This year, as in most of the past ones, there have been several in-season coaching changes due, naturally, to losing.
In the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys fired Wade Phillips, whom many in the business think highly of, while many outside the business, e.g. fans, feel the opposite. Naturally, the following week under interim coach Jason Garrett, the Cowboys won. To most people (with anything other than an after dinner mint for a brain), this was a major indictment on the players - highly paid men who are, or at least like to refer to themselves, as professionals. To go from losers to winners in one week has a whole lot more to do with effort and commitment than it does with changing the leader. True, the head coach could have communication problems but to say professionals whose production during all those weeks previous to the win was because of one change is to greatly diminish the character of the squad members.
More recently, Brad Childress of the Minnesota Vikings was cut loose. In this case, Childress acted as though he actually wanted to be relieved of his duties - and relief is probably what he is feeling. This isn’t to condone the moves the former Vikes’ head man made. However, it seemed to an outsider that Childress was exactly that from the start - an outsider. It should be interesting to see how the Vikings fare this weekend. The players are in a no-win situation. If they come out on top, it will look like they weren’t giving their all for their employer. If they lose, well, that’s why the situation is a “no-win.”
The NBA season is barely underway - about one-sixth of the year has passed - and already rumors of coaching changes are in the air. Paul Westphal of the Sacramento Kings is on the hot seat, although the Maloof brothers who own the ballclub are preaching patience. They’re some of the more colorful owners, yet have incredibly loyal to the people of Sac-town thus far.
The other, more high-profile coach who is skating on thin ice is Eric Spoelstra of everyone’s new favorite team to hate - the Miami Heat. Having Pat Riley as a mentor must be exhilarating but, given past history - and with the same franchise no less - he can’t be getting too comfortable. Especially after Riley pulled off what no one thought was possible last summer by not only keeping Dwyane Wade from leaving, but coaxing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to take less money than they could have (although neither has to worry whether he’ll be able to pay the mortgage) to join D-Wade in South Beach.
Mid-season coaching changes usually don’t work although they may reveal a combination of how little respect the players had for their now departed head coach, how little they understood their responsibility, how little talent they truly have and how little character they possess. The late, great Jim Murray once said regarding in-season coaching changes - and this is loosely translated:
“No situation is so bad that it can’t be made worse by firing the head coach.”