The Most Inspirational Pop Culture Coaches, From Coach Taylor To Gordon Bombay

Warner Bros.

A sports movie or TV show is only as good as the coach at the center of its story. Whether you're talking about pros, college athletes, or kids, all athletes need an inspiring coach to teach them not only about sports, but about life. But who are the most inspirational pop culture coaches of all time?

The latest in the long line of TV and movie coaches is portrayed by Ben Affleck in the new movie The Way Back. Affleck plays a man in his 40s who was a star high school basketball player. But instead of taking advantage of a scholarship to play college ball at Kansas University, he quit the game to spite his father. Now — after many hard years — he's searching for a new direction in life, which leads him back to his old high school. Affleck's character becomes the head basketball coach, inspiring the perennially-losing team to be all they can be.

The Way Back certainly seems to have all the hallmarks of a classic sports drama, and it looks like Affleck is putting in one seriously emotional performance as the film's coach. But he could still probably stand to learn a thing or two to learn from the all-time great pop culture coaches listed below. (Or at least from Coach Taylor.)


Eric Taylor ('Friday Night Lights')

Throughout the course of this series, Coach Taylor remained a consistently stern but fair leader to his team — and to the show's millions of fans.


Gordon Bombay ('The Mighty Ducks')

Frequently in sports movies, the team ends up helping the coach just as much as the coach helps the team. And that's certainly true in this Disney classic. Coach Bombay had a bad experience with hockey when he was a kid, but coaching the Ducks helped him get over his childhood trauma. At the same time, he taught his team of misfits that they had value and were capable of doing anything.


Don Haskins ('Glory Road')

Based on a true story, Texas Western College basketball coach Don Haskins really did help advance the cause of desegregation in the South by starting five black players and going on to win the 1966 National Championship in an upset over powerhouse Kentucky.


Ken Carter ('Coach Carter')

Another real-life coach, Coach Carter put academics ahead of athletics by suspending his entire basketball team over their low grades, teaching them the value of an education.


Jack Lengyel ('We Are Marshall')

Yet another ripped-from-the-headlines film, and one of the most heartbreaking so far. After a plane crash killed most of the players and coaching staff of Marshall University's football team in 1970, new head coach Lengyel was brought in to pick up the pieces. Putting together a new team made up of players who missed the flight and athletes from other sports, Lengyel inspired a college town to believe in something again after suffering a horrific tragedy.


Irv Blitzer ('Cool Runnings')

This movie is loosely based on the true story of the first Olympic Jamaican bobsled team, and Blitzer is a fictional character. But that doesn't make his work of turning a group of men from Jamaica — a country which has no snow — into a capable bobsled team any less inspiring.


Herman Boone ('Remember The Titans')

Based on the real tale of Herman Boone, this film depicts an African American coach's effort to integrate a 1971 Virginia high school football team, healing racial divisions not only at the school but in the community at large.


Herb Brooks ('Miracle')

The true story of one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history, when the underdog U.S. hockey team defeated the heavy-favorites from the U.S.S.R., thanks in part to the inspirational coaching of Brooks.


Norman Dale ('Hoosiers')

Like Bombay, Dale is a coach with a past from which he's trying to recover. But he isn't the only one in town with troubles. Through his supportive coaching style, Dale ends up inspiring the small town of Hickory, Indiana while leading their beloved high school basketball team to the state championship.


Mr. Miyagi ('The Karate Kid')

Far more than a collection of catchphrases, Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel-san important lessons about life that were disguised as karate lessons (though he taught him to be pretty good at karate, too).


Jimmy McGinty ('The Replacements')

Tasked with giving a group of castaways a second chance as athletes, McGinty proved to his players that they had worth in this rare inspirational comedy.


Danny O'Shea ('Little Giants')

O'Shea didn't know much about football, but he knew it was unfair for his daughter to be excluded from playing the game just because she was a girl. O'Shea then assembles a team of misfits to take on his more successful older brother's team, and is able to inspire them enough to earn the win.


Eddie Franklin ('Eddie')

Eddie is a '90s comedy based on the "wacky" premise of a woman becoming the head coach of the New York Knicks. At first glance, it seems almost insulting to put such a film on the list, but Eddie was actually kind of revolutionary. The character proves herself to be an excellent coach, turning the Knicks' woeful season around (they could use her this season) and showing that women can coach just as well as men. In today's NBA, there are a number of female assistant coaches, including the San Antonio Spurs' Becky Hammon, whom some believe may one day become the league's first female head coach.

Coaches from movies and TV do more than win games, they also help inspire viewers to find success in their own lives.