20) Don Nelson
To be Don Nelson is to be about contradictions. Nelson is the winningest head coach in NBA history, yet he’s on this list. He’s been NBA Coach of the year three times, which is the same number of times he’s been fired. The reason is simple: Despite having 1,335 regular-season wins, Nelson is a .452 coach in the play-offs, which is why he has never coached an NBA Champion.
19) Tony Granato
It is rare that a lousy coach gets more than one job; its even rarer they get more than one job with the same team. Granato was the head coach for the Colorado Avalanche on two separate occasions. In the first go-around, Granato coached a Stanley Cup favorite loaded with talent like Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne’, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk, and Alex Tanguay. They dropped it the the second round of the playoffs, and Granato was the scapegoat for this “dream team’s” choke job.
But the reward for this gagging was another shot behind the bench. In 2008-09, Colorado again hired Granato to be the coach, except this time instead of names like Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne’, Granato had a bench full of nobodies. He couldn’t coach talent; with none he led the Avs to their worst season ever. Then he was fired…again.
18 ) Marcel Lachemann
Everybody remembers the Gene Mauch-led collapse of the 1964 Phillies. But most forget Marcel Lachemann had the reins of the California Angels in 1995, when on August 24 the Angels enjoyed 8.5-game lead. Even after the Halos dropped nine straight, they regrouped and still held a six-game advantage on Sept. 12. Then came their nine-game fold-job in a month, which meant the end’ the final nail in the coffin being driven by the Mariners in a one-game playoff.
Despite this mega-fold, Lachemann’s expired contract was re-newed for 1996. The Angles eventually realized the error of their ways; Lachemann was gassed after a 52-59 start to a season in which California finished in the AL West cellar.
17) Mike Hargrove
People may ask why Hargrove makes this list aster he captured five straight division titles with Cleveland from 1995 to 1999. That’s until it is pointed out what happened afterward.
From 2000 to 2003 leading the Baltimore Orioles, he averaged less than 69 wins per season, going 275-372 (.425). The topper to that in Baltimore was when he batted uber-hero Cal Ripken Jr. seventh in the lineup in his final game. This meant Ripken got to see his Hall of Fame career end from the on-deck circle watching Brady Anderson strike out. The Orioles were miles form the pennant race, and in a game that meant nothing in the standings, but was the swan song of arguably the greatest ambassador baseball has produced in the last 50 years, Hargrove buried Ripken in the lineup behind luminaries like Tim Raines, Sr., Luis Matos, Jeff Conine, Chris Richard, and Tony Batista.
Was it any wonder why the O’s lost 98 games in 2001? “The Human Rain Delay’s” managerial career was capped by a tooth-drilling two-and-a-half seasons with Seattle from 2005-07, going 192-210 (.478) and two last-place finishes in the AL West.
16) Tyrone Willingham
Willingham’s career is like a roller coaster, The way up was exhilarating; he managed to build Stanford into a respectable football team before being hired by Notre Dame. In his first year in South Bend, he led Notre Dame to a 10-3 record, but a loss in that season’s Gator Bowl was the top of the roller coaster. The ride down went through two moribund seasons at Notre Dame, after which he was canned. Then he was hired by Washington, where he took the Huskies to new lows including a 0-12 season during his final year in 2008.
15) John McNamara
McNamara has a career full of idiocy-defining moments, but nothing could ever top Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. McNamara’s misplaced sense of sentimentality let him be completely blind to the face that Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner could barely get on and off the field without a walker because of his bad ankles. do little more than hobble around on his bum ankles. This is why McNamara didn’t replace Buckner with Dave Stapleton as a defensive replacement to protect the lead as the Red Sox were mere outs away from their first World Series win since 1918; he wanted Buckner to be on the field for the final three outs. You know the rest.
14) Pick a Van Gundy
- a) Jeff Van Gundy
Easily the stupidest coach in the history of the NBA, and there’s a host of quotes to prove it.
