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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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Sapp — DT McCoy ‘not even close’ to a Bucs legend

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TAMPA, Fla. — Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp is taking issue with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy‘s comments last month claiming that he’s a Ring of Honor-caliber player and the Bucs should not have given his No. 93 jersey to Ndamukong Suh.

Sapp told PewterReport.com, “The thing that kind of threw me sideways was, Gerald talking about now that this organization doesn’t have a right [to give away his 93 jersey], or it’s business that they moved on — you know, they moved on,” Sapp said.

“And then he wanted to say that Sapp, [Derrick] Brooks, Lee Roy [Selmon], [John] Lynch, Ronde [Barber], nobody wore their numbers. Last time I checked, those were Hall of Famers and champions. We didn’t go to one playoff game with him and not one damn divisional title, so, I think he owes some of those hundred million dollars back if you go give it to me in that sense.”

McCoy was released by the Bucs in May and signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. In July, he appeared on FS1’s Undisputed in July, saying he felt it was disrespectful that the Bucs gave Suh his number.

“I’m one of the best players to ever play in the organization. I’m going to say it — usually I wouldn’t, but I’m going to say it. It kind of shows the respect and how they feel about me,” McCoy said.

“I earned that respect. … Tampa hasn’t been a winning team, and we all know it’s hard to be considered a Pro Bowl, All-Pro person on a losing team, and I did it six years straight. That’s hard to do. For the respect I received after doing that, they showed none, and I don’t know why.”

Sapp, who served as a mentor for McCoy throughout his career, disagreed, however.

“He didn’t have no chips in his game. No Defensive Player of the Year — that’s what Brooks and that’s what Lee Roy Selmon did — Lynch got his name in two damn Ring of Honors,” Sapp said. “What am I missing here, Gerald? You’re talking about something silly. Come on, man — stop. If you’re mad, you’re mad, but don’t put it on the organization that the organization did it. Every NFL team has to move on.”

“He’s a damn good player. A damn good player. But not even close [to a legend]. You damn sure don’t get legendary status or tell somebody to put your jersey up if you don’t take em to playoff games [laughs]. … Not one playoff game. Not even a wild card. I went to nine. We went 5-4.”

The third overall draft pick in 2010, McCoy led the Bucs to a 52-92 record (.361), the third-worst record in the league during that span. He was part of just two winning seasons — 2010 when they went 10-6 under Raheem Morris (McCoy missed the final three games that year with injury) and 2016 when they went 9-7 under Dirk Koetter.

“Hey listen, we bought championships and divisional titles, and that’s why that wall [on the Bucs Ring of Honor] is marked up with our marking,” Sapp said. “That’s why nobody wears 55, 99, 47, 20 and 63 — fool! — 40, the A-Train. Come on, man — fool! That’s what that is. He’s a nice guy — nice guys finish last. And that’s why his jersey’s getting worn [by Suh].”

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DB Fitzpatrick adjusting as Fins move him around

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TAMPA, Fla. — Second-year defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick opened up Wednesday afternoon about being uncomfortable with how he’s being used in the Miami Dolphins defense. This all came after Fitzpatrick’s mom tweeted about him being miscast as a strong safety in response to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter saying he wasn’t playing well.

“Maybe it’s because he is not a SS (strong safety) and is being used to suit other people skill set not his own,” Melissa Fitzpatrick said via Twitter.

Fitzpatrick was told about his mom’s tweet shortly after finishing joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The main point of contention seems to be that the 205-pound Fitzpatrick has been asked to play in the box often as a strong safety and occasionally linebacker in recent weeks.

“I wish she would have addressed me first and talked to me first before it happens, but it is what it is. She feels very strongly. She’s not wrong,” Fitzpatrick said. “Coach has asked me to do something right now. I got to do what they ask me to do. If we have to have some discussions in the future, we’ll have those discussions.”

After the 2018 season, Fitzpatrick said he wanted to know what position the Dolphins planned for him to play early in the offseason. Dolphins coach Brian Flores has indicated that Fitzpatrick will continue to be versatile and play multiple positions like many others on the defense. Fitzpatrick split time primarily at slot and outside cornerback in 2018, but the box safety role is somewhat new to him in the NFL.

“I’m not 215 pounds, 220 pounds. So playing in the box isn’t best suited for me, but that’s what coach is asking me to do,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m going to go out there and practice my hardest. I might lose some of the matchups in the box, but I’m going to try my hardest. The coaches know what my skill set is. I talked to them. They know I can cover. They saw it last year. I can go out there on the outside. But they’re still trying to figure it out.”

The Dolphins moved slot cornerback Bobby McCain to free safety while using Fitzpatrick and veteran safeties Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald in hybrid positions. Jones and McDonald have been out at least the past week with injuries, forcing Fitzpatrick to assume more in-the-box reps.

