Our Top 5 Series continues every Thursday.
One city. Five coaches. An impossible ranking.
This list only takes into account the coach’s tenure with the team mentioned. So it’s Pat Riley, Heat Coach, not Pat Riley, Presidential Pimp of Free Agency and Trades.
Honorable Mention: Dennis Erickson, Jim Leyland, Jack McKeon, Jim Morris, and Nick Saban (Jokes, we hate that blood-sucking, lying roach of a coach.)
Leaving the two-time National Champion Erickson off this list was painful, but who shall we replace him with? Schnell put the Canes on the map and Jimmy injected the program with swagger. Dennis inherited a talent-rich program, and just needed to steer the ship. Fine coach, just not worthy of the Top 5. Let it begin…
5. Jimmy Johnson, Canes
“The number one motivator is fear”
The man with the best combover in Miami sports brought the bravado, endorsing celebration and intimidation while leading the program to four consecutive double-digit win seasons and one national championship (1987) amid two appearances.
Canes Record (1984-1988): 52-9 (.850)
4. Erik Spoelstra, Heat
“Experience is the best teacher, but I learned the most from my failures.”
This 42-years young Riley protégé has transformed Downtown Miami (Not South Beach, Sportscenter) into his personal playground. His skeptics will point to the luxury of coaching the greatest talent in the history of the sport. Yet they could make the same argument about Phil Jackson. You don’t win championships in this league without elite talent and you don’t win championships without elite coaching.
Three consecutive NBA Finals Appearances (2011-2013) and one championship (2012) with potential for another this month isn’t a bad resume for his first five years as a head coach. No coach in the history of this game has experienced as much hate-sprinkled praise as Spo.
Credit him with with his constant willingness to adapt. Embracing the ability to experiment around LeBron James, Spo is tough to game-plan against because he’s as predictable as Game of Thrones. If he takes down the Spurs, will he surpass Pat as the top Heat coach of all time?
Heat Record (2008-Present): 260-134 (.660)
3. Pat Riley, Heat
“A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning”
The Godfather of the modern era of Miami Sports, Pat is undoubtedly the sexiest name on this list and one of the top five coaches in NBA history. Coach of the Year with the Heat in 2007, he pooted out the franchise’s first championship in 2006.
Pat gave birth to Wade. Pat gave birth to Miami Zo and Spo, before successfully hunting down LeBron and Chris Bosh in 2010. But remember this list accounts only for Riley as coach of the Heat. As an executive, the man has been a beast, an entertaining one at that. A few months ago, he told Celtics GM Danny Ainge to “Shut the f—” up in response to negative comments directed at LeBron.
There is no cooler iconic presence in this city than Patrick James Riley.
Heat Record (1995-2003, 2005-2008): 454-395 record (.535).
2. Howard Schnellenberger, Canes
“For every year of greatness there is usually three years of preparation”
“Are you sauced?” a coworker asked me.
I have Howard above Pat because, although they both put their respective teams on the national stage and the average fan today may identify more with the Heat than the Canes, Schnell gave birth to one of the most feared dynasties in football history. You can’t say the same for Pat as a coach.
Before Schnell arrived, Miami had not won more than six games in 12 years. In his final year as coach in 1983, he gave them their first double-digit win season (11-1) en route to the first National Championship in program history. He’ll never get as much pub as a Riley, Shula, or Johnson, but he dragged Miami football to national relevance.
Without Howard Schnellenberger, “The U” never was.
Canes Resume (1979-1983): 41-16 record (.719), National Championship (1983).
1. Don Shula, Dolphins
“The superior man blames himself. The inferior man blames others”
Two Super Bowl victories in five trips amid a ridiculous 16-playoff appearances in his 25-year tenure in Miami. Good lord, make this man a statue and give him his own restaurant. Okay then.
No other NFL coach can touch his three-year stretch from ’71-’73: Three Super Bowl appearances, two championships, and five losses, TOTAL. Nobody, and I mean nobody will unseat this man as the greatest coach in Miami sports history.
Shula, your throne is sealed and you are the king of the Miami sports castle.
Dolphins Resume (1970-1995): 257-133-2 (.659)