Tag Archives: Coach

Damn You, Geno Auriemma! My Terrifying Commute From Hell!

10 Mar

This morning I left for work never realizing I’d soon be in hell….

For ten minutes straight the two sports talk stations in town (ESPN & The Fan) were talking Connecticut woman’s basketball at exactly the same time.  Seriously ten minutes.  How is that even possible?  And it was timed perfectly so I was stuck in traffic to boot.

Damn you, Geno Auriemma!

There’s only so much time in my life and I already spend too much of it on sports.  There’s no way I’m getting interested in women’s college basketball.

There are two exceptions to this.  Either, A, my daughter will go on to play college basketball, in which case I will become the game’s biggest fan.  (PS – I see her as a heady point guard, tougher than she looks, usually more concerned about getting her teammates involved, but not afraid to take the big shot)

Or, B, I’m offered a head coaching job at a division one woman’s basketball program.  Two words on that.  Not. Likely.

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WTF Buffalo!? Not Even The Rooney Rule Can Protect You From Chan Gailey!

20 Jan

A keen-eyed Chan Gailey sees another opening to pursue. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

What is going on up in Buffalo?  They’ve got an owner who is 112 (which isn’t even that big an exaggeration) and wants to win now allegedly.  They started their coaching search with Mike Shanahan & Bill Cowher.

And today, they ended up with Chan Gailey. 

According to multiple reports, Buffalo’s GM who doesn’t even merit being referred to by name here, wanted someone who had been a head coach before and had offensive expertise.  

Or as I prefer to look at it, he wanted a retread who doesn’t know defense.  Be that as it may or may not be, here’s a list of people off the top of my head who would have been better choices, although admittedly some didn’t meet all of Buffalo’s criteria.

First up, Leslie Fraizer who is  the defensive coordinator of a Viking team that just cracked the NFL’s final four behind his stifling defense.  Apparently, Buffalo could not wait around to let Chan Gailey go somewhere else while Frazier’s team continued to make its way through the playoffs. 

I believe in the Rooney Rule and I believe in it because it’s good for business and good for football.  I’m unclear if Buffalo interviewed Frazier but here’s a clear cut case where the Rooney Rule could have helped Buffalo by introducing them to Leslie Frazier. 

(PS – Before Buffalo hired him, Chan Gailey was not going anywhere quick…)

Here’s the rest of my off the cuff list of better choices than Chan Gailey:

Jim Fassel – got a team to a Super Bowl. Gailey’s watched a Super Bowl (on TV).  Ok, I’m kidding.  I think he might have been on the staff of some of those Super Bowl Champ Cowboy teams, before he took over and proved he wasn’t a fantastic NFL coach.

Denny Green – sure looked burned out in Arizona, but did some great things in Minny and so quotable and so better than Gailey

Gregg Williams – New Orleans D – Coordinator & 3 “G” name!

Herman Edwards – he’s been successful overall in the NFL

Jim Mora – had success with Atlanta and rug pulled out in Seattle

Brian Billick – Won a flippin’ Super Bowl and was a Match Game contestant.

I could go on but you get the point…

In The New NFL, Sometimes Winning IS Losing!

5 Jan

Winning can never be a bad thing, right?  After all, in the NFL, winning is the assignment.  It’s the name of the game.  Just win, baby!

Except, sometimes winning can blind you to things in sports.  If you somehow pull off a victory or more victories than expected, it can fool you into not making needed changes. 

That’s true whether you’re 11-5 or 5-11.   Take Dallas.  They’ve the NFC East Champs.  They are 11-5 and they seem to have left behind the kind of bad football they’ve been known for at the end of the season.  All of which means that Wade Phillips’ job just may be safe.   Only Jerry Jones knows for sure.

Let’s say the Cowboys even go so far as to win a game or two in the playoffs, let alone get on a run and win the Super Bowl.  Each additional playoff win makes it that more likely that Phillips is staying put in Dallas.

That’s great for Phillips, but maybe not so great for the franchise.  Now, I hate the Cowboys as much as any Giants’ fan, but even I can’t lie about the fact that Bill Cowher and Mike Shanahan are far better coaches than Wade Phillips.

Why do I mention Cowher & Shanahan?