“It’s a great opportunity for him and really any young guy. When people go down, it’s a great opportunity. It really is, and Minkah’s taking advantage of that,” Flores said of Fitzpatrick’s role change. “We’re moving him around. He’s playing some strong safety, he’s playing some linebacker, he’s playing some corner. He’s all over the place. That’s a good thing. That’s a really good thing.”

That might be where Flores and Fitzpatrick (and Fitzpatrick’s mom) disagree.

But Fitzpatrick has typically been receptive to coaching and eager to do whatever has been asked of him. That’s why these honest comments raised a few eyebrows.

Fitzpatrick has had an up-and-down training camp following a strong rookie season. Wednesday was a perfect example of that, as it appeared he was on the receiving end of Xavien Howard‘s frustration due to miscommunication and a coverage bust on a Bucs touchdown. He later intercepted Jameis Winston to kill a two-minute drill.

Despite questions about how he’s being used, Fitzpatrick seems like he won’t fight it much more. He wants to be a team player and do what the coaches ask, even if he may not see it the same way.

“You just got to do it, man. If you resist it, you’re not going to play well,” said Fitzpatrick, who indicated he hasn’t talked to coaches about his ideal role but figures they know. “They don’t expect to win every single snap against a 320-pound tackle. They just want me to do my job. They’re not going to put me in situations where I have to do that every single play. They know where my strengths are.”

Fitzpatrick is one of the Dolphins’ best young defensive talents. Flores has been adamant that the best 11 players will see the field even if they aren’t listed as starters on the depth chart.

Fitzpatrick, a 2018 first-round pick, often shined as a slot cornerback at the University of Alabama. His best position seems to be slot cornerback and his skill set also seems to translate well to being a free safety. His game indicates that he could succeed in a role similar to Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Flores’ multiple defense means there will be very few one-role players on this defense.

“He can do a lot of things. Part of what we do is try to put him in positions — because he can do so many things — not to overload the kid,” Flores said. “I don’t feel like he’s overloaded. He’s played multiple positions. He’s really done a good job at all of them. Every time he gets out there, it’s a new experience.”

As Fitzpatrick tries to balance doing what’s best for the team and voicing what role he feels is best suited for him, the Dolphins certainly hope those things will fully align by the start of the regular season.



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Jay-Z defends NFL-Roc Nation deal, talks Kap

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NEW YORK — Unsigned NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick might as well have been seated next to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during Wednesday’s news conference to officially announce the league’s new partnership with Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s entertainment company.

The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s presence was definitely in the room.

Although Goodell and Carter both faced a volley of questions about Kaepernick, who became a polarizing figure nationally after protesting police brutality and systemic oppression before games, Carter was repeatedly asked to explain his reasoning for partnering with the NFL while Kaepernick, whom he has strongly supported, has not been on a roster since the end of the 2016 season.

Several of the questioners echoed the sentiments of many on social media, who have expressed disappointment and anger that Carter would agree to have his company, Roc Nation, lead the NFL’s endeavors in music and entertainment.

Through music and entertainment, Carter said, he can help amplify the league’s Inspire Change initiative for social justice. And the opportunity to potentially accomplish big things and uplift many in communities important to him was an opportunity he couldn’t ignore.

“We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase,” the entertainment magnate said. “There [are] two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you.’ What do we do next?

“For me it’s like action, [an] actionable item, what are we gonna do with it? Everyone heard, we hear what you’re saying, and everybody knows I agree with what you’re saying [in Kaepernick’s underlying message]. So what are we gonna do? You know what I’m saying? [Help] millions and millions of people, or we get stuck on Colin not having a job.”

Carter appeared unfazed while answering only slightly different versions of the same question about Kaepernick throughout the by-invitation-only gathering at Roc Nation’s offices. In a sign of how important the partnership with Roc Nation is to the NFL, the commissioner of professional sports’ most powerful league went to Carter’s turf for the roll out. And Goodell knew exactly what to expect, he said.

“I don’t think either one of us expected that that this relationship wouldn’t have its critics,” Goodell said. “But you don’t let the critics or the negativity overwhelm the chance do something really positive. We talked about this [Kaepernick’s situation].

“We talked about a variety of issues. When we first met, we talked about entertainment and how we do that. But the No. 1 thing we went to was impact, that we can have an impact together, and that we can do some really positive things in our communities.”

Carter understands that many people believe he should have shut the door on the NFL, “but people have to evolve,” he said. “People have to want to be better and people have to want to have conversations. This isn’t Twitter.

“You can’t just throw someone out if they make a mistake. This is the real world. You can’t say, ‘Oh, you made a mistake, you’re canceled. I’m never speaking to you again.’ That’s doesn’t accomplish anything. That’s what I believe. I believe real change is had through real conversation and real work.”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who sits on the board of REFORM Alliance, a nonprofit criminal justice advocacy group that Carter co-founded, introduced Carter to Goodell, believing they would work well together. After Kraft participated in their first meeting, Goodell and Carter envisioned a path forward together.

“We’re both committed to sort of saying, ‘Let’s get to work,'” Goodell said. “Let’s go show people that this is going to be a great thing.”

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