Guys Who Get Fired All the Time
The world of coaching is cruel and unfair.
Every year and every season, the coaching carousel continues to turn. Guys get fired, and those same guys get re-hired, and on we go. Often, they get fired through no fault of their own. How were they supposed to succeed with that guy at quarterback? How were they supposed to post wins with no talent to work with?
But alas: Coaching is neither fair nor easy, and the carousel keeps turning, no questions asked.
The good news is that getting fired is certainly not a career killer in the coaching profession. These guys can attest to that.
Lawrence Frank might have felt bad for himself when he got fired from the Nets. Or from the Pistons.
Imagine how he felt when Jason Kidd didn't even do him the honor of firing him. Kidd just publicly humiliated him.
Things weren't always so rocky for Frank. When he started off as the interim head coach of the New Jersey Nets in 2004, he won 13 straight games, the longest winning streak for a rookie head coach in any of the four major sports.
Then, pretty much from there, things went downhill. Frank stretched out his coaching gig with the Nets until 2009, when he started off the season with another streak: an 0-16 streak. He was promptly fired.
But have no fear: The Pistons gave him a shot in 2011. He lasted a little over a season there, but the streakiness came back to bite him again—an 0-8 start spelled doom for him, and he was axed a few months later.
But the humiliation wasn't over: Frank started out the 2013-14 season as an assistant coach with the Knicks, but he was demoted a couple of months into the season, going from Kidd's lead assistant coach to the guy who files team evaluation reports.
Redemption is short-lived, my friends.
Terry Francona's redemption began with the Boston Red Sox in 2004. Prior to managing the Red Sox, Francona had served as skipper of the Phillies for four years. Things didn't go so well. His team never finished better than third place in the NL East, and it never finished with a winning record. Francona was fired after the 2000 season.
As we all know, Francona was pretty successful in Boston. He did, after all, win two World Series at the helm of the team in 2004 and in 2007. But a little chicken and beer was all it took to do him in.
Francona went from the most popular guy in town to the most loathed when, in 2011, his Red Sox went 7-20 in the month of September to blow a nine-game wild card lead and back themselves out of the playoffs. Boston management chose not to exercise his 2012 option.
But now look! Tito's managing the Indians, and in his first season as manager, the team saw a 24-game improvement over its disappointing 2012.
Norv Turner has served as the head coach of three different NFL teams. Sometimes, things worked out well for him. Most of the time, they did not.
But in his defense, what would you do if Philip Rivers was your quarterback?
Turner's first head coaching gig came with the Washington Redskins. There, he earned the distinction of being the only head coach in the NFL's post-merger era to get axed midway through the season, despite having a winning record. That's what happens when you get out to a 7-1 start only to find your team is 7-6 a few weeks later.
Still, Al Davis gave Turner another chance because what coach didn't get a chance from Al Davis? Turner lasted two years in Oakland, and in those two years, he won just one (!) intra-division game.
And yet, the Chargers still thought he had something good to offer. So they hired him about a year later in 2007. He had some success in San Diego: He did, after all, coach the Chargers to a playoff W for the first time since 1994. Under Turner, the Chargers developed a strange habit of being really bad in the beginning of the season and closing out strong. It could be worse, I guess.
It certainly was good enough to keep him employed for five years before he was once again fired following a 7-9 campaign in 2012.
Belichick Assistants' Edition: Eric Mangini
What happens to former Bill Belichick assistants who try to coach all by themselves?
They tend to get fired a lot.
The first entry in this exhibit is the legendary Spygate whistleblower otherwise known as Eric Mangini. He served under Belichick for nine seasons, three with the Jets and six with the Patriots. Then, he headed back to New York—this time, as head coach.
And as is the case for many of those who attempt to coach the Jets, it didn't go well. Mangini lasted three seasons, the first of which was good. The next year, Mangini's Jets went 4-12, and finally, after his team missed the playoffs despite starting off 8-3, the Jets had seen enough and Mangini was sent packing.
Naturally, the Browns thought Mangini still had something to offer, so a couple of months later, they hired him. And naturally, Mangini posted a .313 winning percentage in two seasons with Cleveland. He was fired once again in January 2011.
Belichick Assistants' Edition: Romeo Crennel
It's easy to hate Eric Mangini. He was petty and vindictive; it's easy to say he got what was coming to him.
In the case of Romeo Crennel, however, you can't say any of that. Instead, you just feel really, really bad for him.
In total, Crennel spent seven seasons under the wing of Bill Belichick. In 2005, the Browns gave him his first shot at being a head coach. Like Mangini, there was limited success—in his third season in Cleveland, Crennel posted a 10-6 record—but the success was too infrequent. Overall, he went 24-40 in four seasons at the helm of the Browns before being fired in December 2008.
The Chiefs were the next team to give him a shot: Crennel replaced Todd Haley as interim coach in 2011 before being hired as the permanent head coach in January 2012. His 4-15 record was not much to write home about, and he was fired on the last day of 2012.
How is it that someone who has been fired so much is still such a coveted head coach?
