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Winningest coach-athlete duos in sports history

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Tim Duncan spent his entire 19-year career with the San Antonio Spurs — and this week, he came out of retirement to join the team’s coaching staff as an assistant coach.

“It is only fitting, that after I served loyally for 19 years as Tim Duncan’s assistant, that he returns the favor,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

Popovich joined the Spurs organization in 1996, then Duncan was drafted by San Antonio as the first overall pick of the 1997 NBA draft.

The player-coach duo went on to win five NBA championships together, in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. Duncan, now 43, retired after the conclusion of the 2015-16 season. Popovich is 70 years old and still going strong.

So that got us thinking: What other duos have dominated sports? And it got us thinking even further: With Popovich and Duncan on an already stacked coaching staff that includes Becky Hammon, is this officially the start of a new dominating era for Spurs basketball?


Long-term winningest player and coach duos (10-plus seasons)

  • Ryan Giggs and Alex Ferguson (21 seasons and 13 Premier League titles): If you’ve been knighted by the Queen of England, you’re clearly a sports legend. Sir Alex Ferguson racked up one heck of a résumé throughout his 26-year tenure with Manchester United, winning a total of 38 trophies — including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League titles. During those 26 years, Ferguson had star midfielder Giggs on his squad, who spent his entire professional career in sheer dominance with the Red Devils (1990-2014).

  • Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (19 seasons and six Super Bowls): Do we even need to remind you of these two? They’ve spent 19 seasons together and won six Super Bowls — including the most recent one in February. Fans of the New England Patriots hope that Brady (41 years old) and Belichick (67) never say goodbye to football.

  • Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Joe Torre (12 seasons and four World Series): Arguably one of the best MLB managers of all time, Torre led the New York Yankees to glory, winning four World Series in five seasons: 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. Having Jeter — aka “Mr. Clutch” — at shortstop and Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history who was just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, didn’t hurt either.

  • Franco Harris and Chuck Noll (12 seasons and four Super Bowls): The Steelers brought glory to Pittsburgh in the 1970s, and running back Harris was a huge part of that, winning four Super Bowls in six years (1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980). The late Noll spent his entire head-coaching career — 23 years — at the helm of the Steelers, and his four Super Bowl victories rank second behind Belichick’s six for most by an NFL head coach.

  • Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll (14 seasons and four Super Bowls): Noll also was lucky to have an all-time great quarterback on his team during the Steelers’ run. In his 14 seasons with Pittsburgh, Bradshaw helped the team win four Super Bowl titles.

  • Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson (11 seasons and five NBA championships): The face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise — still — is undoubtedly Kobe Bryant. He spent all 20 years of his basketball career with L.A. and helped the Lakers to win five NBA championships. The last NBA team to three-peat? The Lakers, in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Bryant, still with head coach Jackson, also won again in 2009 and 2010.

  • Joe Montana and Bill Walsh (10 seasons and three Super Bowls): “Joe Cool” set quite a few records during his 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. With Walsh as the head coach for 10 of them, Montana won four Super Bowls (1982, 1985, 1989 and 1990) and was named Super Bowl MVP three times. After Super Bowl XIX in 1985, in which Montana defeated Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins, Walsh (rightly so) declared: “Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback today, maybe the greatest quarterback of all time.”

  • Otto Graham and Paul Brown (10 seasons and seven NFL championships): Brown not only founded the Cleveland Browns, but he had a coaching career that spanned 25 seasons with them. Before the Browns joined the NFL in 1950, the team won four All-America Football Conference championships. Then, Brown and Graham won three NFL championships together, in 1950, 1954 and 1955.

  • Bill Russell and Red Auerbach (10 seasons and nine NBA championships): The paring of Russell and Auerbach helped create what could be called professional sports’ greatest dynasty, combining to win nine NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, first in 1957 and then every year from 1959 to 1966. Russell — who also won two titles as a player-coach after Auerbach retired — was so dominant that the NBA renamed the NBA Finals MVP trophy after him in 2009.


