Coach is a roommate who returned to the loft in 2013 after leaving 2 years prior. He lived with Nick, Schmidt, and Jess until deciding to move out when he got a serious girlfriend, Malia, after which Winston moved in, who had just returned from playing basketball abroad. However, now that he has broken up with his ex-girlfriend, and Schmidt has decided to rent the apartment across the hall on his own, Coach has moved back in with the gang. Coach is a former athlete who now works as a personal trainer, and he doesn't know how to talk to women.
Drinking from a green cup, Coach listens during Jess' tenant interview as she answers the question "Do you have any pets" with the story of her cheating boyfriend and why she needs a new apartment. When Jess remarks that she thought the roommates would be women based on the words used in the ad for the loft, Schmidt - who wrote the ad - rips off his shirt to reveal his manly figure. Coach reveals that he is Schmidt's personal trainer, so his abs are "the house that Coach built." But he's not impressed when Schmidt says that his abs are "LLS - ladies love Schmidt" and forces him to drop a dollar in the "Douchebag Jar."
Jess tells the guys that she wants to live in the loft with them because the apartment is beautiful and close to her work, but she makes Coach cringe when she provides full disclosure that she'll be watching Dirty Dancing six or seven times - a day - to get over her recent breakup. She nearly gets a yes when Schmidt learns that her best friend is a model, but Coach and Nick are less enthusiastic. Schmidt drags them into the bathroom, where they discuss the pros and cons of living with a woman.
Nick is the only one to have lived with a woman before, and he points out that they smell nice, but their mood changes without warning. Coach initially says no to letting Jess move in, admitting that he wants to be able to come home after work, sit on his couch, and let his "beans" hang out. He and Schmidt force Nick to cast the deciding vote, with Schmidt calling Nick weak when it's clear that Nick refuses to be the tiebreaker, so Schmidt instead makes an executive decision and declares that "She's in."
A week after Jess moves in, she's still depressed and crying on the couch, watching Dirty Dancing on repeat. Coach and Schmidt return to the loft after a workout, and Coach attempts to get her out of her funk by demanding, firmly, that she "Stop it." This only makes Jess cry more, and he quickly gives up, calling for Schmidt's help. He invites her out with the guys after work to get her a rebound, and she agrees, freaking out Coach, Nick, and Schmidt when she makes up a theme song for herself on the spot.
While Jess curls her hair, getting ready for her night out with the guys, Coach walks into her bedroom with a basketball, with which he accidentally crushes a ceramic pot on her desk. He apologizes for his clumsiness and reveals that his boss says he doesn't know how to talk to women. He thinks it's ridiculous, but a quick flash to him screaming at a woman at the gym, who tearfully tells him that he's mean, suggests otherwise, so he asks her for some advice. Jess is happy to and recommends that he try to think of things that women like to talk about. He immediately settles on shopping and asks Jess if she likes it. She does and reveals that the other day she bought a pair of jeggings, but Coach is completely uninterested and screams, "Who cares?!" Shocked, Jess suggests that he could work on a few things - namely lowering his voice, listening, and rage - before he interrupts to inform her that her hair is on fire from her curling iron.
At Nick's bar that night, Schmidt is offering Jess advice on picking up a rebound and trying to get her to smile in an actually attractive way. It's not working, and Coach reverts to his simplistic way of communicating with women to get her to stop. Nonetheless, he, too, is supportive of her pursuit of a rebound to get over her ex-boyfriend, Spencer.
As Jess goes to talk to a cute guy at the bar, Schmidt and Coach are approached by two of Schmidt's douchey friends, Benjamin and Peter, whom Coach dislikes. When Benjamin attempts a friendly greeting, Coach excuses himself with a blunt, "Don't talk to me," before the two men tease Schmidt about the fact that he's not on the guest list for an annual charity event that he's desperate to attend.
Later that night, Peter hits on Jess, and Schmidt and Coach look on proudly as she appears to be doing well in her search for a rebound. Benjamin approaches Schmidt to let him know that it's better he not attend the party, for it means more women for him, and Schmidt begs Coach to hold him back. Uninterested in the confrontation, Coach refuses, only to have Nick reveal that they're going to the party because he texted his ex-girlfriend Caroline - the reason the guys had always gone to the event. Just then, Jess walks up to reveal that she's scored a rebound date with Peter - dinner, with food - and she gets a high five from Coach. As Jess walks away, they laugh when they discover that Jess has tucked her shirt into her underpants.
When the guys meet Jess' best friend, Cece, for the first time, they are all somewhat dumbstruck by her beauty. Coach is no exception, but Schmidt clearly likes her best. Things get awkward quickly as Schmidt removes his shirt for her, and Nick and Coach watch him, disturbed, as he gets progressively more disgusting. After Cece walks into Jess' bedroom to encourage her to get ready for her rebound date, they trade outfits and walk into the living room. Jess looks nice in Cece's little black dress, and Coach offers a simple, yet supportive "Wow!" because she looks so good. Jess smiles graciously, but immediately starts crazy dancing, reminding the guys that Jess is still Jess.
Wearing a red tank top, jean shorts, and tan moccasins, Coach is decidedly dressed down for the charity party, which has a cowboys and Indians theme. He is wearing a baseball cap with brightly-colored feathers sticking out the back, and Schmidt remarks that he looks nothing like an Indian. But Coach tells Schmidt that he has his back, so says that Schmidt should have his, too. Nick, who is wearing a red bandana but feels stupid in it, assures Coach that he's got his back before he sees his ex-girlfriend, Caroline, for the first time in six months. She invites him inside for a drink to catch up, but Benjamin and Peter show up, and Peter reveals that he stood Jess up. Instead of going in for a drink with Caroline, Nick leaves the party to go find Jess, and Coach goes with him easily. Torn, Schmidt doesn't want to leave the party he loves so much, spotting a gorgeous woman dressed like a Native American princess, but ultimately bails and follows them to the restaurant, where Jess has eaten through all the free bread while waiting for her date.
