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L. Jon Wertheim
May 03, 2004
Minneapolis and Washington top SI's short lists of best and worst cities in which to coach
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May 03, 2004

Location, Location, Location

Minneapolis and Washington top SI's short lists of best and worst cities in which to coach

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Never mind that Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders has been on the job since 1995 and at week's end was still trying to win his first NBA playoff series. Or that Tom Kelly finished a total of 104 games under .500 in his 16 years as manager of the Twins, 10 losing seasons sprinkled among the two World Series titles. You wanna know from nice? While coach of the Vikings, Dennis Green threatened to sue the team's owners if they didn't sell to him—this from a man who won just four of 12 playoff games. For that he lasted 10 seasons in Minneapolis.

Rust Belt reverence for an honest effort extends to the city's sports franchises. Despite 17 losing seasons since 1977 the Pirates have hired just four managers during that span. The Steelers, meanwhile, have employed two coaches—Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher—in 35 years. Cowher's teams have missed the playoffs four of the last six seasons, but you won't hear an outcry for change. "I guess it's still a place where people are patient," Cowher said recently, "and hard work is appreciated." (That said, you wouldn't consign your worst enemy to coach the cash-strapped, talent-challenged Penguins.)

You could do worse than coach in a Sun Belt market where the fans are, at once, passionate and laid-back. Tom Hicks ( Rangers and Stars), Jerry Jones ( Cowboys) and Mark Cuban (Mavericks) are not exactly absentee owners, but their pockets run deep. Worth noting: For all his meddling, Cuban has stuck with coach Don Nelson—through Sunday anyway—since taking over the team in 2000.


Even in a city of transient politicians, coaches have some of the shortest terms in town. The Redskins, Capitals and Wizards have all undergone regime changes in the past year. The owners of the three franchises—arriviste Dan Snyder, Internet mogul Ted Leonsis and patrician Abe Pollin, respectively—cut a wide swath but are equally impatient. For good measure, weeks after giving him a public vote of confidence, Georgetown officials recently canned basketball coach Craig Esherick, while he was on a recruiting trip.

Under new ownership, the Hawks and the Thrashers are likely to make coaching changes this summer. The Falcons fired Dan Reeves late last season, not long after franchise quarterback Michael Vick returned from a broken leg that sidelined him for the first II games. True, it seems as if Braves skipper Bobby Cox has been in town since the days of James Oglethorpe (20 years, if you're counting), but a team that has won 12 consecutive division titles can't even consistently sell out Turner Field in the postseason.

Forget what Frank sang. You can't make it there. Meddling corporate ownership + Steinbrenner + astronomical ticket prices + bloodthirsty media = coaches' boneyard. Two years after taking the Mets to the 2000 World Series, Bobby Valentine was canned. Two years after leading the Giants to the Super Bowl, Jim Fassel was out. Before Joe Torre's ongoing nine-year run, the Yankees changed managers 19 times in 22 years. It only figures that Glen Sather would fire himself as Rangers coach.