Short-term winningest player and coach duos (Five or fewer seasons)

  • Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and Van Chancellor (five seasons and four WNBA titles): Widely considered one of the best women’s basketball players ever, Cooper-Dyke won four straight WNBA titles while with the Houston Comets, from 1997, when the league was created, to 2000. The 1998 Comets had a record of 27-3 (.900) with Chancellor as coach, giving them the highest winning percentage of any team in the history of both the WNBA and the NBA.

  • Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Steve Kerr (five seasons and three NBA championships): There will arguably never be a better backcourt than the Splash Brothers. Curry and Thompson put the San Francisco Bay Area on the hoops map when they started racking up titles with the Golden State Warriors, winning three NBA championships (2015, 2017 and 2018) in five years. The two guards came close to three-peating last season, but the Toronto Raptors put a stop to that. Despite changes to the Warriors’ lineup and an injury to Thompson, the team is still one of the most dangerous in the league. The two shooters would be nowhere without their genius of a coach, Kerr, who also won five titles as an NBA player before becoming a coach.

  • LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra (four seasons and two NBA championships): These three best friends also came incredibly close to three-peating, but regardless, James, Wade and Bosh changed the NBA forever when they joined forces on the Miami Heat to start the trend of creating superteams. James has since moved on to the Lakers after winning a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and both Wade and Bosh have retired. But under Spo — who is still with Miami — they won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 before being stopped in 2014. James was crowned league MVP and NBA Finals MVP in both 2012 and 2013.

  • Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Jimmy Johnson (four seasons and two Super Bowls): Dubbed “The Triplets,” these three offensive juggernauts absolutely dominated the 1990s for the Cowboys. Smith, Aikman and Irvin won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, including two back-to-back in 1993 and 1994 with the legendary Johnson as their head coach.


Duos too good to leave out but didn’t fit in either category

  • Wayne Gretzky and Glen Sather (nine seasons and four Stanley Cups): Sather brought Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s, and a glorious hockey dynasty was born. “The Great One” and Sather helped lead the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships (1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988) and forever changed the face of hockey.


  • Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi (nine seasons, six NFL championships and two Super Bowls): If the trophy you get when you win a Super Bowl is named after you, there is a clear reason why. Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers to six NFL Championships (1956, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967). The team also won the first two Super Bowls ever, in 1967 and 1968, with Starr at the helm. Starr was not selected by the Packers until the 17th round of the 1956 NFL draft, but he clearly was a success with the team, playing with them until he retired after the 1971 season.

  • Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson (eight seasons and six NBA Championships): How can you talk about greatness without referencing MJ and Phil? With Jackson as head coach, the Chicago Bulls made the playoffs every season from 1987 to 1998, winning the NBA championship with Jordan six times (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998). Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player ever, also won the NBA Finals MVP every year the Bulls won it all.

  • Joe DiMaggio and Joe McCarthy (eight seasons and five World Series): As general manager, McCarthy led DiMaggio and the “Bronx Bombers” to seven World Series championships (1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941 and 1943). And for someone who spent his entire 13-year career with the same team, center fielder DiMaggio is sure glad he did so with the Yankees. DiMaggio ended up winning nine World Series (1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1950 and 1951) with the Yankees, but he served in World War II, causing him to miss the 1943, 1944 and 1945 seasons.

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Raiders, Pack play on 80-yard field due to holes

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Due to “holes” in the end zones of IG Field, where goalposts for the Canadian Football League’s bigger field are usually planted, the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers played on a shorter field Thursday night.

Lengthy conversations between NFL, Green Bay and Oakland officials ended with the decision that the players should not be in such unsafe conditions, so the playing field was reduced to 80 yards, with each 10-yard line serving as the goal line.

Up until about 20 minutes before kickoff, field workers were trying to tamp down a square of artificial turf in each end zone, to no avail. It would not stay put.

A statement from the NFL was released shortly after kickoff:

“Tonight’s game is being played on a reconfigured field. The field met the mandatory practices for the maintenance of surfaces for NFL games based on an inspection yesterday. Concerns arose today surrounding the area where the Blue Bombers’ goal posts were previously located. The 10-yard line will function as the goal line at this game. In lieu of kickoffs, the ball will be placed at the 15-yard line.”

