Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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That Guy Salute: The Coach in Teen Wolf (1985)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 30, 2007

The That Guy Salute pays tribute to those nameless and occasionally faceless supporting characters that nonetheless provide the broth for the rich stew of Pop Culture.

I wasn’t alive in 1985, but I still feel resolutely confident that if someone were to time capsule a movie to encapsulate what the 80s felt like, Teen Wolf must be the best choice available. Obviously, this is because its a paradigmatic 80s teen movies by just about any standards–the voluptuous blonde with a ’50s-style name and hairdo, the asshole principal with a personal vendetta, the platonic-but-could-be-more-best-friend-with-a-goofy-name at the center, and most importantly, the humongous, ridiculously elaborate house parties that the entire school seems to attend, all essential elements of any High School flick of the time. But more importantly, it’s the attitude of the movie that makes it utterly impossible to transfer to any other decade of the 20th century–the idea that this teenager could unexpectedly “come out” as a werewolf, and not only would he not be whisked away by the government for years of torturous studies in an underground bunker somewhere, but that the entire school would get set up in Wolfmania and make him the most popular kid in school (and seduction target for previously mentioned 50s babe)–is gloriously reflective of the “Go with it” attitude that was so pervasive in the 80s, or at least as it was portrayed in teenaged film.

Still, it’s not The Wolf, platonic-but-could-be-more-best-friend-with-a- goofy-name, asshole principal or even 50s babe that emerge as the most memorable and definitive characters of Teen Wolf. That would belong to the characters played by two That Guys of Legend, Jerry Levine and Jay Tarses. Levine plays Stiles, Fox’s party-crazy, entrepreneurial best friend–the kind of guy that teen movies would like you to believe existed in yours and everyone’s High School, but probably didn’t–who sees the emergence of The Wolf as a get-rich-quick opportunity, selling Wolf merchandise (hats, t-shirts) to underclassmen, because of course it is socially acceptable and totally normal for dorks to wear clothing advertising the school’s cool kids. Today, though, we’re focusing on Coach Bobby Finstock, played by Jay Tarses.

Unlike the great majority of Teen Wolf characters, Coach Finstock is something of a rarity in 80s teen movies–the adult authority figure who seeks neither to inspire or oppress the youth under his command. He is not motivated by a desire to teach, nor is he looking to project the failures of his own adolescence unto the kids he’s teaching. In fact, Coach Finstock doesn’t seem motivated by much of anything–he even seems fairly uninterested in whether the team wins or not, which as a Teen Movie coach, should really be his only concern. When Fox goes wolven on him in the middle of the game and ends up going on a three-minute scoring montage, he seems only slightly impressed, later, when Fox reveals that he wants to play the climactic game against the Evil School as a human, he seems only slightly miffed. “It doesn’t matter how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose. And even that doesn’t make all that much difference” is the closest thing to an inspirational speech he can give the team.
Really, Coach Finstock doesn’t even seem to understand that his storyline is not in any way central to the movie, as he frequently offers asides that have little to do with anything and have absolutely no bearing on the rest of the movie. When noticing pre-Wolf Scott Howard is going through some troubles, he offers him this pearl:

“Look Scotty, I know what you’re going through. Couple years back, a kid came to me much the same way you’re coming to me now, saying the same thing that you’re saying. He wanted to drop off the team. His mother was a widow, all crippled up. She was scrubbing floors. She had this pin in her hip. So he wanted to drop basketball and get a job. Now these were poor people with real problems. Understand what I’m saying?”

“What happened to the kid?”

“I don’t know. He quit. He was a third stringer, I didn’t need him.”

This is the second closest Coach Finstock comes to giving Scott the heart-to-heart he so desperately wants. The closest comes when at one point in the movie, a post-Wolf Scott, who has just won a big game with his ball-hogging and showing off, makes the mistake of asking the Coach why his teammates are giving him the cold shoulder. The Coach offers Scott these words of wisdom, which I would consider to arguably be the greatest quote in all of film history:

“Listen, Scott, there are three rules that I live by: never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese. ”

Turns out that Jay Tarses actually had a fairly diverse illustrious career in TV before and after landing his definitive role. Aside from guesting in high-profile shows like St. Elsewhere’s and Teen Wolf, Tarses was a producer and writer for shows like The Bob Newhart Show, Buffalo Bill and the highly classy Black Tie Affair (a.k.a. Smoldering Lust). Perhaps this gave him enough of a rep to get cast as the totally extraneous Teen Wolf coach, though it was the only movie he ever acted in.

Our loss, I suppose. At least we have this one definitive 80s bit role to remember him by.

4 Responses to “That Guy Salute: The Coach in Teen Wolf (1985)”

  1. sarah said

    Awesome. I watched this the other day and I love the coach. I like the line he gave them right before the very first game we saw… You see the other team’s coach giving them this very inspirational pep talk, then it shows Coach Finstock saying something like, “Just remember… This will all be over in a couple hours.” I love it.

  2. Jeff said

    Jesus Christ. This is brilliant. I’m really speechless. Bobby Finstock’s advice has guided me through life. A question I’ve always wondered though: why was Scott Howard shooting “bad outside hook shots” as he told his dad at one point. What kind of coach lets their 5’5 pt guard shoot outside hook shots?

  3. Brian said

    “Gimme a break, Thornie – look at the sneakers those guys are wearing. If our guys had sneakers like that there’s no telling what they can do.”

    great character! i love his spread of KFC in the coaches office.

    “the IRS is breathing down my neck like they have some kind of personal vendetta against bobby finstock.”

    i’ve got all these lines in my head, man.

  4. détatouage…

    […]That Guy Salute: The Coach in Teen Wolf (1985) « Intensities in Ten Suburbs[…]…

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