There is something about a coach being originally from New York City that seems to bring great success coaching in the state of Wisconsin.
Let’s look at two examples about coaches who were born and raised in the Big Apple and had phenomenal success in the Badger state as coaches.
Vince Lombardi was born in Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1913. Lombardi went to college near home at Fordham University, where he was one of the Seven Blocks of Granite.
Lombardi had great success as a high school football coach at St. Cecilia in New Jersey, plus was an excellent assistant coach, both at Army and with the New York Giants. But it wasn’t until he was 45 years old that he first received an opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. That opportunity was with the Green Bay Packers in 1959.
From 1959 through 1967, Lombardi and his Packers were 89-24-4 in the regular season, plus won six Western Conference titles in the NFL.
But it was the postseason that the Packers really shined under Lombardi. The team was 9-1 and won five NFL championships in seven years. That included winning three straight NFL titles from 1965-67. No team in the modern era of the NFL has ever duplicated that.
Plus, the Packers won the first two Super Bowls with Lombardi as their coach. Is it any wonder that the Super Bowl Trophy is named after him?
Lombardi died of colon cancer in 1970, at the young age of 57.
Than there is Al McGuire. McGuire was born in Queens in 1928. McGuire played high school basketball at St. John’s Prep in Brooklyn. In college, McGuire played for St. Johns University for four years and was named captain of the team in 1951.
McGuire got his first head coaching opportunity with Belmont Abbey, where he had a 109-63 record. The success McGuire had there led him to Marquette University in Milwaukee.
From 1964 through 1977, the Warriors, as they were called then, had a 295-80 record under McGuire as head coach.
McGuire and his Warriors made 11 postseason appearances. Nine in the NCAA tournament and two in the NIT tournament.
In the NIT, the Warriors won the 1970 title, plus were runner-up in 1967.
In the NCAA tournament, Marquette made it to the Sweet 16 four times under McGuire. The Warriors were also in the Elite 8 twice and were runner-up in the 1974 national title game.
In 1977, the year in which McGuire had announced he would retire after the season, Marquette won the national title.
Overall, McGuire’s teams were 27-10 in the postseason.
Like Lombardi, cancer also took the life of McGuire, as he died from leukemia in 2001.
When Lombardi coached the Packers and McGuire coached the Warriors, one expected their teams to win.
Lombardi had a .766 winning percentage. That means that his team won three games out of four consistently over nine seasons.
McGuire had a .782 winning percentage over 13 seasons at Marquette.
Winning became a habit for the Packers under Lombardi, as well as it did for the Warriors under McGuire. Both Lombardi (1976) and McGuire (1993) were recognized for that and were inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.
Lombardi and McGuire never lost their New York accents while they coached in Wisconsin. They both rarely lost…period.
And it was the state of Wisconsin which ended up being the big winner in both cases.
In my next blog, I’ll write about three coaches who originally hailed from the state of Pennsylvania and who have also had excellent success in the land of beer, brats and cheese.