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Monday, October 24, 2011
Is Tony LaRussa a better manager because of his legal education?

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, who was a minor league baseball player in the 1970s, is 1978 graduate of Florida State University College of Law.  He passed the Florida bar exam one year later.  LaRussa, however, would never practice law, instead launching a coaching career with the Chicago White Sox.  Two World Series titles (with a third in sight) later, it was obviously the wise choice.

Could LaRussa's time at FSU Law and studying the bar have helped prepare him to become a big league manager?  Does it help him now-a-days?  In today's Wall Street Journal, I discuss with Joe Palazzo how LaRussa's legal training might have aided his managerial career:
What he learned in law school wasn't lost on his baseball career, say experts who follow sports and the law. "A good lawyer is someone who is receptive to hearing both sides of an argument and to thinking critically about different perspectives," says Michael McCann, director of Vermont Law School's Sports Law Institute. "He has a track-record of listening to coaches before making a decision, and his legal education may have led to that."
Greg Skidmore and Geoff Rapp have previously looked at LaRussa and other coaches/team executives who are law school graduates (click here for Greg's post; click here for Geoff's post).  Based their posts and accompanying reader comments, here is a list of other managers/coaches/team executives who are lawyers:

  • Mike Leach, former Texas Tech football coach (Pepperdine University School of Law, J.D., 1982)
  • Quin Synder, Lakers assistant coach/former Missouri men's basketball coach (Duke Law School, J.D., 1995)
  • Craig Esherick, former Georgetown men's basketball coach (Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1982)
  • Rick Neuheisel, UCLA football coach (University of Southern California School of Law, J.D., 1988)
  • Bill Wright, Arizona men's tennis coach (Denver University Law School, J.D., 1963)
  • Terry Bowden, North Alabama football coach/former Auburn football coach (Florida State University College of Law, J.D.)
  • Theo Epstein, President of Baseball Operations of the Chicago Cubs (University of San Diego School of Law, J.D.)
  • Larry Lucchino, President and CEO of the Boston Red Sox (Yale Law School, J.D.)
  • Brian Burke, President and general Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Harvard Law School, J.D., 1981)
  • Mike Zarren, Assistant General Manager of the Boston Celtics (Harvard Law School, J.D., 2005)
  • George McPhee, General Manager of the Washington Capitals (Rutgers School of Law, J.D., 1992)
  • Jason Levien, former Assistant General Manager and Senior VP of the Sacramento Kings (University of Michigan School of Law, J.D.)
Feel free to add others in the comments. I'm sure there are plenty more.


"Rick Neuheisel, UCLA football coach (University of Southern California School of Law, J.D., 1988)"

So much for that theory, unless we want to declare that people go to Law School to learn how to break the law.

Blogger Ken Houghton -- 10/24/2011 2:35 PM  

Absolutely agree that having a law degree may definitely be an advantage as a sports coach especially as a baseball manager. As a manager, it is often a chess game and strong analytical perspective coupled with powerful critical thinking is a great formula for success. Both qualities one would presumably learn in law school

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/24/2011 3:30 PM  

Completely agree that having a law degree could definitely be advantageous as a baseball manager. As a manager, it is a chess game and one needs to possess not only strong intuition, but also analytical perspective coupled with powerful critical thinking skills. All those qualities would presumably be learned in law school.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/24/2011 3:33 PM  

You can add Tennessee Head Football coach Derek Dooley and Savannah State Head Basketball Coach Horace Broadnax to that list.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/24/2011 4:12 PM  

Sandy Alderson: GM New York mets (Harvard Law school)

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/24/2011 4:12 PM  

Bob Myers, Assistant GM of Golden State Warriors (Loyola Law School)

Lon Babby, Phoenix Suns President of Basketball Operations (Yale Law School, J.D., 1976)

Anonymous Darren Heitner -- 10/24/2011 4:14 PM  

Awesome, thanks all for these additions and comments.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 10/24/2011 5:43 PM  

David Morway, GM for the Indiana Pacers (San Diego School of Law, J.D., 1985)

Rich Cho, GM for the Charlotte Bobcats (Pepperdine University School of Law, J.D., 1997)

Peter Dinwiddie, Director of Basketball Administration for the Indiana Pacers (New England School of Law, J.D., 2004)

Blogger Spencer Anderson -- 10/24/2011 8:01 PM  

Dick Casse, Yale Law School
President, Baltimore Ravens

Blogger Avi Sommer -- 10/24/2011 8:43 PM  

Jimmy "JJ" Polk, Dir of Player Contracts and Basketball Admin for New Orleans Hornets, University of Illinois College of Law '04

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/26/2011 10:36 AM  

Although Cris Collinsworth (graduate of University of Cincinnati School of Law) is not a coach, manager, or team executive, you could argue that his legal background benefits him in his analysis of prime time Sunday Night Football telecasts.

Blogger Richard Mohr -- 10/26/2011 5:30 PM  

This is a whose who of slimy coaches.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/26/2011 7:55 PM  

Three from Notre Dame to add to the list: Larry Dolan, Owner, Cleveland Indians, Notre Dame Law School - 1956; Paul Dolan, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland Indians, Notre Dame Law School - 1983; and Tom Clements, QB Coach, Green Bay Packers, Notre Dame Law School - 1986

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 10/27/2011 1:21 PM  

Mike Tannenbaum, General Manager of the New York Jets (Tulane Law School)

Blogger Darsh -- 10/27/2011 1:48 PM  

Mike Tannenbaum, General Manager of the New York Jets (Tulane Law School)

Blogger Darsh -- 10/27/2011 1:49 PM  

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