Coach Ernie Pantusso
Ernie Pantusso (or Pantuso), commonly known as "Coach", is a fictional character on the American television show Cheers, portrayed by Nicholas Colasanto between 1982 and 1985. Coach was originally Sam Malone's baseball coach before the show's premiere. Then, he later became a bartender of Cheers while Sam became its owner and another bartender. He is not "worldly wise" but has some shred of wit. He also has a daughter named Lisa, who solely appeared in "Coach's Daughter" (1982), from his late wife Angela.
|Ernie "Coach" Pantusso|
Coach ruins the blender by mixing a recipe with the coconut cup in "Cliff's Rocky Moment" (episode 38, 1984)
|First appearance||Give Me a Ring Sometime (episode 1.01)|
|Last appearance||Rescue Me (episode 3.25)
Cheerio, Cheers (last filmed with Colasanto)
|Portrayed by||Nicholas Colasanto|
|Occupation||Baseball coach (retired)
Assistant bartender (1982–1985) (until death)
|Family||Two unnamed brothers
|Relatives||Joyce Pantusso (niece)
Phyllis Pantusso (sister-in-law)
While he technically last appeared in the cold opening of "Rescue Me", Colasanto's last filmed appearance as Coach was an episode "Cheerio, Cheers". When Colasanto died in 1985, Coach was written out as deceased without explanation. Since then, Colasanto's replacement Woody Harrelson joined the cast as Woody Boyd in the fourth season of Cheers.
Former umpire Ron Luciano auditioned for Coach Ernie Pantusso, but he failed to get the part because producers "wanted an experienced actor". Robert Prosky, who later appeared in the eleventh-season episode "Daddy's Little Middle-Aged Girl" (1992) as the character Rebecca Howe's Navy father, was offered the role of Coach, but he turned down the role. Therefore, the role was given to Nicholas Colasanto. According to Colasanto, Coach was nearly "child-like" and more of a surrogate "son" than a surrogate "father" to Sam Malone (Ted Danson), while Sam was more of a "father" to Coach for dependency on Sam's "moral support". Moreover, Coach was beloved by everyone and a good "lovable man". According to director and producer James Burrows, the character of Coach was much different from the actor Nick: Coach was slow, while Nick was sharp.
Coach is a component of many people. [...] [He] is not a worldly man [and] not well-read. He comes from the dugouts. He may be intelligent, but he's not worldly wise. He's so positive; that's what makes him funny. He'll say the most absurd thing, but, if someone corrects him, he immediately capitulates because he doesn't want to offend anyone.— Nicholas Colasanto, The Associated Press, August 1984
Ernie "Coach" Pantusso is a slow, forgetful bartender with a gravel voice, caring personality, shred of intelligence, and warm heart. "The Coach doesn't have any worldly ambitions—he's very happy to make his paycheck, and drink with the boys," said portrayer Colasanto. Moreover, he listens to people and their problems very well. Ernie was nicknamed "Coach" because he was the baseball coach of the Boston Red Sox and other teams, like the minor league baseball team Pawtucket Red Sox (discovered in "The Tortelli Tort," episode 3 ). When Sam succumbed to alcoholism, leading to the end of his baseball career, Sam bought the bar Cheers and hired Coach as a co-bartender. He is still nicknamed "Coach" by everyone, although he has been retired from coaching for years.
As a young man, Ernie attended Catholic School, but dropped out of high school and joined the Navy. He has a sister and two brothers; the younger brother has a daughter Joyce (Cady McClain), who appears in only "The Godfather, Part III" (episode 117, 1987). As learned in "An American Family" (season 3, episode 9), he served in the Vietnam War.
Coach is a widower since his wife Angela died before the show debuted. They have a daughter, Lisa (Allyce Beasley), who only appears in "Coach's Daughter" (1982). He has numerous love interests, like the widow Irene Blanchard in two-episode "Coach in Love", who breaks off the engagement after winning the lottery and later marries a millionaire. He alongside Sam later earns a high school diploma for passing a geography class in "Teacher's Pet" (1985).
