In this century, humans expect instant success. If the answer to a problem isn’t found in the first two pages of a Google search, people typically give up.
It is the same in sports. If you don’t win and don’t win soon, you are gone.
It seems like any time I open up a newspaper to the sports section, a coach’s contract is being bought out and the search to pay a new coach begins.
Whatever happened to patience and loyalty?
In the NFL, Wade Phillips and Brad Childress, two coaches who led their teams to Division championships in the previous season, were fired mid-season. Phillips was gone after the Dallas Cowboys started 1-7, and Childress was axed after a 3-7 start with the Minnesota Vikings.
Losing is not acceptable in this day and age — well, unless you are the Kansas City Royals or a team in Detroit or Cleveland. As former New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards said in an infamous post-game press conference rant, “You play to win the game.”
However, is this society of instant gratification really giving coaches a fair shake?
Bad seasons happen. Injuries happen. Players give up. To a degree, it is the coach’s responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t happen, but some fault must land with the players.
But when a team takes a nosedive into the losing column, it isn’t the players who are blamed and released. It is the coach.
Sometimes this is necessary. For example, Childress had developed an acidic relationship with his players and that reflected on his team’s play. The inner workings of the locker room seemed more like what you would expect out of a soap opera than a professional football team.
I’m not saying a line shouldn’t be drawn, but in many cases, franchises and schools draw that line too quickly and give up on coaches far too soon.
A coach might spend three years developing his/her system and bringing in players. If the fourth season doesn’t go well, that coach is typically axed, which leads to the process starting over again with a new coach.
This cycle of losing can take eight to 10 years before a coach turns a team around, and this can be devastating for a fan base.
Sometimes it seems people cut the fishing line too soon.
For example, many people wished for University of Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel to be canned in 2004.
Pinkel was in his fourth season. He had Brad Smith, who was once considered to be a Heisman candidate, at quarterback and had a weak schedule. Missouri finished 5-6 and went 1-5 in the final six games.
People were calling for his head.
Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star wrote Pinkel “lost the team,” and John Henderson of the Denver Post asked, “Was there a worse coaching job in the country than by Missouri’s Gary Pinkel?”
Missouri decided to stick with Pinkel. He delivered winning seasons the next two years and finished 12-2 and No. 5 in the nation in 2007. His team would have played in the national title game if it hadn’t had the misfortune of having to play the University of Oklahoma twice.
In the last four seasons, Missouri has tied for the Big 12 North division championship three times and finished second once.
Would any of that have happened had Pinkel been let go following the 2004 season? Maybe, but I highly doubt it.
It takes time to build championships.
Former UCLA coach John Wooden, arguably the greatest coach in collegiate basketball history, was the epitome of that.
Wooden’s Bruins only made the postseason five times in his first 15 seasons and never finished better than fourth in the NCAA.
Over the next 12 years, Wooden’s teams won 10 NCAA national championships — more than any other coach in the history of the game.
Wooden passed away on June 4 and the expectations of coaches have changed since when he coached from the 1940s to the 1970s.
Now there are rumors circulating of the impending doom of Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
McDaniels’ Broncos have struggled in his first two seasons.
It didn’t help his job security that his film crew was caught taping a San Francisco 49ers practice and the Broncos traded away several promising players who have blossomed with other teams, but it is still early to talk about firing a coach.
In the case of Spoelstra, the Summer of LeBron was supposed to help the Heat contend for an instant NBA championship, and no team was supposed to be able to stop the trio of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
However, at the beginning of December, the Heat are only 11-8 and have proven to be completely stoppable.
After calling a timeout during a game against the Dallas Mavericks, Spoelstra and James bumped into each other as Spoelstra was walking onto the court and as James was headed to the bench.
This quickly became a viral video on YouTube, and people began to speculate that Spoelstra and James did not get along.
Soon, the media began to talk about Heat president Pat Riley assuming the role of head coach again to replace Spoelstra.
This was only after the 17th game of an 82-game season.
People need to develop patience. I blame the media for this, but I also blame the fans.
The media love to make a big deal about coaches on the hot seat, because it increases ratings and gives them something to talk about.
However, fans are also fickle. When their team isn’t winning, they call for heads.
People need to learn to resist these feelings and have more trust in the coaches, because finding a replacement can sometimes lead to extended grief.
If you don’t believe me, go ask an Oakland Raiders fan. The Raiders have had six coaches in 10 years and have had a combined record of 55-100 over that time period.
Wooden was renowned for developing a “Pyramid of Success.” It basically showed the building blocks needed to succeed in sports and in life.
On the top of the pyramid was the desired goal — competitive greatness.
Beneath it were the blocks needed to reach that goal, beginning with traits such as industriousness. Near the top of the pyramid were blocks such as poise and confidence.
And what was the block in the center of the foundation of the pyramid?