played by Frank Oz – Not your conventional coach, but still coaches Luke along his training to become a Jedi in the swamps of Dagobah. Very similar to my choice to top this list, so I thought the little green guy at least deserved an honorable mention.
24. “Coach Nickerson” from All the Right Moves (1983) played by Craig T. Nelson – Nelson is only one to appear on this list twice.
23. “Mickey Morrison” from Just One of the Guys (1985) played by John Apicella.
22. “Coach” from Vision Quest (1985) played by Charles Hallahan.
21. “Wayne Hisler” from Johnny Be Good (1988) played by Paul Gleason – Coached Anthony Michael Hall three years after having him in detention (in The Breakfast Club).
20. “Pop Fisher” from The Natural (1984) played by Wilford Brimley. Also should include “Red Blow” played by Richard Farnsworth.
19. “Coach Cutlip” from The Wonder Years (1988-91) played by Robert Picardo.
18. “Murray Chadwick” from Youngblood (1986) played by Ed Lauter – Coached both Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze on the ice.
17. “Charlie Pegler” from Brewster’s Millions (1985) played by Jerry Orbach – Coaches the minor league Hackensack Bulls and has to put up with Monty’s shenanigans when he sets up an exhibition against the New York Yankees.
16. “Coach Turnbull” from Back to School (1986) played by M. Emmet Walsh – He knew when to bring in Thornton Melon to do his Triple Lindy
15. “Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez” from Highlander (1986) played by Sean Connery – He mentors the Highlander in the ways of immortals.
14. “Bobby Finstock” from Teen Wolf (1985) played by Jay Tarses – Who else could deal so calmly with having a werewolf on their basketball team? Plus he dishes out advice like this, “There are 3 rules that I live by: never get less than 12 hours sleep, never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city, and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Everything else is cream cheese.”
13. “Kid Gleason” from Eight Men Out (1988) played by John Mahoney.
12. “Graham Lubbock” from Just the Ten of Us (1988-1990) & Growing Pains (1987-88) played by Bill Kirchenbauer – Gets bonus points for raising a couple of hot daughters.
11. “Fast Eddie Felson” from The Color of Money (1986) played by Paul Newman – “You gotta have two things to win. You gotta have brains and you gotta have balls. Now, you got too much of one and not enough of the other.”
10. “Molly McGrath” from Wildcats (1986) played by Goldie Hawn – The only woman to make the list.
9. “Coach Harris” from Revenge of the Nerds (1984) played by John Goodman – “You know, when you were a baby in your crib, your father looked down at you, he had but one hope – someday my son will grow to be a man. Well look at you now. You just got you’re a$$es whipped by a bunch of goddamn nerds. Nerds! Well, if I was you, I’d do something about it. I would get up and redeem myself in the eyes of my father, my maker, and my coach!”
8. “Hayden Fox”, “Luther Van Dam” & “Dauber Dybinski” from Coach (1989-1997) played by Craig T. Nelson, Jerry Van Dyke & Bill Fagerbakke respectively.
7. “Ken Reeves” from The White Shadow (1978-1981) played by Ken Howard.
6. “Apollo Creed” from Rocky III (1982) played by Carl Weathers – Helped Rocky find the eye of the tiger again taking over after “Mickey” died. Could also include “Mickey Goldmill” played by Burgess Meredith, but he had a smaller role in this film and the first two films were not from the ’80s.
5. “Ernie ‘Coach’ Pantusso” from Cheers (1982-1985) played by Nicholas Colasanto – “Sometimes I think of the smartest thing to say and then it comes out so stupid.”
4. “Skip Joe Riggins” & “Larry Hockett” from Bull Durham (1988) played by Trey Wilson & Robert Wuhl respectively.
3. “Lou Brown” from Major League (1989) played by James Gammon – “I’m not much for giving inspirational addresses, but I’d just like to point out that every newspaper in the country has picked us to finish last. The local press seems to think that we’d save everyone the time and trouble if we just went out and shot ourselves. Me, I’m for wasting sportswriters’ time. So I figured we ought to hang around for a while and see if we can give ’em all a nice big shitburger to eat!”
2. “Norman Dale” from Hoosiers (1986) played by Gene Hackman – See where he ranks on our Inspirational Speeches from ’80s Movies list
1. “Mr. Miyagi” from The Karate Kid (1984) played by Noriyuki “Pat” Morita – The best coaches teach you lessons in life, not just on the field or on the court.
There’s my list. As usual and as I mentioned earlier, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood or nostalgia on a given day. Are there any coaches from ’80s movies or television that you feel I have overlooked? If you have others or if you’d rank any differently, please leave them in the comments section below. There were many great real coaches during the ’80s like Bill Walsh, Pat Riley, Tommy Lasorda, Bobby Knight, Herb Brooks among others, but these coaches from the big screen and small screen helped entertain us and that deserves some credit as well. As the great Vince Lombardi said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” These guys were committed to being excellent in their endeavor to be coaches in movies and television.