Other great players turned coaches
Wayne Gretzky isn't the only great player in his respective sport to take a shot at coaching. In no particular order, here are other star players who tried their hand at coaching, some with better results than others:
One of the best players in NBA history totaled 11 titles and five MVP awards as a player. But when Red Auerbach retired following the 1965-66 season, Russell made history. He took over as a player-coach, becoming the second African-American head coach in any major sport after Fritz Pollard (football) in 1922. In Russell's first season at the helm, Boston's eight-year title streak ended with a five-game loss in the East finals to Wilt Chamberlain and the 76ers. Russell rebounded the next two seasons as the Celtics beat the Lakers twice for two titles (1968, '69). Two months after that 11th championship, Russell retired as both player and coach.
Arguably the best women's basketball player in history, Miller once scored 105 points in a high school game, then averaged 23.6 ppg and 12.0 rebounds at USC, which she led to two NCAA titles. The four-time All-American and three-time Naismith player of the year led the U.S. women to the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics and was named the best college basketball player -- male or female -- in 1986 by Sports Illustrated. Miller, inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1995, went 44-14 (.759 winning percentage) as USC's coach from 1993-95, and 70-52 (.574) from 1997-2000 as coach of the Phoenix Mercury, which she led to WNBA Finals in 1998. Despite signing a multiyear contract extension in 1999, Miller stepped down as the Mercury's coach a year later (December 2000) and has since turned to a career in broadcasting in the NBA.
Magic was a three-time NBA MVP and three-time playoff MVP. He is one of only two players (John Stockton is the other) to surpass 10,000 assists. The Lakers looked for Magic to save them again as coach. He took over for Randy Pfund with 16 games left in the 1993-94 season, but the team went 5-11 and he quit after the season. Many say Magic became very frustrated in players' attitudes within his short time as coach. Magic would say later that "it's never been my dream to coach."
Over 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, Bird was a superstar, winning three NBA championships and three MVP awards. Bird, a native of French Lick, Ind., returned home in 1997 to coach the Indiana Pacers. After his first season as a coach, Bird was named NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Pacers to a 58-24 season, the best in franchise history. In the postseason, the Pacers were beat by Michael Jordan and the defending champion Chicago Bulls in a seven-game conference finals series. In 2000, the Pacers made it past the Knicks to reach the NBA Finals against the Lakers, only to lose to Shaq and Kobe in six games. The Pacers offered Bird a new contract to continue as coach, but Bird declined and stepped down after his original deal expired. Isiah Thomas took his place.
Robinson began his major-league career by winning the 1956 Rookie of the Year award with the Cincinnati Reds. A career .294 hitter with 586 home runs and 1,812 RBI in 21 seasons, Robinson ranks fifth on the all-time home run list, trailing only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, and Willie Mays, and was elected into the Hall on his first try in 1982. Robinson became Major League Baseball's first black manager on Oct. 4, 1974, when he took over the Cleveland Indians. He won the AL Manager of the Year award with Baltimore in 1989, and was officially appointed the 11th manager in Expos history in 2002. Robinson is still with the franchise after its move to Washington, D.C. Over 15 seasons, he has a 971-1056 record.
Charlie Hustle played 24 seasons in Major League Baseball and was a player-manager over the last three seasons of that span (part of 1984 and all of 1985 and 1986). He is still the all-time major league leader in hits (4256), games played (3562) and at bats (14,053). In August 1989, three years after he retired as an active player, Rose agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball amid accusations he gambled on baseball games while playing for and managing the Reds. After years of denying those claims, Rose admitted the accusations were true in 2004.
Drafted by the New York Islanders in 1974, "Trots" put up 95 points and won the Calder Trophy as the best rookie in the NHL. His offensive numbers were consistent through the next decade and was an integral part of the Isles' four straight Cup wins from 1980-83. After 15 seasons in New York, he signed with the Penguins and helped them win back-to-back Cups in 1991-92. He retired following the 1993-94 season. After torturing the rival Rangers as a player with the Islanders, Trottier was named the Blueshirts' 30th coach before the 2002-03 season. After only 54 games, the rookie NHL head coach was fired by the Rangers as the league's highest-paid team posted a 21-26-6-1 record. Trottier was an assistant coach with Colorado from 1998 through 2002 and spent three years as an assistant with Pittsburgh. He was also with Portland of the AHL in the 1997-98 season.
Robinson played 20 seasons in the NHL, he won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens and won two Norris Trophies as the league's top defenseman. He received his first NHL coaching job as an assistant with the Devils in 1993, and he was on staff when the Devils won their first championship in 1995. Later that year, he was hired as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings, where he spent four seasons. Robinson returned to the Devils as coach and led them to a Stanley Cup title in 2000, but he was fired less than two years later. The Devils rehired Robinson in July to replace Pat Burns, who has been diagnosed with cancer for the second time in a little more than a year. Robinson holds a career coaching record of 195-210-64, including 73-49-19 with the Devils.
The famed quarterback of the Green Bay Packers (1956-71) won NFL Championships in 1961, 1962 and 1965 before winning the first two "Super Bowls" in 1967 and 1968. Starr was also a four-time Pro Bowler and one-time league MVP. finished his 16-year career with 24,718 yards passing while completing 57.4 percent of his passes. One place Starr didn't find success was on the sidelines. In nine years as Packers head coach, his teams went 52-76-3 and had only two winning seasons.
After an All-American senior season at Pittsburgh in 1960, Ditka was drafted by the Bears as a tight end. In his first season, Ditka had 56 receptions and won rookie of the year honors. He played in Chicago the next five seasons, going to the Pro Bowl each time. He also played with the Eagles and Cowboys before retiring in 1972, when he was immediately hired as an assistant under Tom Landry in Dallas. Ditka spent nine seasons as an assistant there before taking over as head coach of the lowly Bears in 1982. Ditka led the Bears to six NFC Central titles, three NFC Championship berths and a Super Bowl victory in 1985. He left the Bears in 1992, and four years later returned to coach the Saints. He refers to that stint as the "three worst years" of his life. Over a total of 14 seasons as a head coach, Ditka posted a127-101-0 record. He is currently an ESPN TV analyst.
The Splendid Splinter played 19 seasons with the Boston Red Sox and is argued by some as the best hitter in baseball history. Williams was a two-time AL MVP winner, led the league in batting six times and won the Triple Crown twice. He had a career batting average of .344 with 521 home runs. After retiring as a player in 1960, Williams took over as manager of the Washington Senators in 1969, their only winning season, and continued with the team when they relocated and became the Texas Rangers. Williams apparently became impatient with ordinary athletes' abilities and he ended his managerial career in 1972, posting a 273-364 record over four seasons.