“Lists.” They can be broken into subcategories or become all-inclusive. The Sporting News magazine recently released a Top 50 list that falls into the latter category.
The publication compiled a list of Top 50 coaches of all time regardless of sport. Well, the sports accounted for are football (college and pro), basketball (NBA along with college men’s and women’s), baseball (MLB) and hockey (NHL). Well, if you really wanted to make the list ALL inclusive you could put Dan Gable on that list based on winning 15 consecutive NCAA wrestling titles at the University of Iowa. You could also include Augie Garrido for winning more games than any coach in NCAA baseball history (478) and five College World Series titles but you can’t make the list too big or you complicate matters much more.
Anyhow, the list had Tom Osborne at No. 34. Osborne (now Nebraska’s athletic director) went 255-49-3 with 13 conference championships in 25 years as the Huskers head coach and three national championships.
First off, great to see Osborne on the list. He belongs there with out a doubt. The list was selected by a panel of 118 Hall of Famers, championship coaches and other experts.
As far as college football coaches are concerned: Osborne ranked eighth trailing No. 3 Bear Bryant, No. 10 Knute Rockne, No. 13 Joe Paterno, No. 23 Eddie Robinson, No. 24 Bobby Bowden, No. 27 Woody Hayes and No. 29 Bud Wilkinson.
UCLA's John Wooden was the runaway overall winner, picking up 57 first-place votes from TSN's panel, which included Osborne, Scotty Bowman, Larry Brown, Whitey Herzog, Tommy Lasorda, Marv Levy, Don Shula, Steve Spurrier, Bob Stoops, Pat Summitt, Barry Switzer, Lenny Wilkens and Roy Williams.
The top 50: 1. Wooden; 2. Vince Lombardi; 3. Bear Bryant; 4. Phil Jackson; 5. Shula; 6. Red Auerbach; 7. Bowman; 8. Dean Smith; 9. Casey Stengel; 10. Knute Rockne; 11. Summitt; 12. Paul Brown; 13. Paterno; 14. George Halas; 15. Chuck Noll; 16. Bob Knight; 17. Joe Gibbs; 18. Tom Landry; 19. Mike Krzyzewski; 20. Bill Belichick.
21. Adolph Rupp; 22. Joe McCarthy; 23. Eddie Robinson; 24. Bowden; 25. John McGraw; 26. Bill Walsh; 27. Woody Hayes; 28. Connie Mack; 29. Bud Wilkinson; 30. Pat Riley; 31. Pete Newell; 32. Joe Torre; 33. Bill Parcells; 34. Osborne; 35. Walter Alston; 36. Bo Schembechler; 37. Toe Blake (NHL); 38. Sparky Anderson; 39. Al Arbour (NHL); 40. Amos Alonzo Stagg. 41. Tony La Russa; 42. Geno Auriemma; 43. Dick Irvin (NHL); 44. Ara Parseghian; 45. Chuck Daly; 46. Bobby Cox; 47. Hank Iba; 48. Tommy Lasorda; 49. Gregg Popovich; 50. Herb Brooks.
Is Osborne too low or too high? Like most Husker fans, I’ll admit to being prejudiced and think Osborne should be higher but let’s also realize that every sport at every level is like comparing apples to oranges to bananas and even apricots. Heck, maybe tangerines. It’s really not worth getting caught up in because again, lists are subjective. Plus, we’re going to talk about more than Coach Osborne. Why not? Because we can.
So I ask myself – whom should Osborne definitely be ahead of on the list? Looking beyond his aforementioned win-loss record, I can understand his 12-13 bowl game record knocking him down a bit but some of those loses also came against some damn good teams. However, the worst season he ever had was 9-3-1 in 1976. Plus, his 1994 Nebraska team that won the National title beat a Miami team (24-17) that had two future NFL Hall-of-Famers (Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp).
As far as college football coaches, I can’t argue ranking Bryant, Rockne, Robinson and Wilkinson ahead of him but Paterno, Bowden and Hayes? Sorry. True Paterno has 383 wins but he has also coached 18 years longer than Osborne and had five losing seasons. Bowden, meanwhile has 382 career wins. Yes, his Seminoles beat Nebraska 18-16 in 1993 but also thanks to an officiating crew that was dislexic in that they didn’t know the difference between William Floyd fumbling before crossing the goal-line and not before the goal-line, not to mention the phantom holding call on Corey Dixon’s punt return for a TD. However, Bowden has also coached 14 years longer than TO. Plus, Florida State has been a pedestrian 31-21 since 2005. As for Hayes, he has three National titles (like Osborne) but not as good a win-loss record at 205-79-9 with 14 conference titles in 30 years. Sorry, no sell.
As for the remainder of the list. OK, we’ve addressed Joe Pa at No. 14, Bowden at No. 24 and wilkinson at No. 29. One from another sport I would pick Osborne to trump:
No. 15 Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers): OK, I know some Steeler fans might whack me with their Terrible Towel. Noll posted a 193-148-1 record with four Super Bowl crowns in six years (twice repeating as champs) and recorded a mark of 101-29-1 from 1972-1979. However, the Steelers were loaded with Hall-of-Famers. The Steelers had one playoff appearance in the 34 years before Noll’s arrival. He has more Super Bowl wins than any head coach in NFL history. However, besides that run during the Pittsburgh dynasty, the team was fairly average in going 95-95 from 1980-1991.
You can make a case for picking Osborne over say Tom Landry (Dallas Cowboys) or Bill Belicheck (New England Patriots) but I don’t have a huge probloem with those two being ahead of TO.
Again, lists are subjective and fun to talk about but let’s consider ourselves fortunate that TO is our athletic director and was our head coach for several great seasons.