By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator

Do you remember the main player who led the Chicago Bulls to six championships in the 90s?

Of course, it was Michael Jordan.

What about the head coach? Some of you might not remember his name as easily, especially those not in basketball circles. 

It was Phil Jackson. He helped get his players to buy into the triangle offense that got the best offensive shot possible. His assistant, Tex Winter, was the one who had it heavily implemented in the NBA, after taking the main idea from his college coach in the 1940s. 

A role perhaps under-appreciated, but behind every champion, is the dedicated coach who helps athletes and teams reach the pinnacle of their sport.

Phil Jackson is just one of many who have helped athletes flourish, gain confidence, and win championships.


The Silver Fox

Bud Grant

The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, in fact, has Honoured Members who have achieved success as players and builders in their respective sports, and who have also gone on to have successful coaching careers.

In football, the legendary Bud Grant was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame as a builder in 1984. He was a three-time all-star with the Blue Bombers, catching passes from 1953 to 1956. But before that, he was an excellent multi-sport athlete down south, playing in both the NBA and NFL. 

It was during the 1957 season that Grant became the head coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a decision that helped cement his legacy. 

A true leader, Grant helped the Blue Bombers win four Grey Cups between 1958 and 1962, and was later named coach of the year in 1965.

In 1967, the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL came calling and named Bud Grant their new head coach, a position he would hold until 1983. He led them to four Super Bowl appearances.

If you talk, you only repeat something that you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something that you don’t know,” Grant once said.

I’m sure this is a lesson many of his athletes have come to understand. 


Winning Isn’t Everything

Coleen Dufresne 

Coleen Dufresne is another Honoured Member who has had a successful career coaching. 

Over 17 years, she built a powerhouse basketball program at the University of Manitoba. 

She won three U Sport (formally CIAU, CIS) National Championships, several second and third place finishes, and never missed the playoffs once in those 17 years. She was also named GPAC coach of the year five times, and CIS coach of the year twice. 

Coleen did more than just win. Her legacy will be remembered for growing the game in the province in more ways than one.

“Her biggest impact is her advocacy for females in sport, which you don’t really realize when you are playing. As a female, you don’t realize that’s something you stand for,” said one of Dufresne’s former players, Michelle Sung (Hynes).

A strong personality, one Dufresne’s guiding principles for her athletes was:

“Be committed to whatever you choose to do and do it to the best of your ability.”



The Designated Hitter

Joe Wiwchar

At the grassroots level, no one did it better than Manitoba Sports Hall of Famer, Joe Wiwchar. 

Inducted in 2011 as a builder in baseball, Joe coached several teams during his career, including five in one year!

He guided teams to provincial and national championships in 1981 and 1986, and coached a team to the Western Canadian Championship. 

As an assistant coach for Team Manitoba, he helped them win the silver medal in baseball at the 1977 Canada Games. 

His commitment and passion for the game was a trait he passed on to many of his players, whether it was a group of eight-year-olds, or players at the senior level.

In 1986, Joe was recognized by the Manitoba Baseball Association (known today as Baseball Manitoba) and the Manitoba Junior Baseball League with coach of the year honours, a designation that was truly warranted.


Joe Wiwchar (left)


Love of the Game

The list of names who have done exceptional work as coaches is endless, but a select few get recognized in the same sentiment as professional athletes. 

Names like Vince Lombardi, Rinus Michel, John Wooden, or Pat Summitt are at the top of the coaching world, but I bet many of you reading this will still have to look them up.  

Recognition has never been the end goal for coaches, though. It’s about getting your athletes to be the best they can be by motivating, advising, and developing them in sport and in life — so when it’s time to perform, the strategy and execution comes to fruition. 

At the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, we believe in shining a bright light on all the inspiring coaches who have done so many incredible things in sport here at home and around the world.