As we move past those exciting early stages of the season in the NFL and the English Premier League, we are starting to see coaches move to the “hot seat”. With the firing on Scott Linehan in St. Louis, and constant talk about Lane Kiffin in Los Angeles, we see the Donald Trump-like temperament of sports today. Win now or you're fired. No matter the state of the team.
In two parts, I would like to highlight how patience, even in the time of losing, can ultimately lead to Championships. Now the argument can be made that Championships lead to patience, but rarely does that work out for an extended period of time.
Part 1 will look at five men – with a couple extra – who were able to win, even if it did not happen right away.
Part 2 - which will come soon - will look at college coaches. While there has been great turnover in college athletics, there still coaches that have been with their school for many years and are extremely successful.
Below are a few examples of how patience breeds winning. How owners and franchise leadership waited and eventually won.
Joe Torre, New York Yankees– In 1996 Torre took over the Yankees from Buck Showalter and then led them to their first World Series appearance since 1981, and they won. Torre was the longest tenured coach under the fire-happy George Steinbrenner. In his twelve seasons in New York, Torre lead the Yankees to six World Series appearances, having won four, twelve post seasons, and managed arguably the greatest team in MLB history in 1998, when the team posted a 114 win season.
Torre biggest issue in New York may have been that he could not live up to the standards that he set early in his time with team. The Yankees last appeared in the World Series in 2003, losing to the Florida Marlins.
Bill Cowher, Pittsburgh Steelers – Fifteen seasons; eight division titles, ten playoff berths, played in AFC Championship games and two Super Bowl appearances. He is one of only six coaches in NFL history to claim at least seven division titles.
Cowher was hired as head coach in 1992 and lead the team to an 11-5 record on his way to winning the Coach of the Year Award. In his first six seasons with the team, the Steelers had five seasons with double digit wins and made the Super Bowl in 1995. Then came three years of poor play. The lowest was a 6-10 record in 1999. It would seem like this is when we would read that he was fired.
But he was not fired.
Instead, Cowher remained with team and his last 6 seasons with the Steelers were 63 - 32, their best season was 15-1 in 2004, and then they won the Super Bowl in 2005.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United Red Devils – Ferguson was hired in 1986 and in his first seasons at Old Trafford, the club showed improvement, but were still inconsistent and not up to his standards. Finally in 1992-93, the team finished on top of the league table, first time in 26 years. Silverware became abundant from 1993 until 2001.
After announcing his retirement from the club in 2001, the team took a dip down in play. Yet, after a tremendous turn around, Manchester United was only able to finished third in the EPL that season. In 2002-03 season Manchester United won their 8thtitle and then failed to win again until 2006 and then winning a double, the EPL title and the Champions league, last season.
In 2002, Ferguson became the inaugural inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame due to his impact on the English game. Ferguson, and his teams, have won many titles and awards, and he continues to lead Manchester United to this day.
Jerry Sloan, Utah Jazz – In 1988 head became an NBA head coach for the second time. From 1988 until 2003-04 the Jazz never missed the playoffs. Led by John Stockton and Karl Malone, the Jazz made the NBA Finals in 1997 and 98.
Starting in 2000-01 the play of the team diminished, finishing 53-29 that season, the Jazz did not win 50 games again until 2006-07. Led by Olympians Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, the last two seasons has seen the team’s performance return to the form Stockton and Malone ear teams.
Sloan is the longest tenured coach with a single franchise in all of American professional sports. As of end of the 2007-08 season, Sloan’s record as a head coach is 1089 – 717 placing him fourth on the all-time most-winning NBA coaches list.
Tom Kelly, Minnesota Twins – In 1986 the Minnesota Twins hired their 11th coach in team history and one year later they won the World Series, beating the St. Louis Cardinals, ending a 63 year draught. His teams never won a great deal of regular season games. From 1987 – 1993 the Twins posted 80 or more wins five out of six seasons, with a high in 1991 of 95 wins.
The 1991 World Series is considered as one of the greatest of all time, as the Twins beat the Atlanta Braves in seven games. Kelly never made the playoffs any other year than 1987 and 1991 and it may be said that Kelly lived off his early career success. So this example maybe the weakest of the bunch, but he did win.
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots – Winning three out of four Super Bowls is a elite career. Belichick did it in his first five seasons as a head coach. The 2 time Coach of the Year lead the Patriots to 16-0 last season before losing to the New York Giants.
Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres – In 1997 the Sabres hired Ruff and he quickly took them to the Conference Finals. In second season the Sabres made the Stanley Cup Finals losing to the Dallas Stars in six games. Six times in his ten years as the head coach in Buffalo, the Sabres have made the playoffs. From 2005-07 the team has two 50 min seasons with Ruff winning the Jack Adams Award in 2005-06. His career totals are 397-302.
Jeff Fischer, Tennessee Titans – Fisher began his head coaching career in 1994 and has not yet changed teams. In his fourteen seasons with the Titans, he has lead them to the playoffs five times and to the Super Bowl in 1999. The 1999 and 2000 season saw the Titan go 13-3, the highest win total in Fischer’s career. His career totals are 105-93 and Fischer is the longest tenured coach in the NFL.
Arsène Wenger, Arsenal Gunners– In twelve seasons in North London, Wenger has changed the style of soccer and winning followed. The silverware started coming in 1999, winning the EPL in 1997-98, 2001-02, 03-04, winning the Community Shield in 1998, '99, 2002 and '04, they played in the Champions League Finals in 2006 and Wenger has been the EPL Manager of the Year three times.
Here is a "not so serious" look at certain sports figures I don't like: