“You lose a lot of time, hating people”
— Marian Anderson
I don’t know who Marian Anderson is, but she probably wasn’t (or isn’t?) a sports fan. Because aside from rooting for your favorite team or favorite player, the best part about sports is hating your teams’ rivals and hating their best players. Sometimes it isn’t even a player – sometimes it’s the coach or manager. We all have our most hated. But what happens when he takes the helm of your favorite team? If you root for him to lose, that means your favorite team loses, too. My advice to you – just wait it out. And I talk from experience. Because a couple of years ago, my three favorite sports teams were all managed or coached by men I had despised for years. They are all gone now, and I can root freely again.
Let’s start with the Mets and Willie Randolph. Now, I never really hated Randolph. It’s just the he is a Yankee, and all self respecting Mets fans hate the Yankees and everything associated with them. The hiring of Randolph brought back memories of when the New York Rangers hired Bryan Trottier of the hated New York Islanders to be their head coach. And we all know how that turned out (if you don’t, he was fired halfway through his first season).
So Randolph’s Yankees affiliation bothered me. And I was also bothered by his annual off-season “oh, woe is me, no one will give me a managerial job” whining before the Mets hired him. Randolph always seemed to be the second choice for every manager’s job. Perhaps it was because he had never managed at any level in baseball. He apparently refused to go down to the minors and earn his managerial chops by riding buses to Scranton and Columbus, instead sitting at the right hand of Joe Torre in the major league Yankee dugout for years. He was actually all but offered the Reds job some years back, but he balked at the paltry money, saying with his virtually guaranteed Yankees playoff share, he would make more as a coach than as a manager.
Does this sound like someone who wants to put the work into becoming a manager? No, it sounds like the actions of an arrogant man, someone too good to go down to the minors, someone too good to take a pay cut. Randolph’s arrogance showed through when he got to the Mets, with constant comments like “he’ll hit for me,” or “they’re playing well for me.” Me me me. Before he landed the Mets job, the knock on Randolph was that he “didn’t interview well.” That’s code for something. My guess it’s a code for his arrogance.
So for three and a half seasons, I was torn. Of course, I rooted for the Mets to win, but I was very happy to see Randolph go in June 2008 – three and a half years too late, as far as I was concerned.
This brings us to Bill Parcells – one of the worst human beings in sports. I’ve hated this man for 20 years. Talk about arrogant. He’s the poster child for arrogance. The disdain with which he treats the media was disgusting (as a former member of the media this particularly irked me). And then there was the lack of loyalty, which is a big thing with me. He left the Giants, Patriots and Jets high and dry. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Before the 2002 season, Parcells was having secret meetings to become head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He agreed. But first, the Bucs had to fire their existing head coach, the respected Tony Dungy. When that was done, Parcells decided, “you know what, I’m not going to take the job after all.” Tampa was in a lurch. It wouldn’t have fired Dungy if Parcells wasn’t coming aboard. With all of the good coaching prospects having already found other jobs, the Bucs were forced to make a deal with Oakland, sending two first round picks, two second round picks, and $8 million to the Raiders for Jon Gruden. The Bucs ended up winning a Super Bowl that first year under Gruden so it turned out all right. But Parcell’s sudden about-face could have wrecked the franchise for years. And I’m sure he didn’t even blink an eye while doing it.
So imagine my dismay when he signed on to coach the Cowboys (don’t ask how a kid from Brooklyn became a Cowboys fan). The first decision that needed to be made after Parcells took over was what to do with Emmitt Smith. The NFL’s all-time leading rusher was clearly on the decline. But he was still better than anyone the Cowboys had (remember Troy Hambrick?). Parcells took himself out of the decision, leaving it to Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones. But the decision was made the moment Parcells put pen to paper. There can be no bigger star on the team than Parcells. So Smith was gone. You don’t believe me about Parcells having to be the biggest thing on his team? Remember when Jones signed Terrell Owens against Parcells’ wishes? Parcells would only smugly refer to Owens as “the player,” not lowering himself to call the superstar by his name. And remember when he inserted Tony Romo as the starter, and he got off to a roaring start? Parcells famously said,” don’t get out the anointing oil just yet.” Because, of course, that oil is reserved only for St. Parcells himself.
Parcells does deserve credit for turning a terrible, wayward team into a playoff squad. Hell, there’s no denying that he is an excellent coach and a great judge of talent. Unlike Randolph, he had a history of winning. But still, I was ecstatic when Parcells finished his four year contract after the 2006 season, and decided not to sign a new one. Good riddance.
A history of winning is not a guarantee of future success. And that brings us to our final hated coach, Larry Brown. The word “loyalty” is not in Brown’s vocabulary. He’s worse than Parcells on that front, perhaps worse than anyone in sports. “Next Town” Brown, as New York Post basketball scribe Peter Vecsey calls him, is legendary for having one foot out the door even while entering. The New Jersey Nets fired him a week before the playoffs in 1983 when management found out he had a secret deal to coach Kansas University when the Nets season was done. He allegedly was negotiating to become the Cavaliers president in the middle of the Pistons playoff run in 2005. When he left Detroit after those playoffs, he had the nerve to blame the Pistons for his departure. What a horrible man.
In 2005, an equally horrible man for different reasons, Isaiah Thomas, hired Brown to coach the Knicks. He gave him a five year, $50 million deal. $50 million! That’s a lot of money. But hey, he’s a great coach, right? Well, after a baffling pre-season of watching his new team run up and down the court, Brown had the audacity to say, “I don’t know what to do with this team.” You’re being paid $50 million to figure that out, and you say you don’t know? Even the extremely incompetent Knicks’ owner James Dolan probably said “huh?!” to that one. The rookie-hating Brown said he would never put the Knicks three rookies, Channing Frye, David Lee, and Nate Robinson, on the court at the same time. During a dreadful game early in the season, he did just that. And their youthful energy fueled a comeback that gave the Knicks the lead late. So what did the great coach do? He took his rookies out, and replaced them with the likes of Malik Rose and Quentin Richardson. I don’t have to tell you the lead evaporated and the Knicks lost.
Later in the season, Brown pushed the Knicks to trade for Steve Francis and Jalen Rose and their cap killing salaries. Thomas for some reason agreed (of yeah, because he was an idiot). Brown said having the two players on the court together would bring back memories of Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe to the Garden. So what does the great coach do? He never plays them together.
After the 23 win season, it was clear Brown had to go. Thomas fired him, but refused to pay him the rest of the $40 million he was due because Brown, he claimed, engaged in actions that violated his contract, such as calling other teams behind Thomas’ back and proposing trades. Brown denied it. Which liar to believe? A tough decision. But just before David Stern was set to arbitrate, Brown settled for $18 million. Which means he was guilty of all of the things the Knicks accused him of. Because why would you leave $22 million on the table if you were innocent?
I had to endure Brown for one only season, but during that time, I did what I thought was impossible – I rooted for the Knicks to lose. It was the only way to get rid of this person. That anti-rooting would last for another two seasons until Thomas was booted from the sidelines. By the way, Thomas does not enter my pantheon of hated coaches, even though he was worse than any of them. I had no personal animosity against him. He was just bad, like Art Howe.
So there you have it. Coaches and managers are hired to be fired. So don’t worry, your hated coach will soon be gone. Unless your team starts winning, in which case you might be stuck with him for a while longer.