Top Coaches Brought in to Clean Up a Mess

Josh SchochAnalyst IIIJune 10, 2013

Top Coaches Brought in to Clean Up a Mess

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    It's never easy being brought in as a new coach, but sometimes the team you inherit makes it that much harder.

    Some coaches are tasked with taking a team of misfits who can hardly win a game and taking them to the playoffs.

    OK, so I might have exaggerated how bad the teams these coaches inherit are, but the point is still the same. These coaches were all brought in to take a crappy team and make them relevant—or worse yet, to take a program disgraced by scandal and making it respectable once more.

11. Roy Williams (North Carolina Tar Heels)

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    North Carolina wasn't exactly a college basketball powerhouse before Roy Williams came in. In fact, the team led by Matt Doherty didn't seem to be going anywhere. Yes, Doherty took them to a Final Four but soon after the team struggling.

    Williams the only true candidate for the job once Doherty was let go. 

    Ironically, Williams, who had been the head coach at Kansas before he took the job, had hired Doherty as an assistant before Doherty took over at UNC.

    Williams has been a huge success, becoming the best coach in Chapel Hill since Dean Smith. He immediately brought the team back to the NCAA tournament and a Top 25 ranking. In his 10 seasons he had led the team to five Elite Eights and two titles.

10. Jacques Lemaire (New Jersey Devils)

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    Jacques Lemaire was an incredible coach, and he was asked to revitalize a 2010-11 New Jersey Devils team that had been dreadful.

    Lemaire had retired from coaching after the 2009-10 season, but was coaxed into returning for the second half of the next season after John MacLean was fired.

    The Devils were the worst team in the NHL when MacLean was fired with 20 points and a 9-22-2 record. However, Lemaire turned the team around quickly, leading a charge that fell just short of a playoff spot.

    The Devils finished 38-39-5 that year after Lemaire led the team to a 29-17-3 record.

9. Phil Jackson (Chicago Bulls)

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    The Chicago Bulls were a solid team before Phil Jackson took over as the head man, but after he was done they were one of the greatest franchises in NBA history.

    In his first season with the Bulls, Jackson brought the team to the Eastern Conference Finals, after going 7-2 in the first two rounds. Unfortunately the team would lose a pivotal Game 7, but it was a solid start for Jackson.

    Following that season, Jackson would win six championships in eight season, compiling a 28-3 record in postseason series.

    While he left after reeling off three straight titles, Jackson was the man who made Chicago elite, and the Bulls have yet to win a title without him in charge.

    Some of that may have been thanks to a guy named Michael Jordan, there's no taking away from Jackson's accomplishments.

8. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots)

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    While the New England Patriots are now one of the best franchises in sports, they weren't always quite so successful.

    Bearing a playoff record of 4-7 and going 35-77 in the last seven seasons, the Pats were in shambles before they hired a guy named Bill Belichick as a defensive backs coach after he was fired by the Baltimore Ravens in 1996.

    While Belichick would leave to follow Bill Parcells to New York to coach the Jets, he would return as the head man in New England in 2000.

    While he went 5-11 in his first year as head coach, he would go on to lead the Pats to three Super Bowl victories in the next four seasons, and is 17-7 in the postseason and has made it to the postseason 10 times in 13 seasons.

7. Julie Hermann/Eddie Jordan (Rutgers)

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    Sometimes the coaching hires after a scandal work...this wasn't one of those times. If you've checked any news outlet in the last month or so you've probably heard something about the hot, steaming mess than currently is Rutgers athletics.

    After head basketball coach Mike Rice was fired for abusing his players, the school hired new athletic director Julie Hermann and new basketball coach Eddie Jordan.

    Neither was the right choice.

    Since they were hired it has been revealed that Hermann's former volleyball players said that she too had been abusive, and that Jordan's educational past has been sketchy to say the least.

    Well, the school appears to back its questionable choices, as it announced publicly that it still supports Hermann on Tuesday.

6. Terry Francona (Boston Red Sox)

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    Despite his love of fried chicken and beer, Terry Francona inherited a Boston Red Sox team that hadn't won its division in eight years and hadn't won the World Series in 86 years and won two World Series and one division title in his first four seasons.

    I'd say ending The Curse of the Bambino qualifies as cleaning up a team, and doing it in your first year as manager is simply incredible.

    Compiling a record of 744-552 (.574) in eight season and winning two rings, Francona will be remembered as one of the best managers in Red Sox history despite his team's epic collapse in 2011 that led to his firing.

5. Scott Drew (Baylor Bears)

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    Scott Drew was selected to clean up Baylor's basketball program in the wake of the school's ugly scandal involving the murder of Patrick Dennehy.

    Former coach Dave Bliss resigned in the wake of the scandal, and Drew was hired to bring the school back to relevance—which he has done.

    Despite the program being put on probation until 2010, losing scholarships and most of its top players departing (per, Drew led the team back onto the national stage by finishing above .500 and made the NCAA tournament in 2008.

    The Bears are typically among the nations top teams right now, and while you could argue that Drew's texting scandal (which would now be legal under new NCAA rules) takes away from his success, you still have to be impressed by his results.

4. Joe Maddon (Tampa Bay Rays)

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    The Tampa Bay Devil Rays had been around for eight seasons and had never finished better than fourth in the AL East, doing so in 2004.

    However, when Joe Maddon took over in 2006, it was with the expectation that he could bring the team to a respectable level of performance.

    Mission accomplished.

    While he struggled in his first two seasons, but when the team changed its name to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 it signaled a change in the baseball culture in Tampa Bay. Maddon led the team to its first division title, and a trip to the World Series, where the team lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

    With a record of 585-549, Maddon remains the only manager in franchise history to have a winning record, and he found a way to turn the Rays into a respectable, successful team.

3. Jim Schwartz (Detroit Lions)

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    There may never be a team as bad as the 2008 Detroit Lions, and Jim Schwartz was the man who had the misfortune of being the next coach of a team that went 0-16.

    The Lions were a tough rebuilding project, but Schwartz proved that he was more than up for the job.

    After going 2-14 in his first season, he would lead the team to a respectable 6-10 in 2010. In 2011 he would make even greater strides, leading the Lions to a 10-6 record and the team's first playoff appearance in a dozen years.

    Schwartz wasn't only hired to fix one of the most broken teams in history, but he succeeded with flying colors.

2. Bill O'Brien (Penn State)

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    The Jerry Sandusky scandal shook the college football world, and indeed interrupted life in Happy Valley.

    You know the story by now. Sandusky was imprisoned on child sex abuse charges, Joe Paterno was fired as head coach, and Penn State was punished severely.

    Bill O'Brien was tasked with restoring a sense of normality in Happy Valley, but no one expected him to do so in less than five years or so.

    He just needed one.

    While the town will never be the same, O'Brien led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record, including 6-2 in conference play. He would have led the team to a bowl game had they been eligible, and he proved that we can expect big things from O'Brien.

1. Forrest Gregg

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    No one on this list had a tougher job when cleaning up their team than Forrest Gregg. Whereas the other coaches all inherited a team, Gregg had to build his from the ground up after SMU received the only death penalty given to a football program in NCAA history.

    After having absolutely no football activity for a year, the team couldn't even put together a team for the 1988 season, despite only the 1987 season being canceled.

    Gregg took over a program that was composed mostly of freshmen and stood very little chance against D-I programs.

    While his record of 3-19 is far from impressive, the fact that he revived the program is very much so.