“Our guys competed really hard for the most part. It’s wasn’t like we overwhelmed them with talent, that’s for sure.”
“When you score that little in a quarter, it’s probably part defense and part you’re missing some shots that you normally make. So we’re not going to pound ourselves on the chest because I remember three or four they had right in a row at the basket over our midgets where the ball just happened to fall out. We try to play good defense yet we understand how good of an offensive team they are.”
“(McGrady) played super hard today. He just doesn’t make (shots) at home.”
But Jeff will always be best remembered for being Alonzo Mourning’s ankle bracelet.
- b) Stan Van Gundy
The Magic somehow win despite Stan Van Gundy. For some reason, he thinks Jameer Nelson is an elite guard in this league. For some reason, he let’s his bench players chuck up shots any damn time they want to. Maybe he thinks they are all Hedo Turkoglu five years ago. How many more times do we need to see the Magic ahead in the 4th quarter when Van Gundy decides to quit giving the ball to Dwight Howard?
13) Ron Zook
Ron Zook took the reins of the Florida Gators from Steve Spurrier and promptly turned them into a team that couldn’t beat Mississippi State. That ain’t gonna fly in Gainesville, which is why the Florida faithful flew his ass out of town. Unfortunately for Illinois fans, that flight landed in Champaign-Urbana. Other than the miracle Rose Bowl season of 2007, Zook never had a winning season at Illinois, and he finished up his career with an overall record of 57-65.
12) Dennis Green
Dennis Green made his way into the NFL by posting a single winning season amongst eight on the sidelines at Stanford and Northwestern. But once he hit the professional ranks, he suddenly improved to mediocre. To be honest, I’ve never seen anybody survive so many times in which he should have been fired. I don’t mean like how Tom Coughlin was rumored to get fired every other week until he won this most recent Super Bowl; I mean like “pack your office and get the hell out” fired.
Through his first six years with the team, Green never posted a losing record and Vikings went to the playoffs five times. But the trouble started when then fans and the local media started flaying Green for creating a team of playoff choke-artists,; it wasn’t until his sixth season the Vikings finally won a playoff game. This led to Wheelock Whitney and Jane Dyer, who were two members of the Vikings’ ownership board, to contact Lou Holtz in 1996. The idea was to bring Holtz in to replace Green. The rumors really started flying when Holtz abruptly announced his retirement from Notre Dame subsequent to meeting with the Vikings.
Green took this all so personally that in November 1997, he published his autobiography No Room For Crybabies, in which he responded blasted his critics and started personal vendettas against the Twin Cities sports media. To top it off, he threatened to sue the Vikings in response to the Lou Holtz rumors.
How many people do you know threaten their bosses and survive? Green survived to create the classic “should have been fired then” moment. Flash the clock to 1997; the Vikings and the Falcons are tied at 27 in the NFC Championship Game. The Vikes’ have the ball, there’s 30 seconds on the clock, and it’s third down – three yards to go from their own 30-yard line. The Vikings have two timeouts remaining and the Falcons have none. The Vikings have what was at that time the most explosive offensive in NFL history; Dennis Green has at his disposal quarterback Randall Cunningham, receiver Randy Moss, and really only needs 30 yards to get the NFL’s best placekicker at the time a shot at a game-winning field goal.
Instead, Green decides to play it safe and takes a knee to run out the clock. Rather than taking a shot to win the game, he merely hopes the Vikes will get the coin flip in overtime. While the do win the coin toss, the Vikes prove the flaw in Green’s plan by allowing the Falcons to score first and win, 30-27.
Believe it or not, Green survived this idiocy for four more seasons. It would be even more amazing that he got another job after that, except it didn’t surprise anybody at the time the Cardinals would make a bad hire.
11) Pierre Pagé
It’s pretty sad when a resume reads more like an epitaph. In all fairness, Page was a pretty good general manager, but in eight seasons as a head coach in the NHL (with four different teams), he only ever had one winning season. He has since been banished to Europe, where he has enjoyed some success. But he will never coach in the NHL again; they’ve seen enough.
