Coach Ernie Pantusso

Coach Ernie Pantusso
Coach Ernie Pantusso
CoachPantusso RescueMe.jpg
Episode: "Rescue Me" (3x25)
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 Assistant Bartender (1982-1985) (until death)
Spouse(s) Angela Pantusso (deceased)
Children Lisa Pantusso (daughter)

Ernie "Coach" Pantusso is a fictional character on the American television show Cheers, portrayed by Nicholas Colasanto for the first three seasons.

Coach appeared in 70 episodes of Cheers between 1982-1985.


Character overview

Coach was slow and forgetful, but always genial, warm, and caring, a marked contrast to the tough, plain-talking Carla Tortelli. He got his nickname from his tenure as a baseball coach; he had coached Sam Malone with the Boston Red Sox before Sam bought Cheers. He once said he thought he got called coach because he always flew in the coach section of an airplane and never in first class. He claimed his other nickname was "Red", not because he had red hair, but because he had read a book. Quotes like this were characteristic of Coach. While with the St. Louis Browns he led the American League in hits by pitches for two consecutive seasons.[1] It is possible that too many beanballs led to his being slow and forgetful. Despite his kind, affable personality off the field, he could be a tyrannical coach, as found out when he coached a little league team and worked them so hard that they all threatened to quit.

As a young man, Ernie dropped out of high school and joined the Navy. He then played both minor league baseball, and with the Browns. He later ended up with Boston's farm team, the Pawtucket Red Sox as a coach, and also managed in the minors. He moved back to the Majors as Boston's third base coach when Sam Malone was pitching, and Sam hired him as a bartender when he bought Cheers. He loved the job so much that he spent his days off working at the bar. Coach's wife Angela had died before the show took place; they had a daughter, Lisa (Allyce Beasley), whom he encouraged to end an engagement to a fiancé he disliked.[2] In season three he became engaged to a widow named Irene Blanchard, but she broke off the engagement after winning the lottery.

Death, on and offscreen

Colasanto died in 1985, shortly after filming the season 3 episode "Cheerio, Cheers". This episode was the 59th to be produced, but was moved following Colasanto's death and shown as the 66th episode. Production was halted for three weeks. After his death, episodes were moved around - in particular the cold openings - so as to make Coach's absence less obvious. For the episodes where Coach did not appear, excuses were often made for his absence. In one instance it was explained he was visiting his sister. In another he re-took his driving test in Vermont. Sam is seen congratulating Coach on the telephone. When Carla asks if Coach passed his test, Sam says that he was congratulating Coach for finding Vermont. In one episode the regulars receive a letter from Coach, who is at his annual family reunion. The photograph attached shows Coach with a black family. Sam explains to Carla and Cliff Clavin that Coach got an invitation by mistake and went so as not to appear rude. He had proceeded to be invited back every year since and was considering hosting next year's gathering at his home. The family, Sam explained, knew him as "Uncle Whitey".

Coach's final appearance is in the cold opening to the final episode of season 3, "Rescue Me", which had been cropped from an earlier episode (this is clear as Carla is not pregnant in this clip). The scene involves Coach meeting an old baseball buddy whose nickname was "The Blind Man." Coach sings the man's praises to everyone at the bar, speaking of the enormous skill it took for a blind man to play professional baseball. His friend informs him that he is not blind at all but got his nicknames from selling venetian blinds door to door, but Coach is unswayed and proclaims "My God! How did he find the doorbell?!" The man gives up and leaves, with Coach warning him to watch out for the steps. After he leaves, Carla suggests "Coach, I think he can see as well as we can." In his final line in the series, Coach replies "Carla, in some ways...he can see more." The audience laughter was edited from the end of this scene and the silent screen freezes on Coach for a moment before cutting to the episode's theme song (though this is not always the case in repeat showings).

Following Colasanto's death the show's cast and crew honored him by hanging a portrait of Geronimo on the show's set. The picture had previously hung in Colasanto's dressing room behind the scenes. The picture had special meaning to him, and has been used at cast reunions to represent the actor.

Posthumous references

In the first episode of the fourth season, Woody Boyd comes to Cheers in search of Coach, explaining that they were pen pals (exchanging pens rather than letters). Sam is forced to explain that Coach died some months ago. Boyd replaces Coach, who had sponsored him in a correspondence course in bartending. Coach was referenced frequently throughout the show's run. Diane, working in a nunnery, expresses grief that she only heard of Coach's death from afar. Sam consoles her by telling her what Coach said of the afterlife: "I hope there aren't too many stairs." Diane replies, "It's wise in its way."

In "Fools and Their Money," Sam ends up costing Woody a lot of money. To resolve their differences over the matter, Sam suggests they do what Coach would do – sing Home on the Range together for a half hour straight. (The belief being that if you could do that with someone then you can't hold a grudge.) The rest of the bar hears them singing and – aware that it was Coach's method – join in. Sam also mentions to Woody that he was protecting him like Coach used to do for him.

Coach is later referred to in "Thanksgiving Orphans." After each character toasts a loved one(s) not present for the meal, they all toast Coach.

Much later in the series, during Season 9's "Pitch It Again, Sam," Malone goes to Yankee Stadium to pitch against an old rival in an exhibition. Before the event, Sam laments Coach's absence, while Carla launches into an impression of a fiery Coach in an attempt to motivate Sam, but before she can finish the imitation, Carla breaks down and says, "I miss him so much." She does this once more later in the same scene.

In the last scene of the series finale, "One for the Road," after telling a late arriving customer that the bar is closed, Sam walks to the back of the bar. On his way, he pauses to straighten the portrait of Geronimo.


  1. ^ "The Tortelli Tort"
  2. ^ "The Coach's Daughter"

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