The first person to take a chance on Lane Kiffin was—you guessed it—Al Davis. Before Davis hired him, Kiffin was just a lowly USC assistant; after, he became the youngest head coach in the NFL's modern era.
Perhaps he was a bit too young. Kiffin went 5-15 in a little over a season with Oakland before Davis had seen enough: He fired Kiffin over the phone at the end of September 2008. Yet, a couple of months later, Kiffin already had a sweet new job as head coach of Tennessee.
That didn't last long, either, but by Kiffin's choice: He peaced out of Tennessee after just one season in order to take the head coaching job at USC, replacing Pete Carroll. For two seasons, things went pretty well for good old Lane. Despite the fact that NCAA violations stemming from the Reggie Bush scandal prevented USC from competing in a bowl game, Kiffin still coached his team to a 10-2 record in 2011. Unfortunately, though, when his team actually was eligible for a bowl game in 2012, it went 7-6.
After Kiffin's team took a 62-41 beating from Arizona in September 2013, USC had seen enough. AD Pat Haden captured Kiffin at 3 a.m. in a LAX terminal to fire him, rather than just wait until he got back on campus.
Much of Mike Brown's head coaching career has been very unfair. But we can all take some solace in the fact that, at the very least, the first team that unjustly fired him was willing to take him back after another team unjustly fired him.
Brown had the good fortune to be LeBron James' head coach for five seasons. Together, they accomplished a lot: They made the playoffs five times. They made it to the NBA Finals once. They posted the franchise's all-time best record in 2009, going 66-16 (after which Brown was named the NBA's Coach of the Year).
But the good vibes were short-lived. Brown was fired a year later in May 2010. Still, in May 2011, the Lakers were willing to give him a shot. Or were they? L.A. infamously fired Brown just five games into the 2012-13 season, the third-fastest dismissal in NBA history.
The Cavs, apparently, thought that was rather unfair. So, despite the fact that they fired Brown less than three years earlier, they rehired him in April 2013.
Let Buck Showalter serve as the living proof: You can be a two-time American League Manager of the Year and have a career winning record yet still be a guy who gets fired all the time. Life just isn't fair sometimes.
Showalter served as manager of the Yankees for four years in the '90s, and despite the fact that he was named AL Manager of the Year during the strike-shortened 1995-96 season and managed New York to the postseason for the first time since the early '80s, the Yankees elected not to bring him back following that season.
Tough luck, but all was not lost. The Diamondbacks hired Showalter a year later. In his second season, his team finished with an NL West-best 100-62 record, yet it lost to the Mets in the division series. One year and one subpar record later, Showalter got the ax yet again.
And for the second time, the team that fired Showalter won the World Series one year later. So maybe these teams are on to something.
Just kidding. The Rangers hired Showalter in 2002 and fired him in October 2006. They did not win the World Series in 2007.
Poor Mike Shanahan. So much of his future rode upon Robert Griffin III's ability to successfully return from an ACL injury.
But it turns out, Shanahan was a big old question mark long before his failed experiment with the Redskins began.
His first coaching job came with the Raiders (while they were still in L.A.). His 7-9 rookie season left lots to be desired, but after a 1-3 start to his second year, he was axed. It would be six years before he was given a second shot at head coaching—and this time, things went far better. For a while.
For his first four seasons in Denver, Shanahan compiled records of .500 or better and won more than 12 games three times. He even won two straight Super Bowls from 1997-98. A losing 1999-00 season appeared to be an aberration after he reeled off another seven straight seasons of .500-or-better football and four playoff appearances. After that, however, things took a nosedive for Shanahan, and in 2008, the Broncos decided they had finally seen enough: He was fired following an 8-8 campaign.
Two years later, he was right back at it in Washington. And four years after that, he was fired yet again. It's OK, though. He's probably used to it by now.
Like so many of the others on this list, Byron Scott wasn't a bad coach (at least, for his entire career). In fact, he had periods of very impressive success. But coaching is very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately industry, and as such, Scott was never safe from the ax.
In his first job, he got off to an OK start: He took over a terrible Nets team in 2000 and turned them into an NBA Finals team just one season later. They lost to L.A. but still. Pretty good, right? One season later, the Nets were right back in the Finals again. And once again, they lost, this time to the Spurs. Despite those two Finals appearances, Scott was let go in the 2003-04 season because he just wasn't cutting it. And he was succeeded by none other than Lawrence Frank.
By the beginning of the 2004-05 season, Scott had a new job: this time, with New Orleans. Three years into his tenure, he had finally turned the Hornets into a playoff contender, but in 2009, when his team started 3-6, he found himself jobless yet again.
But not for long. In 2010, the Cavs became the third team to give him a shot. There began the three worst seasons of Scott's career. The team never won more than 24 games under him, and he was fired in favor of fellow list-member Mike Brown in 2012-13.
Maybe Dave Wannstedt and his legendary mustache should have just stuck it out in Pittsburgh.
