Posts Tagged ‘coaches’

24/7 access usually leads to heightened levels of self-genius proclamations.  Everyone sitting in an area seat, on a couch, and in a sports bar knows more than the people on the court.  This is true in all aspects of life!  People think they know how to solve wars because they read some news story but have NO access to day-to-day relevant information.  Similarly, one can rewind live television and prove how foolish Roy Williams is for not adjusting to a new defensive arrangement or rip referees for just about everything under the sun.  Head coaches, may be second to referees but probably not, find themselves consistently in the crosshairs of fans and media members alike usually suggesting why they should be fired.  A losing streak, mismanaged expectations, or simple ungrounded irrationality keep the coaching weather vane in flux between excellent coaching and unable to handle the situation.  Miami Heat head coach Erik Spolstra is a perfect example of this.  One outlet says he should run things up tempo to maximize his player’s athleticism.  Another suggests their advantage comes from working in the half court because the playoffs slow down play and preparation for that environment is crucial.  Spo does both!  Miami is a top offensive and defensive team and excels in fast break scoring.  When they win, people forget he is there.  When they lose two games, people claim he cannot coach the stars and Pat Riley needs to come from on high (or from the depths of hell) to salvage the team.  Never mind that the Heat came amazing close to winning the championship last season, Spo is constantly between top five coach and hot seat (along with Chris Bosh for some reason).  That’s ridiculous but he isn’t the only one in both professional and collegiate ball (re: Bill Self).  Here are some coaches that find themselves successful but under the gun for some legitimate reason and others that elude explanation besides fanaticism and fandom, the essence of the modern American fan.  (It should be noted that I also exhibit these tendencies so don’t waste time commenting that I am no different.  I know that, Sherlock, but it doesn’t mean I cannot be reflective.)

Mike Woodson – New York Knickerbockers

Riding a very impressive record going in to the final stretch of the season.  Melo’s fresh from stabbing Mike D’Antoni in the back and playing hard on both ends of the floor.  Amare and Lin out providing a nice cushion if the Knicks miss the playoffs for a coach everyone seems to like.  He even has the benefit of being affiliated with Isiah Thomas, a definite positive in New York (the same influence that holds them back).  Sadly, Woodson’s biggest fear is Phil Jackson.  The table is set for his return and virtually nothing should stop the Knicks from making him coach if he is interested.  It would also complete his coaching legacy in the major cities of America, something that would make his next book very interesting.

Mike Brown – Los Angeles Lakers

Benched Kobe last Sunday and followed it up by benching certified fool Andrew Bynum on Monday after his egregious three in a close game with 17 seconds left on the shot clock.  It may be one of the most inappropriate things I have ever seen.  He is a jackass.  Bynum exercised his right to be a buffoon in the postgame: “I guess ‘Don’t take threes’ is the message, but I’m going to take another one and I’m going to take some more, so I just hope it’s not the same result. Hopefully, I make it.”  And I would leave him benched the next game too.  I digress from that idiocy.  Brown came under fire for his X’s and O’s during Lakers struggles (timed with Kobe shooting 38% and leading the team in FG attempts but again I digress) and has had tense moments with his stars.  It should be stated that the Lakers are the third best team in the tougher conference, something that gets swept under the rug.  Brown also gets the crap end objectivity as he led the Cavs to tons of wins and probably maximized what that team could do with the best player in the world and decent players everywhere else.  Brown is continuing his good coaching, extending his defensive acumen to this historically lacking defensive team.  Consistently underrated we will see how far he goes in the playoffs but I severely doubt he is holding this team back.

Mr. “Make It To The Playoffs” Vinny Del Negro, “Lob City” Clippers

Certainly Vinny Del Negro has the most flaws of anyone on this list and the case against him is hardest to ward off.  Still, Del Negro came in and successfully did his job: build a team with cohesion and make it to the playoffs.  Given talent level and the loss of Chauncey Billups, I would be quite content with being the fourth best team in the west.  And honestly, where should they be?  Oklahoma City is first, a team many believe will make it to the finals.  San Antonio led the West last regular season and has better players.  And the Lakers, and their drama, are third but only two games ahead.  Being in fourth and close to third given the teams is close to overachieving but certainly is nothing that should be a fire-able offense.  I imagine another coach will be brought in next season and should do a better job managing minutes and timeouts but again, quality coaching comes in practices and we are not privy to those situations.  As much as I am amused by his successful track record, getting an upgrade is a priority.  Still, firing him with two weeks left in the season couldn’t be more insane especially given where the team is and how little time there would be to install anything substantial.  Del Negro should tell all his critics to zip it and point to the record.

Stan Van Gundy, Orlando Magic

Similar to Mike Brown, people truly don’t appreciate the work of Van Gundy – most notably Dwight Howard who controls the fate of the franchise before he leaves next season (oops, spoiler alert).  Amid turmoil and true talent deficiencies combined with a quirky system, the Magic find themselves third in the east behind arguably the two best teams in ALL of basketball.  His body of work, including a finals appearance means nothing despite molding that “team” into something far beyond what they should be, a potential sleeper.  Many want him gone and that’s all I can really provide for analysis.  What exactly is he doing that is not good enough?  What in general is he doing that is not good enough!?

This doesn’t even touch on people like Bill Self and John Calipari, both successful but always unfairly criticized: Self for early exits and Cal for not closing the deal.  Ultimately, exposure to players and the game create the best coaches at home but somehow they never find their way courtside.  Leave it to the professionals and let’s not forget that just because we know more than we did generations ago does not mean that we know what matters.

