Friday, February 11, 2011

We Will Rarely See That Long Term Pro Coach Again


Think about it. Since last October, the longest tenured coach in Major League Baseball, NBA and NFL all have left their jobs.

At the end of the 2010 baseball season, Bobby Cox ended his two-decade reign over the Atlanta Braves. Before the Super Bowl, Jeff Fisher "stepped aside" as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans after 17 years. And now Jerry Sloan resigns as the Utah Jazz's head coach after 23 years.

I think it's safe to say that you may not see anything like that again.

Will we see a long-time professional coach again? Maybe. Right now, Tony LaRussa is pro sports longest tenured coach as he approaches his 16th season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Greg Popovich is in the middle of his 15th season with the San Antonio Spurs. The Eagles' Andy Reid is the longest running (ironic pun intended) head coach in the NFL. Lindy Ruff is in his 14th season with the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.

Those guys should mount a few more years on their resumes, though it isn't a given. LaRussa has toyed with bolting; Reid seems to always be on the hot seat; will Pop go when Duncan hangs 'em up?

In this day and age of constant pressures and scrutiny, it is hard for me to see any coach starting out now to be in the same gig for two decades. It's too tough. Joe Torre ... who won four World Series with the Yankees ... was run out of New York. And we just saw how Sloan and Fisher recently soured on their organizations -- and vice versa.

The only ones that could pull it off is Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, Mike McCarthy, Terry Francona, Ron Gardenhire and Mike Scioscia. I can't see any NBA coaches lasting as long as Sloan did. Popovich? Maybe. Doc Rivers (who is currently 2nd in active tenure) could take his talents from Boston when their window of opportunity closes. As for NHL coaches ... well they seem to always get fired.

If you look at the three coaches (Cox, Sloan, Fisher), you see a few similarities. All three led their franchises (and cities) to unprecedented successes. Cox won a gajillion straight division titles, won a World Series and appeared in three others. Sloan took the Jazz to two NBA Finals. Fisher took the Titans to a Super Bowl. Sloan and Fisher were coaching icons in their relatively newer professional cities. Cox was in a city that hadn't tasted any pro success.

While there are cities out there small enough to embrace a wildly successful coach, in this day of sports talk radio, blogs, twitter and everyone thinking they are an expert, it is harder to deal with the down times that come with any job you keep for 20 years.

Hopefully in 10-15 years I'll be able to write this post again as a couple of long term coaches retire their clipboards/lineup cards/headsets. I'm just not counting on it.

1 comment:

c note said...

There's too many situations where a coach is forced to win now, no matter how bad the team is. A coach used to be able be there to build it into a winner, owners don't allow for that anymore.