Greatest Coaching Families of All Time
No one has the market cornered on what it takes to be a good head coach. But it sure doesn't hurt if you have a family member to show you the ropes.
Across all sports, coaching families are pretty common. Good ones, however, are not. It's not like passing down the athletic genes from parents to children that make you instinctively good at whatever sport your dad or mom played. Coaching takes more nuance.
You might be surprised by some of the names on this list of the greatest coaching families of all time — head coaches only — but wins and championships are undeniable. Regardless of who you're related to.
15. The Ryans
Coaches: Buddy Ryan and Rex Ryan
Buddy Ryan coaching highlights (as assistant): Two-time Super Bowl champion (1969, 1985)
Rex Ryan coaching highlights (as assistant): Super Bowl champion (2000)
Bottom Line: The Ryans
This is definitely our sentimental inclusion. Over the last 40 years, the Ryan family with the late Buddy Ryan and his son, Rex Ryan provided sheer entertainment as NFL coaches.
Buddy Ryan was a longtime NFL assistant coach who became a household name in the mid-1980s with the Chicago Bears as the defensive coordinator for their Super Bowl championship team in 1985. Then he was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Rex Ryan was a longtime college and NFL assistant coach and defensive coordinator before he finally got his shot as an NFL head coach with the New York Jets in 2009 and led the franchise to back-to-back AFC championship game appearances in his first seasons. He also coached the Buffalo Bills for two more seasons in 2015 and 2016.
Another one of the Ryans, Rex's twin brother, Rob, has been a longtime NFL assistant coach.
14. The Boones
Coaches: Bob Boone and Aaron Boone
Bob Boone coaching highlights: Managed 815 MLB games
Aaron Boone coaching highlights: Five-time American League playoffs (2018-22)
Bottom Line: The Boones
There are slim pickings when trying to find baseball coaching families with much success, but we give the nod to the Boones.
Bob Boone, the son of MLB player Ray Boone, had a lengthy career as an MLB catcher before becoming a manager for six seasons — three with the Kansas City Royals and three with the Cincinnati Reds.
One of Bob Boone's sons, Aaron Boone, was an MLB All-Star like his father and hit one of the most famous home runs in New York Yankees history in 2003 — a walk-off home run against the Boston Red Sox to win the American League Championship Series.
Aaron Boone has been the manager of the New York Yankees since 2018 and has led the team to the American League playoffs in each of his first five seasons.
13. The Moras
Coaches: Jim E. Mora and Jim L. Mora
Jim Mora coaching highlights: NFL Coach of the Year (1987), two-time USFL champion (1984, 1985), New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame
Jim Mora Jr. coaching highlights: NFC South champion (2004), Pac-12 South Division champion (2012)
Bottom Line: The Moras
Jim Mora shot to fame as a professional football coach in the 1980s. He won a pair of USFL championships with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars in 1984 and 1985, then became head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 1986 and led the franchise to its first winning season and first NFL playoff appearance in 1987.
Mora coached the Indianapolis Colts in the late 1990s and early 2000s, right around when his son, Jim Mora Jr., became an NFL head coach with the Atlanta Falcons in 2004 after almost 20 years as an NFL assistant.
Mora Jr. went on to coach the Seattle Seahawks for one season, 2009, then was at UCLA for six seasons in the 2010s, and took over as the head coach at the University of Connecticut in 2022.
12. The Van Gundys
Coaches: Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Van Gundy
Stan Van Gundy coaching highlights: Eastern Conference champion (2009), two-time NBA All-Star Game head coach (2005, 2010)
Jeff Van Gundy coaching highlights: Eastern Conference champion (1999), NBA All-Star Game head coach (2000)
Bottom Line: The Van Gundys
Stan Van Gundy and younger brother Jeff Van Gundy have become almost as famous for their time in the basketball commentator booth as for their stints as NBA head coaches. That doesn't give them credit for how good they were as coaches.
The two brothers won 989 games combined as NBA head coaches, and both finished over 100 games over .500 for their careers.
In an interesting twist, their best seasons as head coaches came exactly 10 years apart. Jeff Van Gundy led the New York Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1999 and Stan Van Gundy led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009.
11. The Dixons
Coaches: Jamie Dixon and Maggie Dixon
Jamie Dixon coaching highlights: NIT champion (2017), CBI champion (2012), two-time Big East Conference regular-season champion (2004, 2011), Big East Conference Tournament champion (2008), Sporting News Coach of the Year (2011), Naismith College Coach of the Year (2009), Big East Coach of the Year (2004)
Maggie Dixon coaching highlights: Patriot League regular-season champion (2006), Patriot League Tournament champion (2006)
Bottom Line: The Dixons
Maggie Dixon made more of an impact in her one season coaching Division I women's basketball than some coaches make in a lifetime. She led Army to a sweep of the Patriot League regular season and tournament championships and into the NCAA tournament during the 2005-2006 season.
