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Thoughts On Coaches

Posted by Matt on December 12, 2007


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First and foremost, I have never claimed to break anything — let alone a news story — but the timing of me and Condo’s Petrino column yesterday morning, and our ensuing debate in the thread that followed, was quite ironic considering the events that unfolded late yesterday evening. Never would I have guessed that Bobby Petrino would actually quit the Atlanta Falcons in his first season (of a five year deal no less) with games still left on the schedule.

Furthermore, we continued our debate outside of said thread and based our discussions around how coaches seemingly don’t honor their contracts while players are held to much different standards in both the professional ranks as well as in college. The debate was sparked by Condo’s hunch that Les Miles will inevitably be the Michigan head coach while I maintained that — after signing an extension, talking shit to Kirk Hirbstreit in a called-press conference BEFORE a game, and maintaining on Mike & Mike In The Morning that he WILL be staying at LSU — if he bolted for Michigan now, I would lose some respect for him while adding, hypothetically, that I wouldn’t be able to trust him if I were being recruited.

Thus, the discussion wasn’t started by the prospect of Petrino leaving (that event wasn’t even on our radars), but nonetheless was a discussion of the very nature of Petrino’s move, and Condo and I both agreed that the contracts for these coaches are seemingly not actually contractual in nature after all.

All this being said, my thoughts regarding Les Miles if he were to leave can actually be applied to Petrino and I don’t know, as a parent, how you would allow your son to trust a man who has signed a 10-year deal with Louisville, a 5-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons, and a 5-year deal with Arkansas all in the past 17 months (since July 13, 2006), nearly to the day.

After pondering all of this, my thoughts expanded even further on the drive to work this morning: an interesting situation seems to be brewing among the coaching ranks as colleges can increasingly offer more money to their head men, thus closing the salary gap with the professional leagues, and we’re seeing more coaches fail at the professional level only to make a beeline back to college.

With the growing egos, large salaries, erratic behavior, poor publicity, and other drawbacks in working with some professional athletes, is it safe to say that college jobs — especially as NCAA salaries increase — are becoming more and more attractive?

Obviously larger-than-life characters such as the Phil Jacksons and Bill Belichicks fit well in the professional ranks but it seems as if many other tried-and-true head coaches enjoy life more in the collegiate arenas.

Rick Pitino tried the NBA on two occasions, once with the Knicks for two years and the Celtics for four years much later in his career, only to settle in college with Louisville while seemingly trying to replicate everything he head while at Kentucky. Pete Carroll tried the NFL and was also with two teams before heading back to college to coach USC, effectively becoming one of the top coaches among his peers. Nick Saban was with the Miami Dolphins for just two seasons, Bobby Petrino was with the Atlanta Falcons for 13 games, and Billy Donovan was with the Orlando Magic for mere days while Mike Kryzwhatever turned down the Los Angeles Lakers, likely the most storied team in the NBA, nearly immediately just a few years ago.

I am sure there are plenty of additional examples (Butch Davis and Steve Spurrier come to mind) — feel free to discuss them in the thread — and I also know that I have somewhat left the original discussion of coaches simply not honoring contracts but I feel the expected or, in Petrino’s case, unexpected jump to the pros only to jump back, for whatever reason, takes place as an extension of coaches not honoring their contracts. What they’re doing instead is bouncing around and around until they find the exact situation they’re looking for.

Obviously this is more just my thoughts an opinions than it is an attempt at a real column but I am intrigued by what is happening, especially with the crazing “coaching carousel” that we’re seeing in college this season.

What say you? Feel free to discuss as I am interested to hear if anyone has any additional thoughts…


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