She feels like crap and starts to cry when they show up for her - once again, Coach demands that she "Stop it!" - so Nick launches into "I've Had the Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing to cheer her up. Slowly, and embarrassed, Coach joins in, and finally Schmidt does, too, until they're all kicked out of the restaurant by the hot hostess.
Back at the loft that night, Coach, Nick, and Schmidt sit down on the couch to watch Dirty Dancing with Jess, and they all agree that it's not that bad a movie. After Schmidt tells Jess that he would still "totally" do her, she tells Schmidt to put money in the "Douchebag Jar," and Nick and Coach agree.
During an early morning discussion in the kitchen between Nick and Jess, it is revealed that Coach has moved out, and Nick and Schmidt's original loft roommate, Winston, has returned from playing pro basketball in Latvia.
The roommates are dismayed to learn that Nick has 'backslid' into a relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Caroline, despite how miserable the relationship made him. Schmidt and Winston force him to watch a video he filmed after his final break up with her when Coach still lived in the loft. Nick is an unshaven, depressed slob. Schmidt appears in the video, and he yells to Coach for back up when Nick attempts to call Caroline on camera, and Schmidt can't fight him on his own.
Later, in further edits from the video, Nick offers his future self some more advice - one of the items is to be nicer to Coach, or he'll move out and "live with a bunch of other white people."
Coach is mentioned in the second episode, kryptonite, when it is explained the reason of why he left the loft between "Pilot" and "Kryptonite".
He is mentioned later on in episode 23, backslide, when Nick watches the video recorded by his past self after Caroline dumped him. In the video, Nick begins to call Caroline and Schmit jumps on him, calling for Coach's help to pin him down, and he tells himself to be nicer to Coach before he leaves to go live with another bunch of 'white people' [quote from episode].
He is only mentioned once in the episode Parking Spot, while the group discusses the No Nail Oath, in the series timeline he is currently dating Malia, he moved in with her, and it is assumed they ended their relationship in October/November 2013.
The return of Coach to the loft marks the end of his two-year live-in relationship with Malia, which is presumed to be the reason he moved out of the loft in season one. He returns on the episode Coach. After Schmidt moves across the hall alone, Coach takes his loft room.
On Longest Night Ever Coach goes on a date with Cece, after asking Schmidt if he was okay with the date. Schmidt agrees but then becomes jealous. Cece and Coach go to a basketball game, and he buys her a lot of food, and some clothes, but then ignores her most of the night, and instead is texting someone during most of the game. Cece gets upset, and she pours popcorn all over him, and storms out. Coach runs out after her, and tells her that he was texting his mother the entire time, and shows her the text that she sent him. He admits to her that he's scared and unsure what to do when dating because he just got out of a serious relationship, which Cece says she has as well. The two of them end up making out in an alley, unknown to them Jess and Schmidt are watching them.
Coach gets a job as the gym teacher at the school Jess works at. He aids Jess in getting a better job, but she is forced to fire him due to budget cuts. Coach is depressed because he knows that he's a good coach to the middle school volleyball team. Towards the end, Jess convinces Coach to go to the volleyball game and to cheer and help the team out. When principle Foster finds out that Coach is there, he asks Jess what Coach is doing there. After a conversation with Dr. Foster, Jess finds a solution to keep Coach at the school.
After teaching for a little bit he ends up moving to New York with May in Clean Break.
- (To Jess - numerous times, for numerous reasons): "Stop it."
- "My boss says I can't talk to women."
- He is 6'1"
- Damon Wayans Jr. took the role of "Coach" expecting his previous show, the ABC sitcom Happy Endings, to be canceled. When that show was renewed for a second season, Wayans was forced to leave New Girl and was replaced by Lamorne Morris. Rather than reshoot the pilot, showrunner Liz Meriwether, 20th Century Fox and the studio decided to keep the characters and the plot of the episode as they were, with Morris joining the show in the second episode of the series. It has been confirmed that Wayans would reprise his role for a minimum of four episodes in the third season, following the cancellation of Happy Endings in May 2013.
- Coach received his nickname after stepping in during a basketball game in Latvia (where Winston was playing). He continued to yell and call out players, acting like their own coach. Nick and Schmidt agreed that he is good at it, and called him Coach ever since.
- The presumed reason for Coach's decision to move out of the loft after the first episode is that he was in a serious relationship with a woman named Malia. ("Coach")
- A plot was cut out of the "Pilot" episode, where Coach tries to understand women by wearing the 'jeggings' Jess spoke of. Throughout the episode, he is still wearing them in a cut-off fashion. (Season1 DVD commentary).
- At the end of season 3, with Coach living in the loft, which makes it 5 people living there.
- Coach's real name "Ernie" may be a reference to Cheers character Ernie "Coach" Pantusso.
- Damon Wayans Jr has also appeared in Brooklyn Nine Nine as Stevie Schillens, Jake Peralta’s former partner. This means that after the Brooklyn Nine Nine and New Girl crossover, Damon Wayans Jr is one of the few actors that have played two different characters in the same TV universe (The other five being Mary Elizabeth Ellis who plays Caroline, Maria Thayer as Amelia, Fred Armisen as Langham, Nasim Pedrad as Aly Nelson and Riki Lindhome as Kylie).