In the two-part episode "Rebound" (1984), after Sam and Diane ended their on-and-off relationship, Coach goes to Diane Chambers's (Shelley Long) apartment to inform her about Sam's relapse into alcoholism, so she brings in her love interest, a psychiatrist Frasier Crane, to help Sam cope with his alcoholism. Coach cunningly convinces the trio reasons to rehire Diane as a waitress again, like preventing Sam's relapse, Diane from losing her mind again, and Sam and Diane from thinking about each other.
Colasanto, who played Coach, had heart disease since the mid-1970s exacerbated by alcoholism. After years of sobriety, during production his heart disease worsened. Castmates noticed his weight loss, although the actor kept the severity of his illness a secret. Shortly after Christmas 1984, Colasanto was admitted to a local hospital with water in his lungs. Co-star Ted Danson later said that the veteran actor had difficulty remembering his lines during production that season. After he was released from the hospital, Colasanto's doctor recommended that he not return to work. Although he appeared in the cold opening of the third-season finale ("Rescue Me"), his last full episode was "Cheerio Cheers" (filmed in late November 1984).
Following Colasanto's death by heart attack on February 12, 1985, the show's creators decided not to recast Coach's role, so Coach is written out of the show as deceased without explanation and is replaced since "Birth, Death, Love and Rice" (episode 70, 1985) by a co-bartender Woody Boyd, portrayed by Woody Harrelson. Apparently Coach and Woody were "Pen Pals" exchanging pens in the mail. Sam explains to Woody that Coach died recently. When Sam visits Diane, she expresses sympathy about Coach's death. Coach was referenced occasionally after that, including the time that his niece Joyce appears in only one episode, "The Godfather, Part III" (1987)—not to be confused with the film of the same name. In the series finale, "One for the Road", Sam straightens a photograph of Geronimo, used by the late Colasanto as part of his dressing room while he was alive. The photo was hanging at the bar wall of the stage set "as a remembrance."
Since 1983, Nicholas Colasanto was Emmy-nominated three times as an Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role of Coach, including his posthumous award nomination in 1985, but he did not win. On April 19, 1985, Colasanto was awarded posthumously the Best Supporting Actor by Viewers for Quality Television, a defunct non-profit organization that determined what was considered high-quality on television, for this role. Michael Hill from The Baltimore Evening Sun called Coach "the brilliant character". Robert Bianco praised Coach as the "heart" of the show, an ensemble's father figure, and Diane Chambers' "dependable ally". Bianco praised Coach for giving heart to the "Sam and Diane" story and for making the show a "classic". He was devastated that the actor and the character himself died, and he was disappointed that the show was not as great without him. Even with Coach's replacement Woody Boyd, Bianco considered Coach irreplaceable.
Ted Danson, who played Sam Malone on Cheers, felt that the show lost its "heart and soul" following Colasanto's death. Bill Simmons, previous writer of ESPN, praised Coach for making the show a "show", yet he felt that his death transformed the show into a "sitcom". A writer under a pseudonymous name, Joe Sixpack, from Philadelphia Daily News, named Coach his second most-favorite "complete professional" bartender with a warm heart to customers, despite his limited range of intelligence. Columnist Amber Lee from the Bleacher Report website called Coach one of "25 funniest coaches of film and television".
Jeffrey Robinson of the DVD Talk website praised Colasanto's performance for executing many dimensions to his character Coach, as opposed to his replacement Woody Boyd, whom he found one-dimensional and clueless. Adam Arseneau disdained the show for improperly honoring the memory of Colasanto by poorly handling his character Coach's disappearance in the third season and death in the fourth.
- Snauffer, Douglas (2008). The Show Must Go On: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television Series. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3295-0.
- Bjorklund, Dennis (1997). Cheers TV Show: A Comprehensive Reference. Praetorian Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9679852-3-7. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
- Mannix, Vin (May 20, 1992). "Ex-pope player finds decisions don't get easier". The News. Palm Beach County, Florida. p. 1-C. Retrieved January 16, 2015 – via Google News Archive.
[Ben] Ruby [...] learned from that silly song [that] the late Coach Ernie Pantuso used to sing on Cheers: It [Albania] borders on the Adriatic.