10) Dave Shula
Just because you dad is a great football coach doesn’t mean you will be one. Enter Dave Shula, son of Hall-of-Fame coach Don Shula, and abject failure. The warning signs were there; Shula sucked as both an assistant and coordinator in Miami and Dallas. However, as proof that some people do in fact fail upward, the Cincinnati Bengals hired Shula at their head coach in 1992. 19 wins and 57 losses later, Shula was finally shown the door by Bengals’ owner Mike Brown.
Care to hazards a guess as to what happens to the coach who reached fifty losses faster than any other coach in NFL history? He ends up working for his dad running Shula’s Steakhouses.
9) Wade Phillips
If Wade Phillips were in the business world, he would be one of the great vice-presidents of all time; so good in fact he keeps getting hired as a CEO because nobody remember how crappy he was as a CEO the last time…largely because he was so good as a VP since then. Hence, the football life of Wade Phillips. Great defensive coordinator becomes lousy head coach becomes great defensive coordinator becomes lousy head coach. Wade has ridden that roller coaster through three head coaching gigs. Despite the fact he has an 82-59 records as a head coach, he always seems to find a way to tank his own teams.
8 ) Rick Neuheisel
You’ve got to love a guy who is both and cheat and a loser. His 87-59 career record hides the fact that he’s only coached six winning season in 12 as ahead coach. Couple that with the following laundry list, and it is a wonder this guy got three jobs.
- After the 1997 season, the Colorado Buffaloes were forced to forfeit their five wins due to having played an ineligible player
- Before Neuheisel coached his first game for the Washington Huskies in 1999, he had already violated NCAA recruiting rules by visiting high school players before the NCAA approved date to do so.
- In 2008, The Seattle Times ran a series of articles which accused Neuheisel and Washington athletic director Barbara Hedges of overlooking numerous discipline problems–including outright criminal behavior–during the 2000 season. These allegations included safety Curtis Williams being allowed to play despite being issued an outstanding arrest warrant for assaulting his wife, linebacker Jeremiah Pharms being under investigation for robbing and shooting a drug dealer after police found his fingerprints at the scene, and tight end Jerramy Stevens being under investigation for rape. Also, when Stevens later crashed his truck into a retirement home, Neuheisel only suspended him for half a game.
7) Dusty Baker
OK, there’s two ways to describe what an idiot Dusty Baker is. There is the math-based approach, which in baseball invariably means a big dose of that Bill James’ Sabermetrics used for telling us the ways that a baseball team will score the most runs. The theory of operation behind Sabermetrics is that team who get more base-runners score more runs. It is all really pretty logical when you think about it. Dusty Baker has refused to accept this.
The other way to look at is with simple common sense since this is a simple concept to grasp; more base runners equals more runs. The speed of the runner isn’t terribly important; it’s just more of a bonus, largely because there are all kinds of ways base-runners can score without the need for speed. Baker rejects this; his belief is that slower runners “just clog up the basepaths.” This is why we are still waiting for that Dusty Baker-led world Series winning team.
6) Norv Turner
Picture a team that is consistently over-penalized, turnover laden, plays terrible fundamental football, and yet still piles up statistics. Chances are that team is coached by Norv Turner. Norv Turner has the worst winning percentage of any NFL coach whose career lasted at least 200 games. His career record of 107-113-1 indicative of his poor game management skills. But, the Chargers just won’t fire him.
5) Buddy Bell
Buddy Bell had three different three-year stints as a manager with three different teams. He only ever had a winning season (82-80) in 2000 with Colorado. Bell posted identical .399 winning percentages in Detroit and Kansas City. This helps to explain how in nine major league seasons as a manager Bell finished in last place six times. In all fairness, Bell was a great player; he was a five-time All-Star and won six Gold Gloves.
