Change We Can't Believe In: Coaches Prove The Practicality In Patience

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJanuary 4, 2009

We all know the saying that coaches are hired to be fired and 2008 may have been one of the prime examples of this philosophy.

From the expected firings of men like Rod Maranelli and Romeo Crennel, to the mildly surprising like Eddie Jordan or Willie Randolph and the downright shocking ones like Mike Shanahan and Tommy Tuberville.

We all know that coaches get too much credit when their team wins and too much blame with their team loses.  They are the first scapegoat and the one who is constantly straddling the line between heroic crusader and ignorant villain in fan websites and blogs on a day-to-day basis.

In this, "what have you done for me lately" world we live in, it really is no surprise to see all these mass firings and the hysteria that ensues.

After all, how can programs deal with the 24/7 ripping a team receives via ESPN and all of its affiliates after an embarrassing loss?

Every ex-player, coach, manager, ballboy, hot dog vendor and average Joe has an answer to a team's struggles and their interviews and quotes pervade into the locker room.

Of course, let's not forget, the knowledge of these so called experts always trumps that of the coach who spent years honing his or her craft and spent countless hours with the team working together towards a common goal: winning.

I don't think most coaches are sitting at home counting their money and laughing at how they have duped the world.

So, in order to get 2009 off to a better start I thought we might look at a few of the coaches who were given time and actually changed perceptions of his career by surviving the axe.

NFL-Tom Coughlin

Remember where we were a little over a year ago?

Tom Coughlin is this tough, disciplinarian who does not understand players.  He has lost the locker room, the Giants have mastered collapsing.

I have never seen such a maligned coach and quarterback tandem turn their careers around so completely in such a short period of time.

We all know where the Giants are now. They are the defending Super Bowl champions after scoring the monumental upset over the Patriots and the number one seed in the NFC with a tremendous defense, tough running attack and an efficient quarterback.

We all forget that Coughlin was 25-23 before last season and had yet to win a playoff game in New York.

The media was calling for his head, players were ripping into him like Jeremy Shockey who talked about his team being "outplayed and outcoached."

Well where are you Mr. Shockey, and where are the Giants?

Discipline was thrown around like a dirty word, but where would the Cowboys be right now with Coughlin behind the helm?

Coughlin is a very good game manager and has a very strong record of progressing players. He took Tiki Barber's fumbilitis and made him the top running back in the NFL for a few years before his retirement.

People want to sell the Giants short this year because of the Plaxico Burress situation. 

Sure they struggled after that incident and the ensuing media blitz but who can blame them?  The more intriguing thing to me is that they did not struggle more considering their best player was taken away.

That is after losing their two best defensive ends as well, one from injury, the other from free catering by the FOX broadcasting team.

Taking a team like that, in one of the toughest media markets in the country, and getting them prepared to achieve this level of success is not just noteworthy, it is simply remarkable. 

NCAA FB-Frank Beamer

Just like Coughlin, the image we see of Frank Beamer now is a winner.

Since the Virginia Tech Hokies entered the ACC they have been dominant, winning the ACC Coastal three out of four years.

The Hokies were the team to finally break the BCS losing streak with their total and convincing victory over Cincinnati in the 2009 Orange Bowl and Beamer's 218 victories gives him one of the best career totals in college football history.

He is Virginia Tech and heck, he even has a word named after him. You don't hear people saying "Carroll-Ball" after all.

What people forget?  Beamer's start in Blacksburg was a Hokie Hokie Hokie Low.

Six years, and Beamer's best record during that span was a mark of 6-4-1.


Beamer had not gotten the Hokies to a bowl game in his first six years, his overall record: 24-40-2. Let's be honest, if your college coach had that record over six years, he would be tarred and feathered.

Beamer's alum status was probably the only thing that kept him employed and the following season, his team responded with a 9-3 record and a win in the Independence Bowl.

After six seasons with two winning records, Beamer has posted 16 straight winning records, and has notched 10-win seasons the past five years.

How many of you would take that from your university?

Guess some of these SEC schools should keep that in mind when they live in fear of falling into obscurity after one season of 6-6.

NBA-Doc Rivers

Amazing what talent can actually do for a struggling team.

Doc Rivers left a pretty good gig in the booth at ABC after a rough fall from grace at Orlando to take on a historic program which had fallen on a 20-year lull.

Rivers had some initial success in Beantown, reaching the playoffs his first year before losing in the first round in 2005, but a 45-37 record was not exactly something to write home about.

The next two years, the record got worse.  In 2005-06 the Celtics picked up only 33 victories, than 24, the worst record in the league.

Rivers was not on the hot-seat, was being barbecued and the Boston media was looking for an apple to put in his mouth. Then the added disappointment of the ping pong balls bouncing the way of Portland and Seattle instead of Boston.

Now Boston could not use Greg Oden to build their program!

I think they're over it.

Adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen made Boston extremely talented, but it did not guarantee them victories, let alone the biggest turnaround in NBA history.

Teams have been loaded with talent in the past and not succeeded, some have not even reached the playoffs.

It takes the right kind of man to manage talent, especially talent that had combined for zero championships.

Each of the Big Three were considered in the category of "good but not winners," and they were led by a man who was 0-4 in the first round of the playoffs in his career.

Tracy McGrady, anyone?

In fact, the Celtics almost lost in the first round again before they and their coach went through an impressive learning curve in front of the hot lights of playoff pressure.

Rivers and his Parkay Possee showed people that just becomes teams struggle does not mean coaches forgot how to coach or are immune to learning lessons that will make them better down the road.

As legendary a coach as Phil Jackson is, Rivers outcoached him in the NBA Finals.  His players were better prepared, they were better equipped and they were better managed.

The Celtics probably did not have an overall talent edge, but they did have a motivational edge. Rivers now is leading another great team, keeping them motivated after they could easily rest on their laurels.

Rivers knows how to coach and so do many of the men who are currently sitting in the unemployment line of the NCAA, NFL and NBA world.

Fortunately for them, there are people out there who know that sometimes that patience can be a virtue.

Even if it's a forgotten one.


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