Maggie died of an enlarged heart just weeks following the end of the season. Her tragic death at 28 years old robbed us of her talents.
Older brother Jamie Dixon has been a mainstay as a head coach in Division I men's basketball for 20 years. First, he was at Pittsburgh, where he led the Panthers to the Sweet 16 twice and the Elite Eight once. Since 2016, he has been the coach at TCU.
10. The Thompsons
Coaches: John Thompson and John Thompson III
John Thompson coaching highlights: NCAA champion (1984), two-time NCAA Final Four (1982, 1985), five-time Big East Conference champion (1980, 1984, 1987, 1989, 1992), six-time Big East Conference Tournament champion (1980, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989), Henry Iba Award (1982), UPI Coach of the Year (1987), three-time Big East Coach of the Year (1980, 1987, 1992)
John Thompson III coaching highlights: NCAA Final Four (2007), three-time Ivy League regular-season champion (2001, 2002, 2004), three-time Big East Conference regular-season champion (2007, 2008, 2013), Big East Conference Tournament champion (2007), Big East Coach of the Year (2013)
Bottom Line: The Thompsons
The late John Thompson was Georgetown's head men's basketball coach from 1972 to 1999, carving out one of the greatest careers in coaching history, regardless of sport.
In his time at Georgetown, John Thompson changed college basketball and turned his school into a national powerhouse, making three Final Fours in the 1980s and winning an NCAA championship in 1984.
His son, John Thompson III, led Princeton to three Ivy League championships in the early 2000s and led Georgetown to the Final Four in 2007
Another one of John Thompson's sons, Robby Thompson, was the head coach at Ball State for one season in 2006-2007.
9. The Stoops
Coaches: Bob Stoops and Mark Stoops
Bob Stoops coaching highlights: BCS national champion (2000), 10-time Big 12 Conference champion (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006-08, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016), two-time Walter Camp Coach of the Year (2000, 2003), AP Coach of the Year (2000), six-time Big 12 Coach of the Year (2000, 2003, 2006, 208, 2015, 2016)
Mark Stoops coaching highlights: SEC Coach of the Year (2018)
Mike Stoops coaching highlights (as assistant): National championships at Oklahoma (2000) and Alabama (2020)
Bottom Line: The Stoops
Bob Stoops and younger brothers Mike Stoops and Mark Stoops played high school football for their father in Ohio before all three starred at the University of Iowa. Then, they all became college coaches themselves.
Bob Stoops has been the most successful of the three, winning a national championship at Oklahoma in 2000 and leading the Sooners to 10 Big 12 championships in 18 seasons.
Mark Stoops has been the head coach at the University of Kentucky since 2013 and has won four bowl games in his time there.
Mike Stoops won a pair of national championships as an assistant coach at Oklahoma in 2000 and Alabama in 2020 and was the head coach at Arizona from 2004 to 2011, where he went 1-2 in bowl games.
8. The Holtzes
Coaches: Lou Holtz and Skip Holtz
Lou Holtz coaching highlights: National champion (1988), Southern Conference champion (1970), ACC champion (1973), Southwest Conference champion (1979), two-time Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (1977, 1988), two-time Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year (1977, 1988), ACC Coach of the Year (1972), Walter Camp Coach of the Year (1977), Southwest Conference Coach of the Year (1977), SEC Coach of the Year (2000)
Skip Holtz coaching highlights: Two-time Conference USA champion (2008, 2009), Conference USA Coach of the Year (2016), USFL champion (2022), Atlantic 10 Conference champion (1998)
Bottom Line: The Holtzes
Lou Holtz won an ACC championship at North Carolina State and a Southwest Conference championship at Arkansas in the 1970s before becoming a household name as Notre Dame's head coach in the 1980s, leading the Irish to a national championship in 1988.
Lou Holtz was also named SEC Coach of the Year at South Carolina in 2000 before graduating into a role as a television commentator.
His son, Skip Holtz, has been a head coach at four different Division I schools — Connecticut, East Carolina, South Florida and Louisiana Tech. Skip Holtz had his most success at East Carolina, where he won back-to-back Conference USA championships in 2008 and 2009 and was named Conference USA Coach of the Year at Louisiana Tech in 2016.