4) P. J. Carlesimo
Carlesimo may be the least-liked guy on this list. His authoritarian, dictatorial style which was punctuated by screaming at people constantly was far more suited to the college ranks where coaches have all the power. Once he got to the NBA, it was just a matter of time before somebody beat the crap out of him. While that never happened per se, Carlesimo will be more remembered for his having been nearly-strangled by Latrell Sprewell than his career coaching record of 204-296.
3) Isiah Thomas
For the sake of fairness, Isiah Thomas is one of the greatest NBA players ever, and a Hall-of-Famer. To this day, the mention of his name to a Knicks fan may get you any reaction from violent nausea on their part to getting you punched in the face.
The fact that Thomas coached an under-performing Pacers club to a first-round play-off exit in 2003 wasn’t enough of a warning sign for the Knicks. Later that year, New York brought in Thomas as President of Basketball Operations which ultimately led to his performing the coach and general manager duties. The pinnacle of the Thomas regime was his taking the Knicks to the highest payroll in the league while having the second-worst record and his dooming the future of the franchise by trading for Eddy Curry with what turned out to be seven future draft picks, including two lottery picks in talent-rich drafts. As far as the coaching was concerned, Thomas went 56-108 while at the helm of the Knicks.
2) Rich Kotite
What can be said about Rich “Decline the Penalty and Punt” Kotite that isn’t summed up in his nickname? Thanks to the fact that I like to watch both the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets, I had front-row seats for watching who was easily the worst coach in any sport in the last 30 years. It simply is not possible to make a list of horrible coaches that doesn’t include this butt-loaf.
The early successes with the Eagles were largely due to the team punishing defense, not the offensive genius Kotite was supposed to be. Kotite was fired in Philadelphia in 1994 after going 40-56 in four seasons. The Jets years were brutal; in two seasons Kotite went 4-28. He stepped down after his second season with the Jets and he never returned to coaching again.
1) Gene Mauch
Nobody seems to learn the lesson; safety regulations exist for a reason. Somebody somewhere somewhat smarter than you already knew that you shouldn’t stand on the top rung of the ladder. That’s why there is usually a sign or a label; some sort of warning that what you are about to do is a bad idea.
Gene Mauch should have come with just such a label. Clearly, the other signs were not visible enough…the collapse of the 1964 Phillies, the malaise that was the Montreal Expos in the early 70′s, and the Angels’ playoff choke-jobs in the 80′s…Mauch kept a level of respect in baseball that he kept getting hired even after just having been fired for complete ineptitude.
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What We Learned From This Weekend in Football 11/26/2011 – The Up-To-The-Minute Coaches’ Death Watch Edition
Lots of stuff has happened since we originally started this Coaches’ Death Watch a month ago. Some of it we saw coming, some of it we didn’t, and some of it is simply inexplicable.
There’s the guys who bought it before we ever published the inaugural death watch issue. Granted, we messed up when we listed New Mexico”s Mike Locksley as a certainty to be fired when in fact he had already been fired two weeks before hand. But what difference does it really make? New Mexico is firmly rooted in the “Who Cares? conference.
Firings We Didn’t See Coming:
1) Joe Paterno, Penn State
Let’s be honest…nobody saw this coming a month ago. We need not get into the details here, we all know them.
2) Ron Zook, Illinois
Captain Coke-Machine Head Butt was 6-0 to start this season, and the Illini are going to a bowl game. Zook was the first coach to take the University of Chief Illiniwek to the Rose Bowl in about a bazillion years.
Trouble is they finished 0-6, going 2-6 in B1G conference play and that’s includes a season-ending 27-7 debacle at Minnesota.
3) Bob Toledo, Tulane
We’ll be honest…we really weren’t paying attention to Tulane football. They are in the same conference as New Mexico.
Firings We Totally Saw Coming (with Breaking News):
1) Houston Nutt, Mississippi
Houston, you have a problem. The million-dollar question: Is their really a difference between getting fired and being asked to resign? Not really, because for a coach, there’s still a contract buy-out involved.
2) BREAKING NEWS #1 – Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
As of right now, CBSSports.com is reporting Slick Rick is as gone as a cool breeze after the Pac-12 Championship.
