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On Dec. 24, 2007 the Chicago Bulls fired head coach Scott Skiles, who had led the team to an abysmal 9-16 start. Skiles told the Chicago Tribune, "The fact that it's Christmas Eve is neither here nor there," then presumably downed an extra-large glass of eggnog. This year a few more coaches have landed on Santa's (read: their GM's) naughty list -- at just the wrong time.
On Wednesday, Hall of Fame basketball coach Larry Brown parted ways with the Charlotte Bobcats after a dismal 9-19 start to the year. The Bobcats announced that Brown was stepping down from his post, but Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer is one of many who believe the Hall of Fame coach was fired. "To say Michael Jordan and Larry Brown mutually agreed on a coaching change," writes Bonnell, "is like saying you and the bank mutually agreed your house would be foreclosed." One day after news of the Bobcats' split with Brown hit the wires, the 9-22-2 New Jersey Devils announced the firing of rookie head coach John MacLean, hiring the recently "retired" Jacques Lemaire for a third stint as their head coach.
Timing-wise, the firings make sense. At this point of the season, NHL and NBA teams have played enough games to fall behind in the standings but not enough to be out of the running entirely. Then again, how much harm could one or two more games do to a team when it means giving coaches a chance to celebrate the holidays with a smile? None of these men will go ham-less or duck-less when they sit down to Christmas Eve dinner. But that doesn't mean their failure won't weigh heavily on them during "the most wonderful time of the year" (or so the song says!).
For most of us the holidays mean time off to be with friends and family, but in professional sports, there are no days off. So, true holiday spirit, let's see Santa's glass of milk as half-full, not half-empty. Come Dec. 26, MacLean can head to the mall to return the ugly sweater Aunt Susan bought him, instead of calling out lines against the Maple Leafs. And on the 27th, Brown will still be hanging with his family, instead of pacing the sidelines at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Enjoy the R&R guys! You can plot your next move (on a chalkboard, if you want to) when the New Year comes.