7. The Drews
Coaches: Homer Drew, Bryce Drew and Scott Drew
Homer Drew highlights: Eight-time Summit League regular-season champion (1995-99, 2001, 2002, 2004), eight-time Summit League Tournament champion (1995-2000, 2002, 2004), four-time Summit League Coach of the Year (1994-96, 2002)
Bryce Drew coaching highlights: Two-time Horizon League Tournament champion (2013, 2015), four-time Horizon League regular-season champion (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016), WAC Tournament champion (2021), WAC regular season champion (2021), three-time Horizon League Coach of the Year (2012, 2015, 2016)
Scott Drew coaching highlights: NCAA Division I national champion (2021), NIT champion (2013), two-time Big 12 regular-season champion (2021, 2022), Summit League regular season champion (2003), three-time Big 12 Coach of the Year (2020-22)
Bottom Line: The Drews
The Drew coaching family became household names at the 1998 NCAA tournament when Valparaiso made a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight with Homer Drew as head coach and one of his sons, Scott Drew, as an assistant coach and another son, Bryce Drew, as Valparaiso's star player. It was a run that included Bryce Drew hitting one of the most famous shots in NCAA tournament history to defeat No. 4 Ole Miss at the buzzer.
Scott Drew became the head coach at Valparaiso for one season in 2002-2003 and has been the head coach at Baylor since 2003, leading the Bears to an NIT championship in 2013 and the NCAA Division I national championship in 2021.
Bryce Drew played six seasons in the NBA before going into coaching. He won four Horizon League championships as Valparaiso's head coach, coached three seasons at Vanderbilt and led Grand Canyon to a sweep of the WAC regular season and tournament championships in 2021.
6. The Shanahans
Coaches: Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan
Mike Shanahan coaching highlights: Two-time Super Bowl champion (1998, 1999)
Kyle Shanahan coaching highlights: NFC champion (2019)
Bottom Line: The Shanahans
It's safe to say the Shanahans will probably take over the No. 1 spot in these rankings if Kyle Shanahan can find a way to lead the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl championship. That would make Kyle Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, the first father-son duo to win Super Bowls as head coaches.
Kyle Shanahan actually came close once already, coming within a hair's breadth of winning it all with the 49ers following the 2019 season. Mike Shanahan has actually sealed the deal on a Super Bowl twice, winning back-to-back titles with the Denver Broncos and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway in 1998 and 1999.
What's interesting about Mike Shanahan is that while he's known for his NFL coaching career — he was also the head coach of the Los Angeles Raiders and Washington Redskins — he won national championships as an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma in 1974, as the offensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois in 1978 (NCAA Division II), and won another Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator of the 49ers in 1994.
5. The Bowdens
Coaches: Bobby Bowden, Terry Bowden and Tommy Bowden
Bobby Bowden coaching highlights: Two-time national champion (1993, 1999), 12-time ACC champion (1992-2000, 2002, 2003, 2005), Walter Camp Coach of the Year (1991)
Tommy Bowden coaching highlights: Conference USA champion (1998), two-time ACC Coach of the Year (1999, 2003)
Terry Bowden highlights: Two-time SEC Western Division champion (1993, 1997), MAC East Division champion (2017), two-time WVIAC champion (1984, 1985), Gulf South Conference champion (2009), Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year (1993), SEC Coach of the Year (1993), Walter Camp Coach of the Year (1993), Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (1993), Gulf South Conference Coach of the Year (2009)
Bottom Line: The Bowdens
The late Bobby Bowden was one of the greatest college football coaches of all time, winning a pair of national championships at Florida State in 1993 and 1999 and finished with a career record of 377-129-4 — second only to Joe Paterno's 409 career wins at Penn State.
Two of Bowden's sons became Division I head coaches. Tommy Bowden was the Conference USA Coach of the Year at Tulane in 1998 before coaching Clemson for a decade, where he was a two-time ACC Coach of the Year.
Another son, Terry Bowden, has been the head coach at six colleges and swept almost every significant national coach of the year award in 1993 after leading Auburn to an unbeaten record. He's currently the head coach at Louisiana-Monroe.
4. The VanDerveers
Coaches: Tara VanDerveer and Heidi VanDerveer
Tara VanDerveer coaching highlights: Three-time NCAA champion (1990, 1992, 2021), 13-time NCAA Final Four (1990-92, 1995, 1997, 2008-12, 2014, 2017, 2021), 26-time Pac-12 Conference regular-season champion (1989-93, 1995-98, 2001-15, 2017, 2021, 2022), 14-time Pac-12 Conference Tournament champion (2003-05, 2007-13, 2015, 2017. 2019, 2021, 2022), four-time Big Ten regular-season champion (1982-85), five-time National Coach of the Year (1988-1990, 2011, 2020), 10-time Pac-10/Pac-12 Coach of the Year (1988-90, 2007, 2009), two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (1984, 1985)
Heidi VanDerveer coaching highlights: Three-time CCAA tournament champion (2013, 2019, 2020), five-time CCAA regular-season champion (2016-20), two-time SCIAC tournament champion (2009, 2011), four-time SCIAC regular-season champion (2009-12), four-time SCIAC regular-season champion (2009-12), four-time CCAA Coach of the Year (2016-19), WBCA Division II District/Region Coach of the Year (2019)
Bottom Line: The VanDerveers
Everyone knows longtime Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer. She is one of the greatest college coaches of all time. Her thrilling return to the top of the mountain with a third NCAA national title in 2021 — almost 30 years after her last title — was an amazing story.