- Lewis, John E; Stempel, Penny (c. 1998). Cult TV: The Comedies: The Ultimate Critical Guide. UK: Pavilion Books (previously published by Bay Books). pp. 53–54. ISBN 978-0-912333-65-6. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
- Snauffer, p. 56.
- Gendel, Morgan (April 6, 1985). "Loss of key cast members a fact of TV life". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved October 8, 2015 – via Google News Archive. Morgan Gendel worked for the Los Angeles Times at the time of publication.
- Woodley, Richard (July 12, 1982). "'I've Been Wearing a Mask All My Life,' Says Ron Luciano, but Now the Umpire Strikes Back". People. 18 (2).
- Simonson, Robert (December 9, 2008). "Robert Prosky, Seasoned Actor of Stage, Film and Television, Dies at 77".[permanent dead link]
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- Angus, Joe (August 21, 1983). "Coach seen as lovable man". The Daily Oklahoman. Oklahoma Publishing Company – via NewsBank. (registration required). Official website: (subscription required).
- Dawidziak, Mark (February 14, 1985). "Cheers Won't Try Recasting Coach". Akron Beacon Journal. Akron, Ohio. p. 1D – via NewsBank. Record no. 8501050953.
- "Colasanto Strayed from Directing to Take Role as Cheers Bartender". Schenectady Gazette. Schenectady, New York. August 4, 1984. p. 25, TV Plus section.
- Jones, Gerard (1992). Honey, I'm Home! Sitcoms: Selling the American Dream. New York: Grove Weidenfeld—Grove Press. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-8021-1308-5.
- Buck, Jerry (July 31, 1984). "For this lovable 'Cheers' actor, directing is where his heart is". The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Associated Press. p. D7. Record no. at NewsBank: 8402100379 (registration required). Official website: (subscription required).
- Season 1, Episode 12, "The spy who came in for a cold one."
- Bjorklund 1997, p. 275.
- Snauffer, p. 52
- Snauffer, p. 55
- Keets, Heather (February 11, 1994). "Coach's Last Call". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 27, 2011.
- "Birth, Death, Love, and Rice." 1985. Cheers: Season 4: The Complete Fourth Season. Paramount, 2009. DVD.
- Liner, Elaine (May 21–22, 1993). "TV's favorite bar turns off the tap". Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Texas. p. A1. Record no at NewsBank: 113001A60C3FB35B (registration required).
- Bjorklund 1997, pp. 457–458.
- Buck, Jerry (April 19, 1985). "The Results Are In for Quality Television's First Poll". The Orlando Sentinel (Three star ed.). The Associated Press. p. E9. Record no at NewsBank: 0290180135.
- Hill, Michael, from The Baltimore Evening Sun (February 17, 1991). "Like an old shoe, 'Cheers' is just plain comfortable". The Tampa Tribune. Tribune Company. p. 55. Record no. at NewsBank: 0EB0EF2BDDC1580F (registration required).
- Bianco, Robert, from The Pittsburgh Press (November 7, 1990). "A toast to 'Cheers' as it celebrates its 200th episode". Scripps Howard News Service. Entertainment and culture. Record no. at NewsBank: 9001080362 (registration required).
- Feran, Tom (July 23, 1996). "Danson puts Cheers years behind him". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio. p. 10E. Record no. at NewsBank: 08705016.
- Simmons, Bill (February 21, 2002). "Page 2: Dear Sports Guy...". ESPN. Archived from the original on December 10, 2008. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
- Joe Sixpack, pseudonymous (March 23, 2007). "The Hall of Foam: The 20 bartenders I wish could pour for me". Philadelphia Daily News. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. p. 65. Record no. at NewsBank: 7006886267.
- Lee, Amber (March 9, 2012). "25 Funniest Coaches of Film and Television". Bleacher Report. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
- Robinson, Jeffrey (May 25, 2004). "Cheers: Complete Third Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
- Arseneau, Adam (July 12, 2004). "Cheers: The Complete Third Season". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on December 16, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2012.