Same Face, Same Place: Sports Most Famous Coaching Returns


So it turns out sitting fifth on the ladder counts for nothing.

Penrith are a chance to finish inside the top four this season, and they should run deep into the finals, but none of that was enough to keep coach Anthony Griffin safe.

The Panthers announced the shock firing of their head coach on Monday afternoon, putting an end to Griffin’s two-year stint at the helm. According to General Manager Phil Gould, Penrith have already received up to 12 applications overnight, and not surprisingly, one of those likely includes former Panthers coach, Ivan Cleary.

Having coached the Panthers from 2012-15, a campaign that included more losses than wins, Cleary’s return to Penrith would hardly come as a shock.

In fact, when you think about it, coaching returns are commonplace in sports, but in case you forgot, allow us to rewind the clock for you.

Alex Jesualenko

The Hall of Famer and all round legend of the the Carlton footy club began his coaching career with the Blues in 1978, only to see it come to an abrupt end the very next year.

At the time, Jesualenko was the player coach on Carlton’s premiership team in 1979, and remains the last playing coach in AFL history to win a flag. Despite his success at the club, Jezza was then thrown from his position at the end of the season.

After going on to take over the reins at St. Kilda from 1980-1982, Jesualenko would eventually return to Carlton for two more years. By this stage, the Blues were a disorganized mess, and although Jezza managed to help Carlton finish eighth in 1989, overall his second stint at the club finished in disappointment.

Arthur Halloway

Deemed as one of the most successful coaches in NRL history, Halloway’s legacy may be a little unfamiliar to younger fans of the sport.

Halfback Arthur “Pony” Halloway.

Having played 152 club games and 10 for Australia, Halloway’s coaching career began with the Balmain Tigers, but it really took charge during his first stint with the Eastern Suburbs. From 1930-38, Halloway won 87 games and two premierships, but it was his second time around with Easts that earned him even more fame. Halloway led Eastern Suburbs to 13 wins and just three losses in 1945, including their ninth trophy.

Bear Bryant

Considered to be the most successful College Football coach of all time, Bear Bryant began his very early career with Alabama in 1936, a four-year stint as the Crimson Tide’s assistant.

Eventually earning his way into head coaching gigs with Maryland, Kentucky and Texas A&M, Bryant then took over the reins at Alabama in 1958 before going on to re-write history. Bear went on to win 14 SEC titles with the Tide and six National Championships, before eventually retiring in 1982 and sadly passing away the very next year.

David Parkin

The four-time premiership coach is considered to be one of the most successful in AFL history, and it all started with a bang as Parkin coached Hawthorn to their fourth premiership in 1978.

After two years with the Hawks, Parkin would take over Carlton in 1981, winning back-to-back flags. Eventually, Parkin moved on to Fitzroy for two more seasons, before finally returning for one last stint with the Blues in 1991.

Parkin would spend his next nine years with the club, hoisting another premiership in 1995 and eventually earning a place in the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Gregg Popovich

The long time San Antonio Spurs coach is loved by fans, in large part due to his success but also due to his blunt, outspoken nature.

Pop started his career as an assistant coach in college basketball, before transitioning to the Spurs in 1988. He spent three years as an assistant in San Antonio, before being fired and signing with the Golden State Warriors in 1992.

Poppovich’s brief year with the Warriors earned him a head coaching gig the very next season, reuniting him with his old club. The rest, of course, is history. Pop has gone on to win five NBA championships in San Antonio, as well as three Coach of the Year Awards.

Jack Gibson

Jack Gibson’s playing career spanned across 12 seasons, most of which was spent with the Eastern Suburbs.

Funnily enough, that was also the same team Gibson took over during his first stint as a coach, guiding Easts to 27 wins and 16 losses during the 1967 and 1968 seasons. A year removed from having not won a game, Easts found themselves in the semi-finals that year, but that was just the beginning of the clubs success.

After exiting following the 1968 season to coach St. George, Gibson returned in 1974 for a second go at Easts. They won 19 of their 22 games that season, winning the Grand Final over Canterbury in convincing fashion.

Joe Gibbs

Most famous for his time at the Washington Redskins, Gibbs’ time as a head coach ranged from 1981 through to the 2007 season. Gibbs led Washington to three Super Bowl victories in 1982, 1987 and 1991, but unfortunately, success didn’t come quite so easy the second time around.

After suffering some health problems, Gibbs stepped down from the helm following the 1992 season, but was brought back in 2004 to replace Steve Spurrier. For the most part, Gibbs had an up and down relationship with the team during his second stint, but he did manage to go out with a bang finishing the 2007 season 9-7 and leading the Redskins to a playoff appearance.