The Raiders were technically the home team for the exhibition, which raised the question as to why the team would give up a game in Oakland to travel to the middle of a foreign country. Per a league source, the Raiders did not yet have a lease with the Oakland Coliseum when the NFL scheduled its preseason and gave the Raiders a Week 3 home game, be it in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Reno, Las Vegas or Oakland.

But with MLB’s Oakland Athletics home this week, the Raiders had to hit the road to play host, hence the team having talks with Canadian cities Regina and Edmonton and even Honolulu, Hawaii, before signing up with Winnipeg for the first NFL game of any kind played in Western Canada.

And while the Packers, who had planned on playing some front-line players, made a statement by sitting 33 players, it was hard to tell if the Raiders reacted similarly since they did not plan on playing many, if any, starters against Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers, who was questionable to play due to a sore back, was one of the 33 players the Packers sat.

There was at least one other game in NFL history played on a field shorter than 100 yards. In 1932, the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans played the league’s first ever playoff game indoors at Chicago Stadium on a modified 80-yard field due to poor weather.



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Broncos rookie QB Lock could open season on IR

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock said Thursday he’s not sure when he will be able to throw a football again, and coach Vic Fangio said it’s possible Lock could at least open the season on injured reserve.

Lock suffered a severely sprained right thumb — on his throwing hand — early in the third quarter of Monday night’s preseason loss to the visiting San Francisco 49ers. He underwent an MRI exam Tuesday and a sprain was confirmed.

X-rays taken at the stadium Monday night were negative.

Lock will neither play nor practice for the remainder of the preseason and will be limited to conditioning work only.

“Obviously because it’s his throwing hand and a thumb, that’s a pretty serious injury for a quarterback,” Fangio said. “It will be some time before we know exactly where he’s at and how much time he would miss.”

“[I’m] trusting the [training] staff in there to get me back as soon as possible,” Lock said. “Whenever that is, we’ll decide on whenever I’m 100% ready to go.”

Lock, who was selected in the second round (42nd overall) of April’s draft, was in a battle to be the team’s backup quarterback behind Joe Flacco. Asked Thursday if putting Lock on injured reserve was now a possibility if his recovery time was slated to include part of the regular season, Fangio said: “Yeah, it could be if we don’t think he can play for a while. The bad thing about it is because of the injury he can’t do much.”

If Lock were to be placed on injured reserve with a designation to return, he would have to be on the Broncos’ roster in Week 1, taking the spot of a healthy player at that time — and he would have to miss half the season.

If he were to be placed simply on injured reserve, he would miss the entire season.

In the meantime, as the Broncos try to decide what to do based on his progress in healing, Lock has been in the quarterback meetings as well as on the practice field with the team. Because he cannot participate in drills, he said using the team’s virtual reality system is going to be an important part of his recovery.

Lock said he will have to do “two times” more classroom work since he will not be practicing, and “the VR stuff upstairs is going to be heavily used. … It helps a lot, being able to see what Joe [Flacco] does, kind of from his angle and things … being able to see every single rep, being able to see what the defense does, being able to see it in a ton of different looks.”

He said he used VR in his sophomore and junior years at Missouri as well.

Lock played 30 snaps against the 49ers as he finished 7-of-12 passing with 40 yards to go with the sack he was injured on. Lock played just one more snap after that sack and left the game with just over 13 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

After opening training camp as the No. 3 quarterback behind Flacco and Kevin Hogan, Lock had been moved up to the No. 2 spot in practices and was the second quarterback into the game against the Seattle Seahawks and 49ers.

For the preseason, Lock has completed 60.8% of his passes with a touchdown and an interception.

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Garoppolo aims to bounce back at site of injury

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After a rough stretch in which he threw five interceptions in a practice and posted a 0.0 passer rating in a preseason game five days later, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is aiming to move on in the same stadium where he suffered a season-ending injury in 2018.

On Thursday, Garoppolo said he was “very hard” on himself when he watched the film of his 1-of-6 for 0 yards with one interception performance against the Denver Broncos on Monday night, and again when he re-watched it on Tuesday.

