Editor’s note: Select the four pro coaches you think should be called the Bay Area’s best for this poll. Feel free to write in your candidate by leaving a message while voting.
During the nine decades since major professional sports first arrived here, there has never been a coach like the Warriors’ Steve Kerr.
For starters, no Bay Area pro coach has won as many championships. Kerr now has four as a coach, more than Bill Walsh, Bruce Bochy, or anyone else who has plied their trade in the Bay.
But, that doesn’t necessarily mean Kerr is the greatest major professional sports coach in Bay Area sports history, does it? Or does it?
That’s what we endeavor to find out. We are seeking to identify the four coaches we’d immortalize in stone, if we actually had a mountain of money and decades to construct our own Mount Rushmore of Bay Area Pro Sports Coaches. And we are seeking to determine which one is George Washington, if indeed George was considered the greatest.
For our purposes, we are commissioning a panel of Bay Area sports writers, including some of the longest-tenured such as Dave Newhouse, Monte Poole, Bruce Jenkins, Carl Steward, Bud Geracie and Mark Purdy. All have been close observers of the Bay Area sporting scene for more than 40 years, some for more than 50.
You, the reader, in tandem with our panel will choose the Mount Rushmore of Bay Area pro sports coaches.
The ballot, please.
AL ATTLES, Warriors
Championships won in the Bay Area: 1 (1975)
Hall of Fame: 2019
The legacy: With a nickname (“The Destroyer”) that belied his dignified nature, Attles brought the Warriors their first NBA title in 1975. The four-game sweep over Washington remains the greatest upset in NBA Finals history.
The numbers: The longest-serving coach in Warriors history, Attles had a 588-548 record in his 14 years. He led the Warriors to the playoffs in six of his first seven full seasons. His 1976 Warriors won a franchise-record 59 games, a mark that stood for 39 years.
Signature strategy: Attles was the first NBA coach to utilize almost every player on his roster, a strategic move that played a huge role in the ’75 championship. Attles wore down teams by sending in wave after wave of tough-minded defenders to play alongside scoring champ Rick Barry.
DUSTY BAKER, Giants
Championships won in the Bay Area: 0
Hall of Fame: Still active
The legacy: Baker is the first manager in MLB history to reach the playoffs and win a division title with five different teams. He did it first with the Giants in 2002, and took them all the way to their first World Series appearance in 13 years.
The numbers: Baker’s 2,032 wins as of Monday morning is the most among managers who have not won a World Series. In 10 years with the Giants, his teams went 840-715 (.540). His first team won 103 games — and missed the playoffs.
Signature strategy: His teams were almost always greater than the sum of their parts, even when he had Barry Bonds. As skilled of a team-builder as there ever has been, he could get 25 men pulling in the same direction, even when one of them was Barry Bonds.
BRUCE BOCHY, Giants
Championships won in the Bay Area: 3 (2010, 2012, 2014)
Hall of Fame: Pending retirement.
The legacy: He was the even-keeled captain of the Giants teams that gave San Francisco its first world series championship and then delivered two more. He’s one of just 10 managers in MLB history to win at least three World Series titles.
The numbers: Bochy and Hall of Fame skipper John McGraw are tied for the Giants franchise lead with three World Series wins apiece. Bochy is the only manager in baseball history to win at least 900 games with two franchises. Bochy won 951 games in San Diego before winning 1,052 in San Francisco, the second-most in franchise history behind McGraw.
Signature strategy: Bochy built a reputation as the very best in the game at managing his pitching staff, particularly his bullpens. His knack for knowing when and how often to use his relievers played a huge role in the three championships.
TOM FLORES, Raiders
Championships won in the Bay Area: 1 (1980)
Hall of Fame: 2021
The legacy: Flores led the Raiders to their second Super Bowl championship in Oakland in 1980 while establishing a couple of firsts in NFL history. The Raiders became the first wild-card team to ever win a Super Bowl, and Flores became the first minority coach to win one.
The numbers: He led the Raiders to a pair of Super Bowl wins, including one two years after the team moved to Los Angeles. Flores’ Raiders went 83-53 (.610) during the regular season and 8-3 (.727) in the postseason in his nine seasons as coach.
Signature strategy: Flores’ leadership and organizational skills are constantly credited with making a difference for the Raiders. Operating under the shadow of owner Al Davis and constant pressure to win, Flores calmly shouldered it all, sparing his players.
STEVE KERR, Warriors
Championships won in the Bay Area: 4 (2015, 2016, 2017, 2022)
Hall of Fame: Slam dunk
The legacy: Kerr is the first person in NBA history to win at least three championships as both a player and a coach — he has won five titles as a player and four as a coach. His Warriors have reached the NBA Finals in six of his eight years as a coach, including five straight to begin his career. Under Kerr, the Warriors set an NBA single-season record with 73 wins and just nine losses in 2016.
The numbers: Kerr has the highest postseason winning percentage of any NBA coach in NBA history (.732, a 93-34 record) and his regular-season percentage (.682, 429-200). The five straight NBA Finals appearances are the second-longest in NBA history behind Boston. Set a record with 15 straight wins in a single postseason while going 16-1 to establish a record .941 winning percentage in 2017.
Signature strategy: Kerr’s hybrid offense, featuring aspects of the motion, triangle and Princeton offenses, has ushered in a league-wide reliance on long-range shooting and positionless players.
TONY LA RUSSA, A’s
Championships won in the Bay Area: 1 (1989)
Hall of Fame: 2014
The legacy: He has the second most managerial wins in baseball history and some argue he’s the greatest manager in MLB history. A lot of that reputation was built in Oakland, where his teams won 306 games and made three straight World Series appearances from 1988-90.