Because they are two available head coaches that Dallas could bring in to replace Wade.  Worse yet for Dallas and their fans, Shanahan is most likely going to be taking the Redskins job very very soon.  Once Shanahan gets the Skins turned around, Dallas will be faced with facing off with Shanahan twice a year.  Who would you bet on in a tight NFL game – Shanahan or Phillips?

No question about it.  Shanahan.  Yet, the Cowboys will be stuck with Phillips.

So, clearly winning can mess up the future of a franchise.  But what if your franchise admittedly doesn’t have much a future?

The Browns are a mess.  Yet, somehow at the end of the season they’ve managed to win four in a row.  Eric Mangini, who it seemed the players hated, even gave him a victory Gatorade bath after their last game.  So, maybe the players have come around (or maybe they were trying to give him a pneumonia we’ll never know for sure).

But, with Mike Holmgren coming in as the Czar of all things football for Cleveland, the four game streak is going to make it much tougher to fire Eric Mangini. 

Mangini should get credit for the streak and for hanging in when it seemed like he was hanging on by a thread.  Eric Mangini is not, however, the best coach the Browns could hire.

Will Mike Holmgren see that or will he be seduced by the win streak?

As the Boy & Browns prove, winning can be a bitch…

Coach This! A Chrystal Ball Guide To Who’s Coming & Going!

9 Dec

Perhaps only the Pittsburgh Steelers, Utah Jazz and Atlanta Braves have truly learned the value of continuity.  Every other pro sports franchise these days either can’t find the right guy to hire or doesn’t give that guy enough time and support to really turn things around.

With that volatility in mind, here’s some quick thoughts on various pro coaches, their futures and recent pasts:

Marty Schottenheimer– Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage, the current coach/GM combo for the Cleveland Browns are in a lot of hot water.  One year after their breakthrough 10-6 campaign, the word is one or both of the two are likely goners.  And who’s rumored to take over?  None other than Marty Schottenheimer, who started his long and distinguished regular season career with the original Browns back in the ’80s.

Marty is a winner and has been everywhere he’s been, except for the playoffs.  The Browns may have overachieved last year, but they do have talent.  Wouldn’t it be something to see Marty Schottenheimer bring his career full circle by wrapping things up in Cleveland with the Super Bowl title he’s chased so long?  Stranger things have happened!

Wade Phillips– He’s got to be done now, right?  This past Sunday is a perfect example of Phillips’ head coaching legacy.  Up ten with nine minutes to go and he lets Offensive Coordinator/HC in Waiting Jason Garrett start winding down the clock way too early.  What should have been a huge road win and boon to Dallas’ playoff hopes ends up as another crushing defeat and Dallas will likely miss the playoffs.

Phillips is apparently a great defensive coordinator.  And, if he wants to stay in the NFL, that’s what he’ll be next year.  He’s finished running Jerry Jones’ squad.

Norv Turner – He’s Phillips’ flip side.  Turner is a great offensive coordinator who just can’t get it done as a head coach.  San Diego has way more talent than their record shows.  With Turner at the helm that’s not a surprise.  By now the league has caught on and neither Phillips or Turner will be a head coach anywhere other than in their current jobs.

Dick Jauron–  After starting the season at 5-1, it’s all gone down hill for the Bills.  Based on that strong start, Buffalo extended Jauron’s contract.  What has Buffalo brass got to be thinking about that extension right now? 

I never understood the urgency.  But, maybe it’s cosmic payment for Jauron.  After all, he did a decent job in Chicago and got bagged there kind of unfairly.  (He got screwed over)  So, this could be the way the football gods make it up to him and his family.

PJ Carlesimo– A great college coach, who loves the NBA lifestyle too much to return where he really belongs.  Apparently, he’s a great NBA assistant and was very popular in that role in San Antonio.  Somehow he loses his people skills when he gets that head coach title.  Rule number one in the NBA is don’t alienate your franchise number one draft choice, especially when he’s going for 20 a night in his rookie year.   PJ forgot that.  And now the NBA will forget his name for future coaching openings.

Eddie Jordan– I can’t believe the  Wizards were stupid enough to fire him.  If I were a GM looking for my next NBA head coach, I’d have Jordan’s digits on speed dial.  The guy has won in places that no one wins.  As a player, he led Rutgers to a Final Four.  As an assistant coach, many felt he deserved more credit than Byron Scott for the lowly NJ Nets fortunes turning earlier this millennium.  Leaving Jersey for another perennial loser in DC, Jordan managed to regularly get the Wizards to the playoffs before being dismissed.  Some day, Eddie Jordan will win an NBA title as a head coach.  And that day will come before the Wizards franchise grabs its next title.

