Monday, September 24, 2007
The coaches we love to hate
By Jonah Keri Special to Page 2
1. Rick Pitino, Boston Celtics: "Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door, they're going to be gray and old."
2. Bill Belichick, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets: A driving force behind the Browns' descent to league doormat status, which helped result in their move to Baltimore. Cut Bernie Kosar, when the only alternative was Todd Philcox. Jets fans hated him well before CameraGate, after Belichick bailed on his contract and bolted out of New York. That he's now a multiple Super Bowl winner who's considered a genius only makes it all the more painful.
3. Ray Handley, New York Giants: "Ray must go!"
4. Joe Walton, New York Jets: "Joe must go!"
In hindsight, Grady should've taken the ball from Pedro much sooner and don't think Red Sox fans will forget it.
5. Grady Little, Boston Red Sox: Maybe you should've taken Pedro out, chief.
6. John McNamara, Boston Red Sox: The Sox were mostly done in by the highly flammable Calvin Schiraldi and Bob "Steamer" Stanley, but subbing in Dave Stapleton as a defensive replacement for Bill Buckner would've helped in Game 6.
7. Bud Harrelson, New York Mets: Compiled a respectable 145-129 record during his managing tenure with the Mets, but fans expected a lot more from those talented teams. The booing got so bad that Harrelson started sending his pitching coach to the mound whenever a pitching change was needed. That, he admitted, only made matters worse.
8. Rich Kotite, New York Jets: Took a bad Jets team and made it abysmal. Won only four games in two seasons with the team, capped off by an all-time stinker, a 1-15 record in 1996. Bonus points for finding success in Philadelphia beforehand, starting the 1994 season at 7-2, announcing he was going to explore other job options at year's end because owner Jeffrey Lurie wasn't planning to renew his deal, and then guiding the Eagles to seven straight losses to end the year. Kotite lost 31 of his final 35 games as an NFL head coach.
9. Bruce Coslet, New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals: Lifetime record of 47-77 in eight seasons with the two teams. Gave birth to what's become one of the best-known axioms in sports: When your coach is Bruce Coslet that means your coach is Bruce Coslet.
10. Larry Brown, multiple teams: The quintessential hired gun, Brown has actually found success at many of his coaching stops in both the college and pro ranks, molding several losing teams into winners. Then, just as his team is primed to make a championship run, Brown inevitably jumps ship. Knicks fans might have the biggest beef -- Brown stayed just one season, guided the Knicks to a 23-59 record and then bailed on his five-year contract. Thanks to James Dolan's insanity, Brown still collected $28 million for one miserable season's work.
11. Norv Turner, multiple teams: Norv Turner is a great offensive coordinator. Norv Turner is a terrible head coach. Three games into his current stint in San Diego, Chargers fans have already adjusted their expectations because of Turner. Instead of a Super Bowl run, they're hoping to sneak above .500 and into the playoffs. The coach is killing them!12. Raiders coaches not named Madden, Flores, Gruden or Kiffin: Truly an inspired list. We've already covered Norv Turner's coaching genius. Joe Bugel lasted one season before Al Davis realized Bugel was underqualified to do anything other than run an offensive line. Bill Callahan went from a Super Bowl berth straight to a 4-12 season. Mike White's 1995 team started the season 8-2 before losing its final six games. Mike Shanahan lasted just 20 games, then scurried back to Denver, where he later won two Super Bowls. Art Shell may in fact be a life-sized wax sculpture, we're not sure.
13. Mario Tremblay, Montreal Canadiens: Thanks for running the best goalie in NHL history out of town, Coach.
14. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants: Bill Parcells' Draconian disciplinary style, without Bill Parcells' championship rings.
It's fair to say that Mike Keenan is the Larry Brown of the NHL.
15. Mike Keenan, multiple teams: Graduated from the Larry Brown School of Coaching, magma cum laude. Iron Mike has achieved plenty of success as both a coach and GM, most famously leading the New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years in 1994. But his frequent, abrupt departures from various jobs, often at the weirdest and most inopportune times, have earned him a reputation as a time bomb. Keenan's strangest fetish might be his habit of yanking goalies in and out of games. In Game 4 of the first round of the 1987 playoffs, Keenan pulled Ron Hextall and Glenn "Chico" Resch a total of five times.
16. Ray Rhodes, Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers: Like Norv Turner, Rhodes has had a successful career as a top assistant, mixed with failures as a head coach. Rhodes' head coaching stint in Philly started on a positive note, as the team made the playoffs his first two seasons there. But the Eagles then went winless on the road in 1997 and 3-13 overall in 1998, earning Rhodes a pink slip. Quickly hired to coach the Packers, Rhodes guided the team to an 8-8 record in his one year there -- the only nonwinning season for the Pack between 1992 and 2004.
17. Butch Davis, Cleveland Browns: A lot of the bad blood comes from Tim Couch's failure in Cleveland, which mostly wasn't Davis' fault. Davis also guided the Browns to the playoffs in his second year with the club, a stark improvement over Chris Palmer's 5-27 record in the previous regime. But the Couch-Kelly Holcomb-Jeff Garcia soap opera, combined with an ugly 3-8 start in 2004, made Davis just another coaching failure in the eyes of long-suffering Browns fans.
18. M.L. Carr, Boston Celtics: What's worse, that Carr led the Celtics to the worst record in franchise history in his final year as coach, or that his spectacular failure led the team to choose Rick Pitino as his replacement?
19. Doc Rivers, Boston Celtics: Want proof that the relationship a coach or GM has with the media can count for 90 percent of his job security? Exhibit A: Doc Rivers. Exhibit B: Paul DePodesta.
20. Butch Beard, New Jersey Nets: Frankly, I'm disappointed that Nets fans didn't like the guy. In two seasons in New Jersey, Beard compiled identical 30-52 records. That makes him the most consistent coach in sports history.
21. Tom Runnells, Montreal Expos: In an attempt to motivate his players, Runnells showed up to spring training one year wearing army fatigues. Sadly, this wasn't even one of the 50 worst moments in Expos history.
22. Wade Phillips, Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills: You could argue that he didn't deserve blame in either case. Phillips was largely a placeholder in Denver while the Broncos courted Mike Shanahan. Meanwhile, he actually had success with the Bills. But two incidents sealed his fate in Buffalo: replacing the wildly popular QB Doug Flutie with human tackling dummy Rob Johnson, and being the coach who got duped by a gimmick special-teams play that knocked the Bills out of the playoffs. In Tennessee, they call it the Music City Miracle. In Buffalo, they call it *^&$!
23. Del Harris, Los Angeles Lakers: They loved him in the "Naked Gun" movies, much less so as the Lakers' coach.
Honorable Mention: Paul Hackett, multiple teams; Tom Flores, Seattle Seahawks; Bob Melvin, Seattle Mariners; Dusty Baker, San Francisco Giants; Don Nelson, New York Knicks; Tim Johnson, Toronto Blue Jays; Larry Bowa, San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies; Lenny Wilkens, New York Knicks.
Jonah Keri is a regular contributor to Page 2 and the editor and co-author of "Baseball Between the Numbers." You can contact him here.