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The best coach-player feuds

tom jones' two cents

Try following this. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he knows the team's star center, Dwight Howard, wanted him fired. Howard said that isn't true. But now Howard says he can't play for Van Gundy because Van Gundy said Howard wanted him fired. Confused?

Who's right? Who's wrong? Who cares? The Magic should fire Van Gundy and trade Howard. Blow the whole thing up and start over, seeing as how neither Van Gundy nor Howard has led a championship parade down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom.

The whole Howard-Van Gundy feud got us thinking about other great coach-player feuds. Here are some of our favorites.

Magic Johnson vs. Paul Westhead

Johnson, top right, was a rookie when the Westhead-coached Lakers won the NBA title in 1980, but this partnership did not have a happy Holly­wood ending. By the 1981-82 season, Johnson was bored by the Lakers' methodical offense and demanded a trade. A day later, while the Lakers were riding a five-game win streak, Westhead, below, was fired and replaced by Pat Riley.

Who was right? Johnson ran off Westhead, but history shows the Lakers made the right move. They won four championships and reached the Finals two other times over the next seven years. Westhead, meantime, had marginal success at the college level but never again had a big impact at the NBA level.

Jay Cutler vs. Josh McDaniels

McDaniels, top, took over as Broncos coach in 2009 and immediately tried to trade Cutler, the starting quarterback, so he could bring in Matt Cassel from New England. Neither trade went through. Uh, awkward. Cutler, naturally, was ticked and said he no longer wanted to play for a guy who tried to trade him. Cutler soon was traded to Chicago.

Who was right? Well, the next season, Cutler's Bears and McDaniels' Broncos both missed the playoffs. McDaniels lasted two seasons in Denver before being fired. Cutler hasn't done anything super special with the Bears, but at least he's still a starting quarterback. McDaniels is back with the Patriots again as an assistant.

Latrell Sprewell vs. P.J. Carlesimo

Carlesimo, below, was a superb college coach at Seton Hall. But apparently, his college way didn't sit well with NBA star Latrell Sprewell while the two were with Golden State in 1997. That's when Sprewell choked Carlesimo for more than 10 seconds during a practice. Carlesimo was left with bruises around his throat while Sprewell was suspended for the rest of the season and never played again for the Warriors.

Who was right? Forget Carlesimo's abrasive coaching style. No one can possibly condone putting your hands on someone the way Sprewell did. Besides, we would never side with a guy who once turned down a three-year, $21 million contract offer by saying, "I've got a family to feed."

Ron Heller vs. Ray Perkins

Heller, top, a former Bucs offensive lineman, and Perkins didn't, technically, have a feud. But they did have one well-known dustup. In 1987, while the Bucs were in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, they trailed the Saints 28-10 at halftime. Trying to inspire his teammates, Heller told everyone not to quit. All Perkins heard was "quit'' and went after Heller. Reportedly, Perkins threw punches while Heller did not.

Who was right? It's always best to turn the other cheek, especially if you're wearing a helmet. Perkins ended up busting his thumb on Heller's helmet in the brouhaha.

Reggie Jackson vs. Billy Martin

One of the more entertaining player-manager feuds ever. They are best known for their 1977 showdown during NBC's Saturday Game of the Week. In a game at Fenway Park, Martin, right, the Yankees skipper, believed Jackson loafed after a ball in rightfield and pulled him out of the game in the middle of an inning. The two then squared off in the dugout, although no punches were thrown because Martin was held back by coaches. Lucky for him. Jackson might have knocked him out.

Who was right? Neither, really. Both had egos the size of Manhattan. Martin remained the manager for the rest of the season, and the Yankees won the World Series thanks, in part, to Jackson's legendary three-homer game in the clinching Game 6.

Lenny Randle vs. Frank Lucchesi

Older baseball fans will remember in 1977 when Randle lost his starting second base job with the Rangers to Bump Wills, then whined about it to the media. Lucchesi, above, an old-school manager, said, "I'm tired of these punks saying, 'Play me or trade me.' " That didn't go over well with Randle, who punched out Lucchesi, giving him a broken jaw and a concussion.

Who was right? We can't side with anyone who resorts to violence. Randle was suspended 30 days then traded. Lucchesi eventually was fired and even sued Randle, claiming the mess led to his firing. The case was settled out of court.

John Elway vs. Dan Reeves

Elway, top, and Reeves combined to lead the Broncos to three Super Bowl appearances in four seasons, 1986-89, but they never won the whole shebang. Their relationship began to deteriorate when Reeves fired offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan, who was close with Elway, after the 1991 season. A few months later, the Broncos used their first-round pick to take quarterback Tommy Maddox.

Who was right? Ultimately, Elway got the last word. Reeves was fired by the Broncos. Later, Shanahan returned to take over the Broncos. And he and Elway won two Super Bowls, including Super Bowl XXXIII against the Falcons and coach … Dan Reeves.

tom jones' two cents

The best coach-player feuds 04/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 20, 2012 10:02pm]

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