Kevin McHale– What a great player and what a horrible GM.  His reign of terror in Minnesota goes on unabated.  There’s no logical explanation for his lasting so long there even if he’s a massive b-ball icon in the state.  It’s bordering on the ridiculousness of Elgin Baylor’s time with the Clips or Mike Millsbury’s time with the NHL’s Islanders.

Now, however, McHale may be close to done.  Ownership fired the ‘Wolves head man and today word came out that McHale will be stepping down from his executive duties to take over as coach for the long term.   Only McHale can save himself now.

Hmmmm….. That move didn’t work out too well for one Isiah Thomas.  To be fair, McHale pulled this stunt once before and manged to go about 19-12.  For the Timberwolves these days, that would be a HUGE improvement.

So what’s the take away?

Everyone finds their level in life and in sports.  Great coordinators or assistants aren’t always great head coaches.  As a GM, it’s your job to know the difference.

If you’re a GM and you’ve got an Eddie Jordan at the helm, then be patient.  But, not so patient that he ends up turning into undeserving lifer like a Kevin McHale.

Come on. Admit it. This Guy’s A Great Coach!

15 May

When you think of those great Laker Showtime teams of the 80s, who do you think of?  Magic? Kareem? Worthy?  Right.  And then somewhere down the line you remember Byron Scott.  All the guy does is be smack dab in the middle of winning basketball teams.

Now that he’s a coach, it’s much the same.  When I say “NBA genius head coach”, who pops to mind?  Riley? Jackson? Popovich (not really but he’s got lots of rings so I felt like I had to include him)? Brown?  Maybe even Nelson (more for his experiences and long term regular season success than his startling lack of championships)?

No matter who you answered.  Chances are it wasn’t Byron Scott.

Now, I’ve got another question for you  What’s wrong with you?

Maybe you haven’t been paying attention, but Scott’s pulled off a feat none of the other guys I mentioned above would ever dream of.  To begin with, he took, and I want to emphasize he accepted these jobs, they were not punishment doled out by the league, two of the scariest head coaching posts in the league.  Byron Scott agreed of his own free will to coach the Nets and Hornets.  He actually believed he could win where countless others had failed in New Jersey and New Orleans/Charlotte.

Turns out, Byron Scott was right. 

Scott lead a NJ franchise that had had almost no NBA success since it foolishly traded Dr. J upon entering the league to not one, but two Eastern Conference Championships.  Sure, they got demolished in the finals two years straight, but most folks in the Garden State hadn’t been that excited since a rare Springsteen/Bon Jovi double bill in ’93.

Once NJ returned to its losing senses, it quickly kicked Byron Scott to the curb.  Scott left the Nets with rumors about his work ethic and basketball smarts.  Maybe that made him less attractive to other teams, but clearly the rest of the league missed out on a great coach.  Despite a very shakey home court situation, Scott has his Hornets poised to take out the playoff tested Spurs.

If he does that, then the Lakers could be up next in the Western Conference Finals.  Anyone want to bet he can’t beat his old team?

D’Antoni Vs. Johnson… Who’s The Right Re-Tread Coach For Your NBA Team?

6 May

In most sports leagues, heck in most corporations, the head jobs are usually tough to crack.  Most sports teams out to hire a head coach go with someone who has done the job before.  The NBA is no exception.  It’s all about cutting down the risks when making a big hire. 

Whenever a vacancy is announced, it’s never long before the management looking to fill that opening is calling up guys who’ve done the job before.  You know, re-treads.  Never mind that often times the re-treads fail miserably on their second or third or fourth chances.  Sort of like most hollywood stars and marriage.

So, it’s always exciting when a new coaching re-tread becomes available to the NBA’s general managers.  For that reason, Phoenix Coach Mike D’Antoni is getting a lot of attention now that his boss GM Steve Kerr (remember his deadly 3 point shot?  He’s been a lot less accurate as a GM so far) is letting him talk to other teams.  Word is the Bulls and Knicks are interested.

My question is why?

First off, and I know it’s a surface thing, but there’s the bad mustache.  Memo to Mike D’Antoni.  1974’s come and gone.  Let go of the ‘stache.