But Garoppolo, who said he’s sure he’s had a similar week before in his career, also reminded himself he doesn’t have time to think about it any more as he prepares for the regular season opener on Sept. 8.

“At some point you have to move on,” Garoppolo said. “You’re still trying to correct those mistakes and not make the same mistakes twice, but if you just dwell on the past and dwell on that one game, you’re going to get stuck there and have no success going forward. I think it’s good to be hard on yourself, but at some point you have got to move forward.”

Moving forward this week for Garoppolo means a trip on Saturday to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, the same venue in which Garoppolo tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Sept. 23 of last season.

In the days after that game, Garoppolo admitted to replaying the injury in his head, pondering what he’d have done differently and everything that led up to the injury. On the play, Garoppolo scrambled down the left sideline before attempting to plant his left leg and turn upfield. The left leg buckled as he threw himself into Chiefs defensive back Steven Nelson.

That injury cost Garoppolo the remaining 13 games of the season and set him on a lengthy rehabilitation that is still ongoing as he gets re-acclimated to playing in live games again.

“It will be a good steppingstone,” Garoppolo said of his return to Arrowhead Stadium. “Definitely, it will be a little weird getting back there but (I’m) just trying to treat it like a normal game.”

That’s a task that likely would have been made easier had it not been for Garoppolo’s recent struggles. Monday’s game in Denver was his first live action in 330 days and the rust was readily apparent.

It was also the first time Garoppolo could be tackled since the injury, and it resulted in some discomfort in the pocket.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan, who has cautioned against making too much of preseason struggles, suggested Thursday that getting back in game action was another in a line of mental hurdles for Garoppolo to clear as he comes back from injury.

“I know anytime you come back from injury, there’s a bunch of mental hurdles you have got to get over even when you are healthy and feel good,” Shanahan said. “I’m sure there’s some stuff with it just being eerie going back to that same place.”

Although Shanahan said he felt it would have been “a matter of time” before Garoppolo got going against Denver, he opted to take him out after just 10 snaps with an eye toward Saturday night in Kansas City.

Garoppolo should have ample opportunity to get back on track against the Chiefs. Much like last preseason, Shanahan said Garoppolo and the starting offense will likely play the entire first half, depending on how many snaps they get and how it’s going.

Shanahan didn’t rule out the possibility of some snaps in the third quarter if the offense doesn’t get the needed work in the first half.

“It will be good,” Garoppolo said. “Hopefully we get to string some plays together, get some good drives and everything and get the offense moving. It’s taking it from the practice field and bringing it over to the game field and making it happen.”

In the meantime, Garoppolo said he has done his best this week to block out the outside criticism of his performance in Denver and focus on fixing the mistakes of last week.

At the top of that list was the interception he threw in the first quarter that came as a result of poor communication on an offensive line protection. Garoppolo and Shanahan went over the play with Shanahan emphasizing the importance of making sure everyone gets any changes up front.

Those are the type of errors that can be corrected and should go away as Garoppolo gets more opportunities. As Shanahan is quick to point out, many of Garoppolo’s growing pains should have already happened.

Alas, the knee injury.

“That’s all Jimmy needs is just to play football,” Shanahan said. “Whether he was coming back from injury or not. We thought we were going to get that last year and unfortunately we didn’t and that was out of everyone’s control. So now we’re back to that plus he’s coming off an injury with it. So I want Jimmy to play as much as possible in the preseason and into the regular season, but that’s a fine line, too. You don’t want to put your quarterback in there against a starting defensive line when you don’t have your starting O-line in there. So trying to balance that out.”

Garoppolo, who still has just 10 NFL starts to his name, said Thursday his knee is holding up well and he intends to bounce back against the Chiefs.

“It’s one of those things that you can react two ways to it: You can crumple up and kind of go into a fetal position and surrender, or you can go out and fight,” Garoppolo said. “We have got a locker room full of guys who want to fight, myself included. Every day you have to come in and earn your spot. It’s never going to be given to you so you have got to come earn it.”

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