No, the University of Pittsburgh wasn't the NFL, but it was a place where Wannstedt had at least some success as a head coach. He was at the helm from 2005-2010 and even led the Panthers to a Big East title in his final season. But that year, there were rumors that a 7-5 campaign had landed him in hot water with the university (imagine how the rest of the mighty Big East felt), and he "resigned under pressure" prior to the team's appearance in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
About a month later, Wannstedt joined the Bills as assistant head coach/linebackers coach. A year after that, he was promoted to defensive coordinator. Sadly, that didn't last long. He and the entire Bills staff got the group ax in December 2012.
Unemployment hovered for just a couple of months, however: Wannstedt joined the Bucs as special teams coach in February 2013. Considering we didn't see much of anything good from Tampa Bay in 2013, it should not come as a surprise that he was dismissed not too long ago.
No, Keith Smart's resume isn't all that lengthy. But yes, he is still a guy who gets fired all the time. Poor Keith Smart.
The former player got his first shot as (interim) HC with Cleveland in 2002-03. It didn't go well. He won nine games and lost 31. Naturally, he was not invited to continue being the head coach of the Cavs.
But many years later, in 2010, Golden State decided that Smart might be a suitable replacement for Don Nelson. He was not. His team went 36-46 before he was fired in April.
And yet again, in 2011, Smart found himself in a familiar situation: The Kings had just fired Paul Westphal and needed a replacement. They went with Smart. And once again, things did not go as planned. In parts of two seasons, he went a combined 48-93, after which he had a very familiar conversation with Sacramento's management.
As a player, Buddy Bell's resume is pretty impressive. Five All-Star nods, six Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger.
As a manager, though? Not so much.
Bell, in fact, fired himself from his first managing job—with the Tigers—because he couldn't deal with losing. He relieved himself of his own duties. Then, a couple of years later, he gave it a shot with the Rockies. This time, Colorado's management did the job for him, firing him after he started the season 6-16.
Bell began managing the Royals in 2005, and there, finally, he had some success, kicking off his tenure with a four-game winning streak. Somehow, it marked the first time KC had won four straight games since 2003. However, after battling illness, Bell chose not to return to the Royals after the 2007-08 season. Overall, he compiled a .418 winning percentage as a manager.
Vinny Del Negro
Let Vinny Del Negro serve as evidence: Being OK just isn't good enough.
Del Negro's first head coaching gig came with the Bulls in 2008. That season, he went 41-41. No, not a losing record but still nothing to blow your socks off. His team did make the playoffs, but it lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Celtics that featured a record seven overtimes periods.
In his next season, Del Negro matched his record from his first season. Once again, his Bulls qualified for the postseason, and once again, they lost—this time, in five games to the Cavs.
You know what's coming next: Del Negro was shown the door.
He was quickly rehired, though, this time by the Clippers. His first season, they missed the playoffs, but his next season, they went 40-26 before losing in the conference semis. Still, considering he had Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, that wasn't really good enough. L.A. gave him one more season to prove himself, but when the Clippers lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2013, management had seen enough.
Isiah Thomas has accomplished a lot in his career. He has experienced the glory that comes with two NBA titles and a Finals MVP. He has experienced the shame that accompanies scandal.
And he has experienced the embarrassment that comes with being really bad at producing a winning basketball program.
A few years after he retired, the Pacers hired Thomas as head coach. He lasted three years and actually finished .500 or better in each of those seasons, but when Larry Bird took over, he decided to do so without the help of Thomas.
Shortly thereafter, Thomas became President of Basketball Operations with the Knicks. I don't think anyone anticipated that it would go as poorly as it did. Thomas' team was paid very well and lost a whole lot of games—never a good combination. Once he traded away a whole bunch of future draft picks to acquire Eddy Curry, the Knicks rewarded him by making him the head coach. Because that makes sense.
A couple of years and a whole lot of terrible personnel decisions (and losing) later, Thomas was relieved of his head coaching duties and "reassigned" within the organization. That didn't sit well with him, so he left to become head coach at FIU.
Three years and one 26-65 record later, the Golden Panthers were done with Thomas, too.
You have to give Bobby Valentine credit. He is totally unapologetic for who he is.
In some ways, it's easy to see why Valentine is appealing as a managerial candidate. He is brash. He doesn't stand for any nonsense from his players. It's his way or the highway. Sometimes, this works well for coaches (see: Belichick, Bill).
In the case of Bobby Valentine, however, it did not.
In the midst of the 1985-86 season, Valentine took over for Doug Rader with the Texas Rangers. In his first full season as manager, he led the team to a second-place finish in the AL West, but it seemed that success was an aberration: After two more seasons and many, many losses, Valentine was fired by George W. Bush, who is a pretty cool person to be fired by.
Valentine returned to the majors in 1996, revitalizing a franchise that had notoriously struggled of late. Even though his team was winning, though, Valentine blew it in 2000 when he made an appearance at UPenn's Wharton School of Business and allegedly spent his time smack-talking his players and his organization. He was fired in 2002.
And yet, the Red Sox thought Valentine might be the perfect candidate to replace Terry Francona after Boston's infamous collapse in September 2011. They were very, very wrong. Boston's Valentine experiment was an unmitigated disaster, and the team finished with its worst record in 47 years. Shockingly, he was fired once again.