Leland Stein III

Ask Smith: Professional coaching is perilous duty

In sports column on January 14, 2013 at 12:26 am
Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

By Leland Stein III

Hey, I’m shedding no tears for or all the coaches that are getting waxed but their teams. They make a lot of money for leading their teams into battle.

However, if I was a fan of the one of the teams that did the firing I just might be upset.

For example, the Chicago Bears have won only won one Super Bowl and has appeared in two. Recently fired coach Lovie Smith took the Bears to it most recent Super Bowl, where he made history joining Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy as the first and only time two African-American coaches met in a Super Bowl.

Dungy, Smith’s mentor lost a close contest to the Colts.

Chicago coach Lovie Smith.

Chicago coach Lovie Smith.

Now dig this, the Detroit Lions go 4-12 and keep it coach, but the Bears go 10-6, just missing the NFL Playoffs and Smith gets canned.

Football watchers believe the decision came down to the Vikings’ win over the Packers in the final week of the regular season. A win by Green Bay would have ensured a playoff berth for Chicago.

Wow! How close is that? How many teams in the NFL would have loved to be in that position? It is not as if the Bears have a juggernaut franchise. They are very competitive, in fact losing in the NFC title game. I was there covering the game in frozen Solider Field in 2011 when the Packers won 21-14.

Dungy, who is at the front of speculation about filling NFL open positions, tweeted: “Lovie Smith’s firing is the 1 reason I’m not coming back to get fired for only winning 10 (games).

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka, who led his team to it only Super Bowl win said: “I think Lovie is a very good coach. I think that’s a 10-win season is important in this league. If Minnesota would have lost and the Bears were in the playoffs this wouldn’t have happened. That’s a fact. So how stupid is it then? It really is stupid.”

The Bears were 84-66 under Smith, but reached the playoffs just once since their Super Bowl appearance in February 2007.

The fallout associated with missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons proved too much to overcome for Smith.

Then there is Avery Johnson head coach of the new Brooklyn Nets getting waxed after starting the season by winning 11 of their first 15 games en route to their best start in franchise history, but have going just 3-10 in December, which prompted Brooklyn’s brass to make a change.

Heck this is basketball, many team have sat at .500 then turn their season around. Why so quick to pull the trigger? Johnson has won an NBA title as a player and led Dallas to the NBA Finals.

But he was given a team with a number of new players that needed time to gel.

The irony of the canning was Johnson had just been named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for November. Assistant P.J. Carlisemo was named interim head coach, and retained the rest of Johnson’s staff.

“You never think when you’re a .500 team and then you’re going into two more home games at home that something like this would happen,” Johnson said at a news conference. “But this is ownership’s decision, and this is what we sign up for. This is part of our business. Fair or unfair, it doesn’t matter.”

Johnson said he was caught off guard. “If I was the owner I would not have fired me,” he lamented.

The Nets are now going after Phil Jackson, who just announced his engagement to Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss’ daughter, Jeanie. Jackson was bypassed by the Lakers in November after Mike Brown was surprisingly fired five games into the season.

I do not see any way Jackson takes that job. Heck, the Lakers job, whom he coached to five NBA titles, might open up after their less than stellar showing under Mike D’Antoni.

Also in the NFL Andy Reid in Philadelphia, Smith, and Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona, all coaches who took teams to the Super Bowl, plus Norv Turner in San Diego, Pat Shurmur in Cleveland, Romeo Crennel in Kansas City and Chan Gailey in Buffalo have all been shown the door.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

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