Jon Gruden

Unlike most of the coaches on this list, Gruden’s final coaching chapter is still unwritten.

After a disappointing 6-10 season, the Oakland Raiders finally lured Jon Gruden out of the broadcast booth and signed him to a whopping 10-year, $100 million contract.

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden prepares for his teams final season in Oakland.

Gruden previously coached the Raiders in 1998 and 1999, posting so-so 8-8 records in both campaigns. He now takes over a team with plenty of weapons on offense, but Gruden insists he’s going to take an old school approach to coaching this season.

Will that finally lead Oakland to their first Super Bowl title since 1983? Probably not this year, but it should be a fun ride.

Jose Mourinho

2004 saw Mourinho sign a £1.7 million contract with Chelsea, a deal that would bring much success to the Blues, including back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006.

After plenty of disagreements with owner Roman Abramovich in 2009, Mourinho parted ways with the English giants after five years with the club. He would embark on ventures in Europe with Internazionale and Real Madrid, before finally reuniting with Chelsea in 2013.

The deal, this time a four-year contract, would once again end on a sour note as Mourinho left “by mutual consent”, but not before delivering the Blues their fifth Premier League title in 2015.

Pat Riley

When you think of highly successful NBA coaches, Pat Riley should almost always come to mind.

The 40+ year veteran has been winning championships since 1982, but his return to the Miami Heat in 2005 was by far his most notable accomplishment.

After coaching in Miami from 1995 to 2003, Riley retired from coaching and decided to focus on his duties as the teams General Manager. That plan was short-lived, as Riley returned in 2005 to lead the Heat to their first ever NBA title behind the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh the very next season.

Phil Jackson

He’s one of the most successful NBA coaches of the modern era, but despite winning 11 championships throughout his 33-year coaching career, it wasn’t always sunshine and lollipops for Action Jackson.

Most known for his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson’s success in 2000, 2001 and 2002 was overshadowed by some on-court controversy in 2003. Tension was high between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as between Bryant and Jackson himself. The turmoil led to Jackson’s resignation in 2004, followed by a highly publicized book release and the trade of Shaq to the Miami Heat.

Of course, the Lakers struggled the following year without O’Neal and Jackson. The team missed the playoffs for the first time in 11-years, which forced Los Angeles to rehire Jackson in 2005. He went on to win back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, before retiring in 2011 due to health concerns.

Tony Jewell

After playing in 80 games during his six seasons with the Tigers, Jewell went on to coach the club in 1979.

Two years later, Richmond won the premiership with Jewell in charge, but he was later sacked to make way for former Tigers great, Francis Bourke.

Following a brief stint at St. Kilda, Jewell returned for one last hurrah at the Tigers in 1986 and 1986, coaching in 44 games and managing to win only 12.

Tom Coughlin

When former New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin resigned in 2015, it took the entire NFL world by storm.

Tom Coughlin and two-time Super Bowl MVP, Eli Manning.

Coughlin is a coaching veteran, dating all the way back to his time as a graduate assistant at Syracuse University. Between then and three eventual Super Bowl titles, Coughlin spent time as the Giants wide receivers coach from 1988 to 1990.

Moving on to his second head coaching gig at Boston College, Coughlin finally wound up back in New York following a seven year stint in Jacksonville. You guessed it, the rest is history, as Coughlin went on to coach the Giants to the Lombardi Trophy in 1990, 2007 and 2011.

Urban Meyer

Imagine beginning your career and finishing it with the same school?

There’s every chance Urban Meyer might be out at Ohio State following some recent controversy, but his long history with the Buckeyes dates all the way back to 1986 when he was a graduate assistant.

Meyer went on to coach at several other different campuses, most notably Florida, but he still found himself back at the Horseshoe from 2012 onward. So far Meyer has led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season and their eighth National Championship in 2014.

Wayne Bennett

After 20 solid years at the Broncos, Bennett decided to resign from the club at the end of the 2008 season with 339 wins next to his name.

On the back of three premierships with the club, Bennett then took his coaching talents to the Dragons in 2009, followed by the Knights in 2012. After mixed results, Bennett finally reunited with the Broncos in 2015, although it has been an up and down relationship.

Bennett has received plenty of criticism at the helm despite making it as far as the Grand Final during his return year.

As of this writing, the Broncos currently sit seventh on the ladder in hopes of playing finals for the fourth straight season.