UCLA was blown out 50-0 by USC on Saturday night to finish the season at 6-6 and 5-4 in the Pac-12, but thanks to some NCAA sanctions currently in place at USC, the Bruins will be playing in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship against Oregon on Friday. Which means that there’s a chance the 6-6 Bruins could end up playing in the Rose Bowl.
Though it doesn’t seem that is going to be enough to save Rick Neuheisel’s job at the school. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Neuheisel will meet with UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero after the game to discuss his future at the school, and the report says the chances Neuheisel will retain his job are “bleak.”
Neuheisel is a dead man.
2) BREAKING NEWS #2 – Paul Wulff, Washington State
Again, it’s CBSSports.com as the bearer of bad news for at least one guy on the Pelouse…
Washington State head coach Paul Wulff is expected to be dismissed according to a local report, possibly as early Sunday or Monday.
The Seattle Times, citing sources close to the situation, report Wulff will be dismissed in a meeting with athletic director Bill Moos “barring a last-minute change of direction.” The Cougars finished their season with a 38-21 loss to Washington in the Apple Cup on Saturday.
If the reports are true, Wulff will finish with a 9-40 record in four years as the head coach in Pullman. His .184 winning percentage is the worst in college football, and the worst in Washington State school history. Moos has been WSU’s athletic director for 18 months, and reportedly has big plans to refresh and revive the football program. With an $80 million stadium remodeling project and new football offices in the plans, it’s not surprising they want to make a change to help encourage donations.
Wulff is a dead man. That end-of-season meeting with the AD is never a good deal.
2) BREAKING NEWS #3 – Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
CBSSports.com hits the Pac-12 trifecta, this time in Tempe.
Black Sunday in the college coaching ranks continues, with the latest coach on the verge of losing his job reportedly being Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson. Multiple sources have confirmed to CBSSports.com Arizona State Rapid Reporter Craig Morgan that Erickson will be fired this week with a news conference coming as soon as Monday.
Erickson still has one more year left on his contract, and if he’s fired he’ll receiver half of the $1.5 million he was due in his contract. Though it’s also possible that both sides will work out another agreement.
Arizona State had a disappointing end to its season in 2011, as the Sun Devils began the season with a 5-1 record but limped to the finish line losing 5 of their last 6 games. Losing out on a golden opportunity to play for a Rose Bowl berth in a very winnable Pac-12 South Division.
While we don’t see a meeting with the AD yet, this can’t be a good development.
Guys Who Saved Their Asses
1) Mark Richt, Georgia
Richt’s survival in Athens is a combination of getting the Bulldogs into the SEC Championship combined with having a $7 million buy out. It will be forgiven
if when Georgia gets crushed by LSU, but the Bulldogs really could stand to make a good showing in their bowl game.
2) Jeff Tedford, California (probably)
Like I said before, Tedford is like a Bay-Area version of Mark Richt. He’s a nice, well-tanned guy who started out strong, but has a bit of a “what have you done for me lately?” problem. Since 2006 when Tedford led the Golden Bears to 10 wins and a share of a Pac-10 title, Cal hasn’t repeated that success, even in the light of USC’s troubles. Tedford was the most 50/50 guy on this list, and I think going 4-2 in his last six in Strawberry Canyon gets him off the hook, at least for one more year.
Guys Who Are Still Under The Sword of Damocles
- Turner Gill, Kansas
- Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins
- Neil Callaway, Alabama-Birmingham
- Mike Riley, Oregon State
- Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Steve Fairchild, Colorado State
- Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams
- Frank Spaziani, Boston College
- Mike Sherman, Texas A&M
- Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs
- Luke Fickell, Ohio State (those Urban Meyer rumors just won’t go away)
- Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles
- Lezlie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings
- Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts
- Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
The Unkindest Cut of All
A tweet from Pete Thamel of the New York Times sums it up.
Man, there are some stone cold mofos in this world.