I've never completely understood the impatience by some fans to fire the coach of their favorite program. Sometimes it's a no-brainer, such as when Bill Callahan was fired after posting the only two losing seasons in the last fifty years at Nebraska. Sometimes it's inevitable, such as Doc Sadler who was simply spinning his wheels of the Nebraska basketball program.
But more and more frequently, disappointment leads to a quick trigger finger on the fire button. Firing Frank Solich after a 9-3 regular season in 2003 seemed to start that trend around here. (Somebody will point out that he really should have been fired for a 7-7 record in 2002. That might make a little more sense, but it's still a quick trigger finger considering that Solich did lead the Huskers to the Rose Bowl and the national championship game in 2001.) We have people in Nebraska calling for Bo Pelini to be fired, even though there aren't many coaches not named Nick Saban who can match his record over the last five years. Oh sure, you might catch lightning in a bottle, like Texas A&M did when they hired Kevin Sumlin, who found Johnny Manziel buried in the depth chart after redshirting.
I've even lost friends over it. One college friend told me last winter to "Mark my words, Nebraska won't get to nine wins in 2012" and that he "couldn't wait to have this conversation after an even less successful 2012 season". Well, I reminded him of his predictions after the Iowa game, and as you might guess, it didn't go very well. And it went completely south after the Big Ten championship game debacle.
Nobody likes losing in big games, and it's even worse when you get embarrassed in those same big games. I get the frustration. I don't get the impatience with the quick trigger finger on the eject button. That's the mentality that starts programs into the coaching churn; if a coach doesn't produce immediate results or has a not-so-great season, it's time to find someone new. And I'm going to say it: that's the mentality that brings Bill Callahan to town.
Case in point: UCLA basketball. Fired Ben Howland after losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Has UCLA been in a bit of a funk in recent years? Yes. But Howland took the Bruins to three straight Final Fours in 2006, 2007, and 2008. That was then, this is now. Out he goes.
And when the rest of the world asks what the hell UCLA is thinking, Bruins fans get indignant. And when it comes time to find someone who can possibly do better, most of the better candidates slam the door (or the phone) at the prospect of entering that cesspool. So who does UCLA hire?
Steve Alford. Yep, the failed Iowa coach who is known as "redacted" at BlackHeardGoldPants.com. Stepped back to New Mexico, and drove a 33 year beat writer to quit last month rather than continue to try and cover an Alford team. He's since removed his rant; he's probably giving it a second chance now that Alford's left for Lala Land.
Case in point: North Dakota hockey coach Dave Hakstol. NoDak held a 1-0 lead over Yale midway through the third period of the regional final, only to lose 4-1 in a spectacular meltdown. Leading to the inevitable:
Hakstol needs to go.9 Seasons, 4 Frozen Fours, 1 final, ZERO championships and a 65% winning percentage.W/ UND's talent?Unbelievable.— Lyndsay Lee (@L__Lee) March 30, 2013
Four Frozen Fours in nine years sounds pretty good, right? Pretty bad, according to some North Dakota fans. North Dakota hockey fans are kind of like Nebraska football fans. They showed their passion in overrunning Omaha in February for a series against UNO. They have high expectations, and when those high expectations aren't met, some are quick to look for something else.
Case in point: Denver hockey coach George Gwozdecky. Rebuilt a proud program over the last 19 years, but forced out because he hadn't had more success in the NCAA tournament.
Grade-A source says George Gwozdecky did not resign. Forced out, terminated, for lack of NCAA success and failure to come to terms 4 ext— Mike Chambers (@MChambersDP) April 1, 2013
Yeah... all the guy did was win the 2004 and 2005 national championships. What have you done for me lately? The Pioneers were miserable for most of the 1970's and 1980's, and even into the 1990's...but hey, that was then.
I guess if you are going to fire guys like Ben Howland and George Gwozdecky, then I guess you can fire guys like Bo Pelini and Dave Hakstol. But don't expect things to get better after you fire a winning coach.
It's not impossible, mind you. Of course, a new coach could do better. But it's far more likely the new coach won't. And many elite coaches (the ones you want, of course) are going to be repelled by the idea that the fan base was so dissatisfied by guys like Ben Howland and Frank Solich. If you have a good job as a head coach, what would be your incentive to take a job with those expectations?
You can always hire another coach...and if that coach fails, fire him and try again. Let the churning begin. Eventually, you'll hit on that slot machine. Or so you hope. Notre Dame has been churning for over 15 years. It looked like Tyrone Willingham was the guy at first...then not. Then Charlie Weis looked like the savior...uh, never mind. Now Brian Kelly is the man. Well, we'll see. Chances are he too will fall short at some time in the future.
This was originally posted at Husker Mike's Blasphemy, but in light of the discussions about Pelini today, I thought it was more appropriate for the CornNation audience today than when I wrote this last night.