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Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Updated: November 15, 12:57 PM ET
Patience in pro sports? Not today

By Jemele Hill
ESPN.com

I have a conspiracy theory.

I believe a secret society convened in an undisclosed location long ago and decided that there were only about 15 people in the world qualified to coach. (The anointed were chosen because of their championship rings.)

Something must explain why it's become entirely too popular for lazy owners and fans to dismiss talent, achievement and reality strictly because it hasn't met some unfair or unrealistic expectation.

Phil Jackson
The club of ring-holding coaches, which includes Phil Jackson, is exclusive.

Within minutes of the Los Angeles Lakers choosing Mike D'Antoni as their next head coach, the sports universe determined that D'Antoni, whose résumé doesn't include an NBA championship or even a Finals appearance, isn't fit to lead these Lakers to another title. Never mind that D'Antoni has won close to 400 games.

The reaction is predictable, but also ironic. Considering that former coach Mike Brown (who has a previous Finals appearance and a higher winning percentage) lasted only five games into this, his second season with the team, it seems appropriate that D'Antoni's fate should be forecast before he ever coached a Lakers’ practice.

This is where we are in sports. Who has time to consider the big picture when it's so much more titillating to pretend that with pink slips comes progress?

I almost feel sorry for today's sports fans. They are bombarded by social media, message boards and comments sections, all of which encourage any fan to vent every feeling and frustration.

How can anyone who wants to talk sports ever escape or make sense of the noise?

You can't. And it's fostered a climate where firing a coach five games into the regular season is just considered to be nothing more than collateral damage.

The thirst for results and proliferation of unrealistic expectations used to be confined to big markets or legacy teams. It's not that way anymore. And even in those big markets, where rampant impatience is just a way of life, satisfaction is defined by a ring.

In some circles, Detroit's trip to the World Series was characterized as a failure. This isn't to say the Tigers or their fans should be happy about being swept in the World Series. But there was a time when making a World Series would create a lifetime memory. Nowadays, coming really close means something isn't working.

But winning a championship doesn't create equity, either. It creates impossible standards -- something that even Tom Brady had to address after the Patriots rallied to beat the Jets 29-26.

"We're trying to do it," Brady said on Boston’ sports radio station WEEI's "The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show." "It's not like you flip a switch. I don't think that's it. There's 53 guys that are trying to do their best out there, and we're just not doing our best. Hopefully we get to that point. That's part of why we practice, why we meet and why we go to work every day."

Mike D'Antoni
Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni never reached the Finals in Phoenix.

At Auburn, Gene Chizik is rumored to be on the verge of being fired, even though he guided the Tigers to a national championship just two years ago.

Granted, there were a lot of Auburn fans who didn’t want Chizik hired because he had a losing record when he was hired. But his crime is twofold. He hasn't discovered another Cam Newton. And Chizik and the Tigers have been bad during a time when Alabama is awfully good.

Coaches, teams and franchises make mistakes all the time, but it's no longer guaranteed that they will receive a chance to rectify them.

This is not meant to be a passionate defense for those that underperform. Nor am I chastising fans for having high expectations. Sometimes, their frustrations are legitimate and fair.

But problems almost are always deeper and more complex than any knee-jerk decision can solve. The Lakers have issues that can't be fixed with a coaching change -- even if the “new” coach had been 11-time champion Phil Jackson.

The Lakers have an All-Star center coming off back surgery, a 38-year-old point guard hampered by a broken leg and a Hall of Fame shooting guard who has played in almost 1,400 games and whose championship clock is ticking loudly.

Although implementing the Princeton offense made Brown an even easier target, the Lakers'’ most significant problem is they couldn't guard anyone. Their other primary problem is that the retooled Lakers have barely had time to establish any chemistry.

But let's not allow inconvenient, big-picture facts to get in the way of a firing.

I'm certainly not advocating that Brown was a perfect fit for the Lakers. Truthfully, I don't know if he could have won a title with the Lakers. But given all the factors that contributed to the Lakers' slow start, how can anyone be so certain a fair evaluation was made?

Had Pat Riley listened to the noise about Erik Spoelstra, Spoelstra might have coached 15 games and been done early in the 2010-11 season after being handed a similarly revamped lineup.

D'Antoni won't be evaluated fairly. His crime is that he's not Phil Jackson, doesn't have a ring and therefore can't coach. Lakers management deserves most of the blame for bungling this and creating an environment that will make it difficult for D'Antoni to succeed. Rather than accept the fallout that would have come had they made D'Antoni their first choice from the beginning, the Lakers made things worse by trying to have it both ways -- get their coach, but save face with their hard-to-please fans.

When George Steinbrenner was alive, his hard-core, zero-tolerance ownership style was considered abnormal. It often was ridiculed and mocked.

Today, Steinbrenner would just be one of many.