Under The Bleachers: Are You Sure There Is A Better Coach Out There?

Above: The Indiana Pacers may regret parting ways with head coach Frank Vogel
Under The Bleachers: Are You Sure There Is A Better Coach Out There?

Thursday morning, the Indiana Pacers parted ways with head coach Frank Vogel, declining to extend his contract after the Toronto Raptors bounced the club from the first round of the NBA Playoffs in seven games.

It didn’t matter that Toronto finished second in the Eastern Conference and Indiana finished seventh and that pushing the Raptors to seven was a positive in and of itself. It didn’t matter that Vogel led the team to two Conference Final appearances, where they lost to the Miami Heat, or that he owns a career 250-181 record while patrolling the Indiana sidelines.

The fact that Vogel damn near got a team that was without its star player, Paul George, for the entire season into the playoffs last year (which was a minor miracle) didn’t hold any sway either. Team president Larry Bird still wasn’t happy with how things have panned out under Vogel and opted to make a change.

Tuesday, the Calgary Flames dumped head coach Bob Hartley, who won the Jack Adams Award as the top coach in the NHL the previous season after guiding the Flames to a surprising 45-30-7 record and the second round of the playoffs.

It didn’t matter that the club over-achieved the previous year and some of the bounces that went their way then went against them this season, when they missed the playoffs. It didn’t matter that the club has shown steady progress since his arrival, going from 19 wins in the strike-shortened season to 45 wins in his third year before backsliding this season.

It didn’t matter that the players were caught off guard by the news and liked playing for him. All that mattered was that management wasn’t happy with the end result and as per usual, the coach is the one that takes the fall.

Last week, Bruce Boudreau was cut loose by the Anaheim Ducks after five years and four consecutive first-place finishes in the Pacific Division. Over the last three years, they’ve averaged 50 wins per campaign, but their season came to an end with a Game 7 loss in series’ they were leading 3-2, so the veteran coach was shown the door.

Let’s see how these three teams do next season.

Let’s see if the guy they bring in leads their respective clubs to greater success than the men whose shoes they’re being tabbed to fill.

Let’s see what flashy new hire or recycled old coach connects with the players and carries these teams to new heights.

Let’s see how things shake out before deciding if this trio of moves were good for the future of these franchises, which is how management and some in the media view them because as much as each of these franchises might be disappointed with how their seasons ended, there may not be better coaches out there to take over these jobs.

For every Brad Stevens that gets plucked from the college ranks and turns out to be one of the five best coaches in the NBA within three years, there are a half-a-dozen Tim Floyds; guys that are instantly in over their heads, drown and are never heard from again. Picking from assistant coaches can be a crapshoot too because most of the smart ones in good situations aren’t leaving to coach your rebuilding mess.

The same holds true in the NHL, where AHL call-ups rarely hit the ground running and familiar names are available for a reason. In the odd case where someone genuinely good gets let go, a smart team comes along and scoops them up, proving their smarts, like the San Jose Sharks did with Peter DeBoer.

It’s different when you’re firing a bad coach and you have a replacement in mind. The Los Angeles Lakers axed Byron Scott last week and gave Luke Walton $5M per year for his first head coaching gig less than seven days later and everyone was reasonably cool with it. Why? Because Byron Scott isn’t a good coach, that’s why.

But Vogel, Hartley and Boudreau are good coaches, probably better than whomever each of their former employers tab to replace them, and that’s the rub. (There is always a rub)

When you’re parting ways with your coach, you better make sure there is someone better out there first.

Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Indiana Pacers, NBA, NHL

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