The Slatest

Why Coaches Love Donald Trump


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Donald Trump has cornered the market in surprise endorsements by coaches. Former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight has been stumping for him since last week and on Monday, a trio of the state’s sideline-prowling legends announced their own endorsements: Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, Purdue basketball coach Gene Keady, and Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps. This trend extends beyond Indiana’s borders. Last month, former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka voiced his own support for Trump, and the Buffalo Bills’ Rex Ryan introduced Trump at a rally back in February.


Why are all the coaches flocking to Trump? Probably because of his relentless focus on “winning.” Also, probably because they’re old white men who like to yell a lot.

One of Trump’s biggest campaign themes—an idea that he repeats in almost every stump speech, statement, debate, and interview—is that “we don’t win anymore,” and, because of his business success, he’s the person to change that. Winning is Trump’s brand. He’s a winner who knows how to win because winning. You know who else likes to win? Coaches!


Almost every coach endorsement focuses on “winning” and being the best.

Here’s Holtz:

There are nothing but winners in Indiana. The main reason I’m endorsing him: I’ve played his golf course, I’ve stayed in his hotel, he does nothing but go first class in everything. He wants this country to be first class as well.


Here’s Knight describing the universal qualities of success to Fox News:

Be smart. Be tough. And want to win. Now Donald Trump has those three ingredients to the overflow.

Here’s Keady’s endorsement, talking about how Trump reminds him of Knight:

I truly believe in and always admired Coach Knight because he graduated his kids. He played hard and played the game to win, it’s what we all try to do and I think that’s what Mr. Trump wants to do.

Knight’s 1976 Indiana Hoosiers were the last Division I men’s college basketball team to win the NCAA Tournament with an undefeated record. The man is a winner. He also enjoys throwing furniture, having confrontations at salad bars, and choking his own players. He once told Connie Chung, “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” As I said, the man is a winner. All he does is win.


Here’s more from Knight’s interview with Fox:

I think that in any endeavor there are about three requirements to reach success. One is being smart. The second one is being tough. The third one is being ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Trump is smart. He is tough. He does whatever it takes. He will lead America to victory in the Big Game, because he knows how to get things done.

Digger Phelps echoed that sentiment:


You know and I know, coaches know how to get things done. Donald Trump is one of the great coaches in this country and we’re all tired of what has not gotten done for us the last eight years in this country.


The fact that Trump is a winner who knows how to get things done reminds these coaches of other winners who know how to get things done, specifically, themselves.

From Phelps’ endorsement:

[In 1970] I left Penn to go to New York City and coach Fordham University. Took a team that was 10-15, we go 26-3 and those kids own New York City. But at the same time that’s when Donald started when his dad in Brooklyn gave him this one old building. That one old building is what you see today. The man got it done.


And here’s Knight comparing his methods to Trump’s:

That’s what I think I was able to do with the kind of kids that I had playing basketball on the teams that I had over the years.

When the going gets tough, Mike Ditka says, the Trump gets going:

Every once in a while you’re going to get punched in the chops, but you keep going forward, that’s all there is to it.

Compared with Trump, Knight explains, other candidates are like tiny, dumb countries:

It’s like the Boston Celtics playing Iceland.

And who can disagree with that? Go team.

Read more Slate coverage of the GOP primary.