Damn, P.J. “Turkey Neck” Carlesimo had it easy.
If any of you know who the hell I’m talking about, I’ll grow a Baron Davis beard. But since you don’t, let me refresh you: Almost a decade ago, Carlesimo, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, became famous for getting choked by Latrell Sprewell. Oh, and he led the Warriors to a 19-63 season, 26 games behind the division-winning Supersonics. But, hey, he certainly tried his best.
Yet, while I would love to tell the whole story (Sprewell getting a tattoo that read, “When life gets rough, choke a bitch” seems like a bit of foreshadowing), a bigger question looms: Why wasn’t Carlesimo fired? The Warriors brought him back for a 21-29 ’98 season, despite his piss-poor performance and uncanny ability to turn his players into actors fit for domestic violence commercials. Only amid controversy from the ’98 lockout did the front office fire the guy.
Fast forward to sunny 2007, and look at the state of coaching: The Chargers have already lost more games than last year, mostly thanks to previous Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer getting fired after losing the rest of his coaching staff. Sure, a second-round playoff loss with an All-Star team doesn’t help your case when the general manager is already unfriendly with you, but in the increasingly bottom line-driven world of professional sports, performance standards for coaches have shot through the roof. It doesn’t make business sense to fire a coach who pilots a team to an incredible year and is loved by the fans, despite a postseason hiccup. As a player, putting in the effort to be at the top of the league seems pretty pointless when your GM shows the whole world he’s so disappointed that he wants to bring in a new coaching staff.
Schottenheimer, however, did have a 5-13 postseason record. Taking a 14-2 team to yet another postseason loss could be considered somewhat of a justification for dismissal, especially with his personal problems in the background. So let’s look at one of the most dominant coaches in postseason history, Joe Torre. Torre has led the Yankees to AL East titles nine times in his 12 years as coach, and hasn’t stopped in the postseason, grabbing six AL pennants and four World Series titles. Even with most of NYC’s garbage getting dumped in the Bombers’ bullpen this year, Torre took a bottom-rung team to the playoffs for the 12th season in a row. But when the Yanks went down 0-2 to the Indians (as everyone in the baseball world expected), owner George Steinbrenner let loose a bomb to the media: Torre would be fired if they couldn’t make the next round. Steinbrenner, the league’s biggest spoiled baby, hadn’t been able to buy a World Series appearance in the last four years, despite spending well over half a billion dollars on players’ salaries. The logical solution? Pass the buck and fire the coach.
Across the country, my beloved Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have won the AL West three out of the last four years, but even the rally monkey is flinging shit at them for their poor postseasons. Manager Mike Scioscia had built the team’s consistent success on his small-ball values; however, the Halos are never going to revisit their 2002 World Series run without some power to bring the team back when they are down. Just look at the embarrassing sweep by power-packed Red Sox. Yet, Scioscia’s job is as secure as ever, because Angels owner Arte Moreno is smart enough to realize that Scioscia is as huge a face to the franchise as any other player, and that firing him would kill the fan base faster than Disney ever did.
The fans are really the point of it all anyway, and it takes only a very basic knowledge of business practices to realize that pissing off the fans hurts profits. It’s no wonder that fans are increasingly fickle in supporting their teams, when insane levels of success are required just to keep the paychecks coming. It doesn’t just affect coaches, either; remember A-Rod last year? And, no wonder the entire Bengals defense is in jail; at least in prison, you still get fed even if you let someone score on you. That’s why I’m holding off my NBA career until Rasheed Wallace becomes an owner. Compared to the rest of the blood-sucking jackals that own teams, my blunt-smoking idol seems pretty tame.