Chicago native Mike Krzyzewski will coach in his 13th and last NCAA Final Four this weekend beginning Saturday against ACC rival, North Carolina. The Weber High School alum has compiled a 1202-367 record over 47 seasons (42 at Duke and five at Army). His resume includes five NCAA titles, including back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992. Coach K may be considered the greatest head coach to call Chicago “home.” He’s definitely one of the most decorated.
But it begs the question: which other local names should be mentioned in that same breath? With that thought in mind, here’s a list of notable coaches who called Chicago “home.” It’s not a long list that joins Krzyzewski, but it definitely packs a punch.
For some, the topic of Chicago head coaches begins and ends with Papa Bear. The Pilsen native and Crane High School alum is one of the Founding Fathers of pro football.
He compiled a record of 318-148-31 as head coach of the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Staleys/Chicago Bears. Halas won eight NFL titles, including one as player/coach in 1921. Imagine what the NFL would look like had he not arrived late to board the SS Eastland on July 24, 1915…
Before he bought the Chicago White Sox, Charles Comiskey had a lengthy and successful career as a player/manager. The “Old Roman” compiled a record of 839-540 in 12 seasons between the Chicago Pirates, St. Louis Browns, and Cincinnati Reds. The St. Ignatius alum won four pennants and a World Series (1886) in St. Louis.
For over half a century, the name “Meyer” was synonymous with DePaul basketball. Ray Meyer’s tenure with DePaul stretched from George Mikan and set shots to fast breaks, slam dunks, and Mark Aguirre.
In 42 seasons with the Blue Demons, the St. Patrick’s grad won 724 games to 354 losses, made 21 postseason appearances, two Finals Fours (1943, 1979), and won one NIT championship in 1945. Meyer was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
His son Joey succeeded him in 1984 and coached the DePaul for the next 13 seasons.
Yes, the Bad Boy Piston had a brief and not-so-illustrious coaching career following his Hall of Fame playing career.
The west side native and St. Joseph alum coached three seasons in Indiana and two in New York, compiling a record of 187-223. His best season was the 2002-03 campaign with the Pacers. Indiana went 48-34 and Thomas was fired at the end of the season by owner and former Boston Celtic rival, Larry Bird.
Johnny “Red” Kerr
While he’s much better known for his broadcasting career with the Bulls, Johnny “Red” Kerr’s coaching career is still worth noting.
The Tilden Academy alum was the first head coach in Chicago Bulls history when the team handed him the reins in 1966. He led them to the playoffs in his two seasons. Kerr coached for two years in Chicago and two more in Phoenix, compiling a 93-190 overall record. He earned 1967 Coach of the Year honors after leading the infant Bulls franchise to the playoffs. With a 33-48 mark that season, Kerr is still the only coach in NBA history to win the award with a losing record.
Honorable Mention: Doc Rivers
I know Doc Rivers was born in Maywood, but this list was so small and Maywood is close enough in proximity to the Chicago border that I felt the need to add him.
The Proviso East alum has coached 21 seasons in the NBA with a 1038-734 record between Orlando, Boston, Los Angeles Clippers, and Philadelphia. Rivers led the Celtics to two NBA Finals (2008, 2010) and brought the famed franchise its 17th title in 2008.
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