BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
What goes into hiring a coach or manager?
For the longest time, I’ve often wondered about this and now I’ve decided to address this insane process?
Will winning a championship guarantee that you’ll get another gig?
Just ask former Detroit Tigers Manager Mayo Smith, former Baltimore Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick and and former Arizona Diamondbacks Manager Bob Brenly.
Smith led the Detroit Tigers to the World Series title and by the end of the 1970 season, he never got another managerial job. To Smith’s credit, there were only 20 teams at the time with no divisions.
Billick led the Ravens to a Super Bowl Championship in 2000. He coached the Ravens from 1999-2007 and had a regular season record of 80-64 with a .556 winning percentage, plus a 5-3 mark in the playoffs leading to an 85-67 mark.
He is in the Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor but never landed another head coaching job. As a result, he took his knowledge as an NFL commentator.
From 2001-2004, Brenly led the Diamondbacks to a 303-262 record and led Arizona to its lone World Series Title by defeating the New York Yankees 4-3.
Like Billick, Brenly never got another opportunity to guide another team. He was in the running for several managerial positions for the 2008 season, and fell short in 2009 when the Milwaukee Brewers elected to hire Ken Macha instead. Brenly would go on to broadcasting, working with the Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks and TBS Television. He’s also worked at FOX.
Another non-hire that puzzles me is current ESPN/ABC Announcer Mark Jackson.
I once met Jackson at the Palace of Auburn Hills when he played for the Indiana Pacers.
He had an amazing NBA career where he scored 12,489 points, grabbed 4,963 rebounds and amassed 10,334 assists. His playing career spanned from 1987-2004.
Jackson was hired to coach the Golden State Warriors on June 6, 2011 by new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber.
After inheriting a team that had made the playoffs just once in the previous years, Jackson promised to turn the Warriors into a good defensive team and playoff contender.
The team struggled to a 23-43 record in his first year during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season as the team suffered several key injuries to key players while adjusting to a new system.
In the 2012-2013 season with a strong performance from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Jackson led the Warriors to a 47-35 record and a No.6 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. It was the first time the Warriors made the playoffs since the 2006-07 season. The Warriors defeated the Denver Nuggets 4-2 in the first round, but lost to the San Antonio Spurs 4-2 in the semifinals.
Originally signed under a four-year, $8 Million Contract, Jackson earned two more years guaranteed on his contract in 2013, putting him under contract through 2014-2015.
The following season, the Warriors improved to 51-31, the team’s first season with 50 or more wins since since 1994-94. They reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992, but lost in the first round to the Los Angeles Clippers 4-3.
On May 6, 2014, Jackson was removed as head coach of the Warriors. The Warriors front office said the team was better than when Jackson inherited the job, but felt it needed a different coach to win an NBA Championship. In retrospect, he did the dirty work for Steve Kerr who subsequently won the teams first title in 40 years.
I was surprised through the years that Jackson didn’t land with his hometown team the New York Knicks, who drafted him in the first round, 18th overall, in the 1987 Draft. The Brooklyn native played his college ball at St. John’s University. He played for the Knicks from 1987-1992. He also played for the Knicks from 2001-2002.
He played on some good Indiana Pacers teams with Reggie Miller from 1994-96 and took them deep into the playoffs.
But like Smith, Billick and Brenly, why Jackson never got another chance to lead his own team remains a mystery.
But like Billick and Brenly, Jackson has far from disappeared as has a cushy job broadcasting for ESPN/ABC. I enjoy watching him.
There will always be questions in every sport that certain coaches get multiple chances why others don’t even get a sniff.
I’ve always thought that Juwan Howard and Patrick Ewing deserved to be head coaches. They would get jobs but at their respective Alma-Maters, Michigan and Georgetown.
Many years ago, Mean Joe Greene had mentors like former NFL legends Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Don Shula (Miami Dolphins), but never got an opportunity to lead his own team.
Greene, who was a Pittsburgh Steelers icon paid his dues on the field and on the sidelines. It wasn’t meant to be.
The NFL later implemented the Rooney Rule that requires all teams to interview minority candidates for coaching and front office positions.
During the recent NBA Coaching Cycle, Jason Kidd landed his third head coaching gig after previous stints with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. Former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups landed his first job with the Portland Trail Blazers.
One name prominently mentioned was San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach Becky Hammon. She’s been working with Gregg Popovich since 2014. She coached the Spurs Summer League team in 2015. She was the first woman to be a head coach in that league. He name was connected to the Portland, New Orleans and Orlando jobs. None of those have come to fruition.
On December 20, 2020, Hammon became the first female acting coach in NBA History after Popovich was ejected during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
While there is no rhyme or reason to this process and I’m sure there are other examples that I haven’t mentioned because these stood out, there is one prediction that I will make.
I do believe that Hammon will be the next coach of the San Antonio Spurs when Popovich elects to step aside. She knows that organization well and the small market Spurs don’t present an over extensive local media challenge with her despite the fact when she gets hired, she’ll have lots of national requests initially.
As for Smith, Billick, Brenly and Jackson, I’m still puzzled as to why they never got other gigs.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Southfloridatribune@gmail.com and on Twitter @TribuneSouth.
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