What you might not know is that she's not the only great coach in her family. Younger sister Heidi VanDerveer has been coaching women's basketball since the mid-1980s. She first was an assistant coach to Pat Summitt at Tennessee before becoming a head coach at Eastern Washington.
Then, she coached in the WNBA, returned to be a college head coach at Occidental College, and took over at NCAA Division II UC San Diego, where she's been since 2012 and has been named CCAA Coach of the Year four times.
3. The Sutters
Coaches: Darryl Sutter and Brian Sutter
Darryl Sutter coaching highlights: Two-time Stanley Cup champion (2012, 2014), NHL Coach of the Year (2022)
Brian Sutter coaching highlights: NHL Coach of the Year (1991)
Bottom Line: The Sutters
Few families in the history of professional sports can hold a candle to the famous Sutters of Alberta, Canada, who saw six of seven brothers play in the NHL. Two of those brothers, Darryl Sutter and Brian Sutter, won the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year following their playing careers.
Darryl Sutter has coached four NHL teams, won a pair of Stanley Cup championships with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014, and was named NHL Coach of the Year with the Calgary Flames in 2022.
Brian Sutter also coached four different NHL teams after his playing career was over and was named NHL Coach of the Year with the St. Louis Blues in 1991.
2. The Bennetts
Coaches: Dick Bennett and Tony Bennett
Dick Bennett coaching highlights: NCAA FInal Four (2000), Horizon League tournament champion (1995), two-time Summit League regular-season champion (1992, 1994), two-time Summit League tournament champion (1991, 1994), four-time WIAC regular-season champion (1982-85), NAIA Coach of the Year (1984), two-time Summit League Coach of the Year (1990, 1992)
Tony Bennett coaching highlights: NCAA champion (2019), five-time ACC regular-season champion (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021), two-time ACC tournament champion (2014, 2018), two-time Naismith College Coach of the Year (2007, 2018), two-time AP National Coach of the Year (2007, 2018), Sporting News Coach of the Year (2007), four-time ACC Coach of the Year (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019), Pac-10 Coach of the Year (2007)
Bottom Line: The Bennetts
Dick Bennett spent the first two decades of his coaching career at NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point, then Wisconsin-Green Bay, before hitting the big time at the University of Wisconsin. He guided the Badgers to the 2000 Final Four with his son, Tony Bennett, as his assistant coach.
Tony Bennett followed his father to Washington State as an assistant coach, where he eventually became the head coach and was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 2007.
Tony Bennett has been the coach at Virginia since 2009, was named AP Coach of the Year in 2018, and led the Cavaliers to the national championship in 2019.
1. The Harbaughs
Coaches: Jack Harbaugh, John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh
Jack Harbaugh highlights: NCAA Division I-AA national champion (2002), Ohio Valley Conference champion (2000), MVC champion (2002), NCAA Division I-AA Coach of the Year (2002), Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year (2000)
John Harbaugh coaching highlights: Super Bowl XLVII champion (2013), AP NFL Coach of the YEar (2019), PFWA Coach of the Year (2019)
Jim Harbaugh coaching highlights: NFC champion (2012), two-time Big Ten champion (2021, 2022), two-time College Football Playoff semifinalist (2021, 2022), NFL Coach of the Year (2011), AP College Football Coach of the Year (2021), Big Ten Coach of the Year (2022), two-time Pioneer League champion (2005, 2006)
Bottom Line: The Harbaughs
There hasn't ever been a family of coaches quite like the Harbaughs.
The patriarch, Jack Harbaugh, started his career as a high school coach in the early 1960s before becoming a college assistant, then the head coach at Western Michigan in the early 1980s. Jack Harbaugh capped his coaching career in the most baller of ways as Eastern Kentucky's head coach from 1989 to 2002 and won the Division I-AA national championship in his final season.
His two sons, John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh, became the first brothers to coach against each other in the Super Bowl in 2013 — John with the Baltimore Ravens and Jim with the San Francisco 49ers. John won that game and has been the coach of the Ravens since 2008, winning AP NFL Coach of the Year in 2019.
Jim Harbaugh spent 14 years as an NFL quarterback before going into coaching. He capped a four-season stretch at Stanford with an 11-1 record and Orange Bowl win in 2010 before coaching the 49ers for four seasons. Jim Harbaugh has been the head coach at his alma mater, Michigan, since 2015 and led the Wolverines to back-to-back Big Ten championships and College Football Playoff appearances in 2021 and 2022.