Coaching Carousel: The Names Never Change

Collin HagerSenior Writer IJune 23, 2008

The Toronto Blue Jays fire John Gibbons and bring back Cito Gaston. Norv Turner has been fired and re-hired so many times he never has time to take his resume off of Monster. Jim Leyland has worked with four teams.


Jack McKeon was brought in by the Marlins after years away from baseball. Don Nelson can’t stop coaching. Gregg Williams has been given multiple chances. Joe Gibbs thought his magic would turn the Redskins around.


I don’t get it. I’ve tried, really I have. But it makes no sense.


It seems every time a coaching vacancy opens up in any sport, we hear the same names come up in searches. College basketball seems to have the most repeated offenders, but the NFL isn’t far behind. Regardless of the level of failure, it seems we can’t give coaches too many chances.


The excuses for failure are numerous, and each press conference highlights them.


It’s either the team was too young, he was under unrealistic expectations, he wasn’t given enough time, or the players didn’t execute. Sometimes we find out that, professionally, it was the general manager’s problem for not bringing in players to fit his system. At the collegiate level, he broke rules but learned his lesson. It won’t happen again.


Yet, every year, new faces that could invigorate a program or franchise are passed by for familiar faces that have a certain cache. The reasons may vary, but, at the end of the day, it seems to come down to having a fear of failure.


The media and fans at any level can be ruthless. College programs are held hostage by large alumni donors that will pull funding should the proper person not be put in place, or should the team not succeed for a long enough period of time.


Professional teams, especially in larger markets, are constantly held to the highest of standards by a flock of media that changes their opinion based on the direction the wind is blowing.


They have no fear in tearing apart a hire that is felt to be poor, but they don't hesitate to raise it up when it works out. You can argue the opposite is just as true. And it is largely the reason that the safer hire is a known commodity.


Why else would certain people be continually given chances and opportunities? Buck Showalter has NEVER won anything. He couldn’t put the Yankees over the hump, leaving one year prior to their World Series runs.


In Arizona, he left one year prior to their championship season. In Texas, he helmed a perennially last-place franchise in the AL West. But his name is brought up for every opening, at least to some degree.


Larry Brown is nothing more than a hired gun. Teams know that Brown can’t stay in any spot more than a few years. He wears out his welcome both with players and ownership. But, he’s won. So it’s worth it.


Pete Carroll failed in New England and failed as coach of the Jets. But because he’s doing well at USC, his name is brought into various circles every time an NFL job opens up. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me thrice...?


Isaiah Thomas has been hired and fired by the CBA, Raptors, Pacers, and Knicks. I’m sure I’m missing someone on that list too.


General managers make this list just as often. We accept the mistakes of one or two tenures rather than look to take a chance on a younger person or a new face to the organization with a different perspective.


But failure through hiring the hot name or the re-tread is ok. It’s when a general manager or athletic director takes a chance on someone outside the circle that their reputation is on the line.


Mike Singletary is largely considered to be one of the next, great NFL coaches. He interviews well and seems to have solid ideas, according to every report. But Singletary hasn’t been given the opportunity, as teams seem willing to hire almost anyone else.


No one in the NBA wanted to wait for Tom Thibodeau or take a chance with Mark Jackson. Guys that were fired this year were more than adequate for most teams on the lookout for coaches (except the Bulls, who probably should have hired a re-tread).


It seems that Jackson was hardly granted even cursory interviews, yet Doug Collins made lists? It seems odd because most point guards seem to have enjoyed success as coaches (Avery Johnson, Zeke in Indiana, Nate McMillan).


Granted, there are always questionable firings that lead to people being re-hired by a different team. But repeated failures seem to be ignored, whether with one team in multiple seasons or multiple teams.

Regardless if a coach has been able to get a team over the proverbial hump, they are given another opportunity to do so. Case in point: Mike D’Antoni. He succeeded in putting together the product, but could never take them further than the conference finals.

I’m advocating common sense in hiring leaders of any organization. A person has always been let go for a reason. If you’ve been with three teams and can’t find a true method of success, it’s time to move out of that league. Whether it is pro or college, that should be plenty of time to determine aptitude and ability levels.


It let’s you screw up once, especially on the first big job, and still be given another chance. And it also stops everyone from bringing up the names of coaches who haven’t experienced success multiple times.


In fact, it’s time we forced the executives to put their jobs on the line as well, especially when there is a track record of less-than-stellar performances.


It’s time we broke the inner sanctum of college and professional athletics and made it open to new faces and new names.


Going back in time to relive past glory, or looking for a name to market, only continues to breed the failure that caused those teams to need to look for a new coach in the first place.