Cheap shot?  Maybe, but do you think today’s young athletes are respecting someone with  ’70s porn facial hair? 

Whatever. 

Let’s move on.  The more important factor is what D’Antoni’s managed to do in Phoenix.  There’s no arguing with the regular season record. It’s pretty impressive.  Speaking of pretty, the style of play he advocates is fun to watch and play. Players and fans alike dig it.  (PS – I’m using 70s slang as a subtle tribute to the D’Antoni mustache)

Yup, you know the problem.  The nice regular season stats and the powerhouse offense has meant nothing come playoff time.  A team that has featured the now departed Sean Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash (and his bad hair), Shaq and Grant Hill among others has never made the finals.  Not once.  And if memory serves, they’ve never even made it to a game seven of a conference finals.

As his core ages, the post season woes have gotten worse.  Now, the Suns are making first round exits.

The trouble with D’Antoni is his teams don’t play defense pure and simple.

For my money, if I was a GM looking for rookie re-treads, I’d go with Avery Johnson.  Johnson’s regular season record holds up nicely to D’Antoni’s.  Johnson has coached a team to a finals appearance, even if Dirk and Co. did choke it away. 

Most, impressively, Johnson changed the culture in Big D.  Suddenly, they were focused on D.  Taking the reins from Don Nelson and getting a team to buy into defense is one big accomplishment.  For that, re-tread Johnson deserves a second shot way before Mike D’Antoni.

Pretty basketball be damned.  And besides Avery doesn’t have as cheesy a mustache…

Why Great Players Shouldn’t Coach or GM! (AKA What Kind of Manger Would Donnie Baseball Be?)

26 Mar

Isiah Thomas, Ted Williams, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale…. Four great players off the top of my head who each made their sport’s hall of fame and then went on to lesser glory as coaches and GMs.  Let’s face it the record of superstar players as coaches and G.M.s is pretty bad.

Anyone remember Michael Jordan in Washington?? 

I once read someone theorizing that the reason great players can’t coach is due to a lack of empathy.  A great player, since he was great, just can’t relate to a player he coaches who isn’t great.  Yet, in team sports many times the less than great guys are the people who can make the biggest difference in how a team does in a season.

Superstars will always be superstars.  Coaching them is more about keeping their egos in check and keeping them hungry.  Coaching the rest of the team is probably more difficult for former superstars.  How do you keep motivating and teaching people who simply can’t do what came to you so easily as a superstar?  It’s got to be a frustrating thing…

Bart Starr, Pete Rose, I could go on…

But I want to get to Donnie Baseball.  Don Mattingly, who you may remember from your time on the Joe Torre Replacement Committee, almost got the Yankee job that ultimately went to Joe Girardi. 

There’s been a sense in the New York area that Don Mattingly would be one heck of a major league manager.  I’ve never understood that.  The man doesn’t seem to have the personality or drive for it.  Unfortunately, due to some personal issues he’s working on, he’s had to take a step back out in LA and has probably slowed his ascent to someday being some team’s skipper.

Mattingly had a very interesting and controversial career.  He actually never did anything controversial, but his career essentially was composed of two wildly different parts.  In the first part, the young Don Mattingly comes out of nowhere to become the best player in New York when many where busy proclaiming Darryl Strawberry “the Black Ted Williams”.  For half his career, Mattingly was Donnie Baseball.  He terrorized the American League.  Then, came the injuries…

The second half of Mattingly’s career was nothing like the first.  While he was still a class act and fan favorite, due to back problems, he was never able to be the offensive force he had been.  Mattingly, for the last half of his career, was a sort of light hitting first baseman with a great nickname.

The controversy comes from the debate over whether Mattingly deserves a spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame.  I won’t take a side here because I want to focus on Mattingly’s coaching potential.

He’s an interesting guy because he’s been on both sides of the baseball experience.  He’s been a superstar and he’s struggled.  I still don’t think he’s a verbal enough leader but there’s no question that he would have a clubhouse’s respect and he might just be able to relate to everyone on the team from superstar to scrub based on his own baseball experience.

Let’s hope he gets his personal issues resolved so that he gets the chance to show us what kind of a manger he can be. 

Donnie Baseball deserves that much.

PS – his other nickname THE HIT MAN was pretty cool too.