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With the Penn State Nittany Lions in an absolute free fall, one would think Pennsylvania’s lesser brother would benefit from the football void.  The much maligned and often ignored Pittsburgh Panthers could take advantage of Pennsylvania talent (yes, I laughed when I wrote that too) and at the very least make a run for football powerhouse.  It is hard not to see how they don’t do more with their advantages.  For one, being in State College is a detrimental thing because no one knows where it is.  Pittsburgh is a recognizable city with a football fan base ready to be coopted by amateur athletics. Although playing in an embarrassment of a conference (Big East) this leads to a much easier path to a BCS bowl game than the Big Ten where Penn State struggles to compete let alone get to post season glory.  Although few would have predicted the Penn State debacle it is hard to imagine why the Panthers could not be a more meaningful football program.  Happily the answer is revealed through coaching!

Former Wisconsin Badger offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was named the new head coach of Panthers, its fourth head coach in 13 months and sixth overall if you include interim coaches.  I did not know if I should use the four or six number but as Major Rawls would advise: the horse is out the barn.  Since the Deputy likes dots and most people don’t read Pitt Panthers’ forums on a weekly basis, a little summary will suffice.

  • Dave Wannstedt coached Pitt from 2005 until 2010.  Pitt being Pitt struggled during those years but in 2009 went 10-3, winning double digit wins for the first time since the early 1980s.  Coach earned a two year contract extension in early 2010 but was forced to resign in late 2010 due to not meeting the high expectations of going to a BCS bowl game.  Suffice it to say that everyone was shocked and it was one of the least popular/unnecessary moves in College Football.
  • Michael Haywood was hired to lead the Panthers in late December 2010. On New Year’s Eve, Haywood got into a domestic dispute with his wife and was arrested for felony domestic violence.  After being released on bond on Jan. 1, he was fired by Pitt.  0-0 record!
  • Assistant coach Phil Bennett won Pitt’s bowl game, thanks to Wannstedt’s work over the season before being pushed out and the one Haywood could not coach.  He apparently did not impress anyone one so he left to be an assistant at Baylor.
  • Todd Graham took over and actually coached a full season at Pitt.  He established a disrespectful relationship with his players – blaming QB Tino Sunseri for Pitt’s struggles and coaching them to 6-6, second in the Big East.  Under his tenure, three assistant coaches left Pitt and everything built by Wannstedt went to hell in a hand basket.
  • Keith Patterson was named interim head coach for their bowl game.  He lasted long enough to lead one practice.
  • And now, Paul Chryst.

This is a Grade-A disaster and that sits at the feet of athletic director Steve Pederson.  His high standards and subpar program meant the firing of Wannstedt, easily their best coach in decades.  It also means he is oblivious to the world around him where West Virginia and Cincinnati easily are more enjoyable places that Pitt for football reasons.  The players feel betrayed and unless you build up the equity to survive the ruthlessness of college football coaching carrousels, plays do not want to go to your school.  It is why Penn State will continue to out recruit them despite the black eye of having a 1960s offense and unspeakable crimes (no pun intended for those who did not go to authorities – darn athletic directors).  Many will point to the coaches as the perpetrators of ineptitude but digging a little deeper will reveal some issues to be more systemic than others.  Pederson cannot be held accountable for Haywood but he is primarily responsible in not elevating an assistant, for hiring someone who makes Todd Haley eligible of Personality of the Year, and for firing their loyal alumna who also happened to win games at a tier two or three program.

What the hell happened to the Pitt Panthers football program?  Fixing things that were not broken.

Youth Movement in the NFL

Posted: December 20, 2011 in ALL II
Tags: , ,

I needed to see the league from a macro-perspective to figure out what is happening with the coaching carrousel and the play on the field.  For one, I hardly accuse athletes of quitting because it is disrespectful and ignorant but what is happening in Tampa Bay is the definition of a team that lacks leadership.  Conversely, Miami found itself in the last month emerging as one of the toughest outs in football meaning the GM waiting until a loss to fire Tony Sparano.  Shameful.  Still, at stake is the over-evaluation of talent combined with little patience for young coaches.

Sanchez, Flacco, Chika’s main man Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.  These players were touted about as the big fish, promising futures, and won in bunches.  Some of these plays do show consistent talent: Flacco, the quarterback I liked the least throws the best deep ball of the group and arguably in the NFL but is a walking liability.  AFC title game in 2008, keeps beating Patriots in the playoffs.  That masks some faults.  Sanchez is a walking risk/reward maven did not need to leave USC after one year but his regular seasons make it difficult to back him.  Two AFC title game appearances and 9 Touchdowns, 3 Interceptions in his postseason career hides warts.  Ryan could not lose in the Georgia Dome until he lost in the Georgia Dome.  0-2 in the playoffs does not help either but is widely regarded as a top ten, franchise level quarterback.  Freeman overachieved and finally landed back to earth.  Same with Fitzpatrick.

With the quarterback position evolving it seems clear that teams need to slow down and evaluate their talent beyond the on-field production of wins and playoff appearances.  Front offices and the suits also do not know how to assess the play on the field and the role they play in relation to the players.  The fired, YOUNG coaches shows the importance of winning now often at the risk of misevaluating players and overrating “franchise” talent.  The youth movement is over but the expectations on young quarterbacks are higher and more elusive than ever.

On the other end of the spectrum is my man Alex Smith.  It took seven years and nearly seven offensive coordinators – something that is totally underrated but invaluable- but he finally looks like the overall 2005 number one pick.  Maybe young coaches get it.  Smith is succeeding with Jim Harbaugh, fresh out of college and more flexible with his players.  Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, and every other Mike could not translate.  Josh McDaniels’ Tim Tebow pick, still indefensible, looks good under the veteran leadership of John Fox.  The entire thing is too hard to predict but the pendulum will be swinging to older leadership next year.  The question remains – especially with Peyton Manning looming as a possible offseason acquisition- when will patience run thin on the field generals whose window of opportunity is steadily closing.