The numbers: His 2,855 victories (and counting) are second only to Connie Mack in the history of the game. In 33 years as a manager, La Russa led his teams to three World Series titles, six league pennants and 13 division titles.
Signature strategy: The evolution of the modern day bullpen can be traced back to La Russa’s maneuverability with Oakland’s bullpen beginning in 1988. He was the first to utilize specific roles – regular setup men for the 7th and 8th innings, leading to the one-inning closer, which starred Dennis Eckersley in Oakland.
JOHN MADDEN, Raiders
Championships won in the Bay Area: 1 (1977)
Hall of Fame: 2006
The legacy: Madden became a pop culture icon years after his NFL coaching career ended, but he blasted into prominence as the Raiders coach from 1969-78. He never had a losing season in any of his 10 years as the Raiders coach and won Oakland’s first Super Bowl title in 1977.
The numbers: Madden, who was pro football’s youngest coach when he was hired at 32, went 103-32-7 overall for Raiders owner Al Davis. He won seven division titles in his 10 years and his .759 winning percentage is still the best of any coach in the modern football era.
Signature strategy: Although Madden was a skilled tactician, he understood the value of brute force and the effect physical play could have on an opponent. He also knew how to keep it simple, employing just two team rules: 1) Show up on time. 2) Play hard.
BOB MELVIN, A’s
Championships won in the Bay Area: 0
Hall of Fame: Still active
The legacy: Melvin, who grew up in Palo Alto and starred at Cal, was the longest-tenured manager in Oakland A’s history and led his teams to seven postseason appearances during his time here. He’s one of just three managers to win the Manager of the Year award three times.
The numbers: Melvin’s 853 victories in Oakland stand as the second most in franchise history behind Connie Mack. His A’s teams won four division titles. Heading into play on Monday as San Diego’s skipper, Melvin had a career record of 1,391-1,302 (.517).
Signature strategy: Although he’s someone who’s rarely out-managed strategically, Melvin’s biggest influence may come before the games are even played. He’s renowned for his ability to cultivate an exemplary clubhouse environment. Over the years, his players have praised him for keeping things even-keeled.
DON NELSON, Warriors
Championships won in the Bay Area: 0
Hall of Fame: 2012
The legacy: Nelson was the NBA’s all-time winningest coach until his understudy Gregg Popovich passed him this year. A champion of the run-and-gun style, he made the Warriors the most entertaining team in the league during his first stint as coach. In his second stint, he pulled off one of the greatest playoff upsets ever in 2007, when his eighth-seeded “We Believe” team beat top-seeded Dallas.
The numbers: In 31 years as a head coach, Nelson compiled a record of 1,335-1,060 (.557). He led the Warriors to the playoffs in six of his 11 seasons, although they weren’t able to advance past the second round. Under Nelson, the Warriors went 422-443 (.488).
Signature strategy: The master of the mismatch, Nelson championed small-ball offense years before it became a widespread strategy. His Warriors often used a three-guard attack featuring an undersized center to run circles around opponents. For proof, check out his “Run TMC” teams starring Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin.
GEORGE SEIFERT, 49ers
Championships won in the Bay Area: 2 (1989, 1994)
Hall of Fame: No.
The legacy: Has a two-time Super Bowl winning coach ever been so overlooked? Seifert took over for Bill Walsh in 1989 and kept the 49ers on a path of dominance by winning championships in 1989 and 1994. He’s also the author of the most one-sided Super Bowl in history – a 55-10 shellacking of John Elway and the Broncos.
The numbers: Seifert’s dominance in San Francisco led to a record of 98-30 in eight years as the 49ers coach – an eye-popping winning percentage of .766. The 49ers went 14-2 in each of his first two seasons. Despite three rough seasons as Carolina’s coach to close his career, Seifert’s career regular-season winning percentage of .648 is better than all but four of the league’s 20 winningest coaches – George Halas, Don Shula, Bill Belichick and Paul Brown.
Signature strategy: Whereas Walsh was an offensive innovator, Seifert’s calling was that of a defensive strategist. A longtime defensive coordinator in San Francisco, once in charge, Seifert used a variety of schemes to keep opposing quarterbacks guessing. They switched from a zone-blitzing 3-4 defense to a more traditional 4-3 look while subbing players liberally.
BILL WALSH, 49ers
Championships won in the Bay Area: 3 (1981, 1985, 1988)
Hall of Fame: 1993
The legacy: The Hayward High and San Jose State product grew into one of the most iconic coaches in all professional sports while earning the nickname, “The Genius.” Was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and named a coach on the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
The numbers: Walsh led the 49ers to three Super Bowl championships, six division titles and three NFC Championship titles to go along with a 102-63-1 overall record in his 10 years with San Francisco (1979-88).
Signature strategy: Devised the “West Coast Offense,” a quick-hitting passing attack featuring shorter, more horizontal passing routes that revolutionized the game by shifting a decades-long focus away from the running game.
DICK WILLIAMS, A’s
Championships won in the Bay Area: 2 (1972, 1973)
Hall of Fame: 2008
The legacy: Williams is the last man to lead a team to three straight world championships, although he resigned before the third straight title because he’d had enough of the meddling from owner Charlie Finley. His 1972 World Series title-winning team marked the franchise’s first championship since 1930.
The numbers: Williams’ three years in Oakland produced a record of 288-190 (.603), three playoff appearances and two world championships. He is one of nine managers to win pennants in both leagues and joined fellow Hall of Famer Bill McKechnie as the only manager to lead three franchises to the World Series.
Signature strategy: Although Williams’ dogged pursuit of excellence and demanding style of managing helped lead to the A’s success, perhaps his finest move was converting Rollie Fingers into a reliever.
Contributed by local news sources