Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Who Is the Best Coach In New York Tri-State Area Sports?

First, let's take college sports, the WNBA and MLS out of the equation, and restrict this list to the 4 major leagues: MLB, NFL, NBA & NHL.

9. Coach to be determined, New York Knicks. Within an hour after I first posted this, Steve Kerr, rumored to have been the next Knick head coach, accepted the job with the Golden State Warriors. So this post, for the moment, remains vacant.

8. Terry Collins, New York Mets. Now in his fourth season. .466 regular-season winning percentage going into tonight's game. Each of his first three seasons was a losing season.

There seems to be little chance of the Mets, to use Fred Wilpon's phrase, "playing meaningful games in September" -- not this season, not next season. And while the Wilpons' financial mismanagement is mostly responsible for the Mets being dreadful since 2009 (and having late-season disasters in each of the three seasons before that), Collins' previous tenures, managing the Houston Astros and the team then named the Anaheim Angels, don't suggest that he can lead them out of it: He wasn't much over .500 with them, either.

7. Jack Capuano, New York Islanders. Four seasons. .495 percentage. One Playoff berth. Lost in the first round.

He hasn't really had the horses, so there's no telling what he could do if he had them. This his first NHL coaching job, so he's still a question mark; but the Isles' failures the last four seasons can hardly be laid on his shoulders.

6. Jason Kidd, Brooklyn Nets. Wrapping up his first season in the Area. .538 percentage. Has gotten the Nets to win an NBA Playoff series, something only previously accomplished by Stan Albeck, Byron Scott and Lawrence Frank (and only Albeck did it without Kidd being involved in some way).

That the Nets are likely to go out in the second round looks bad, considering all their high-priced veteran talent; but that they are going out to the Miami Heat, winners of the last two NBA titles and the last three Eastern Conference titles, alleviates that somewhat, and they certainly aren't going down without a fight. This is Kidd's first NBA coaching job, as he went straight from retiring as a player to the Nets' job a year ago. And expectations have hardly been exceeded, considering that they've run right into the LeBrons. To put it bluntly, we don't yet know how good a coach Kidd is.

5. Rex Ryan, New York Jets. Five seasons. .525 percentage. Reached the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons. But has missed the Playoffs in each of his three seasons since.

Even in 2009, the Jets were only 9-7, pulling off a pair of big upsets to reach the AFC title game. Take away his 11-5 the next season, and his percentage drops to .484. Take away all the hype -- both positive and negative -- and Rex is really just a .500 coach. Getting beaten by Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts in that first title game is understandable, but in the second one, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they didn't even show up. Bad motivating by Rex.

After that, quarterback Mark Sanchez was never the same. Add in some other good players not living up to their potential under him, and wanting to get away, and it's justifiable to say that the Rex Ryan experiment has failed in East Rutherford and Florham Park.

4. Peter DeBoer, New Jersey Devils. Three seasons. .448 percentage, last among Area managers/head coaches. One Playoff berth. Reached the Stanley Cup Finals in his first season. He has since had two awful seasons.

It's not entirely his fault: In 2012-13, Martin Brodeur was injured for much of the season; and before the 2013-14 season could begin, general manager Lou Lamoriello was unable to hang onto Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, the Devils' top two offensive players. You've got to play the hand you're dealt, and while DeBoer had a winning hand two years ago, he's had a lousy one since, and hasn't done much with it. Still, the Finals appearance with a team seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference suggests he has some coaching talent. Previously coached the Carolina Hurricanes, without much success.

3. Alain Vigneault, New York Rangers. Wrapping up his first season in the Area. .548 percentage. Has reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Within a month, he won't have moved down this list at all (though, as DeBoer now knows, that could happen later), but he could move up it considerably. Previously coached the Montreal Canadiens to the Playoffs, and got the Vancouver Canucks to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. The fact that he's got a more proven record -- even if it isn't in the Tri-State Area -- leads me to put him ahead of Cup Finalist DeBoer.

2. Joe Girardi, New York Yankees. In his seventh season. .577 percentage going into tonight's game, easily the leader among active Area managers/head coaches. Four Playoff berths, three trips to the American League Championship Series, one Pennant, and won the 2009 World Series.

His choices for relief pitchers and pinch-hitters have seemed mind-boggling, leading to jokes about how he manages by using information in a binder that he keeps with him at all times. And his successes could be chalked up to the Yankees' massive payroll. On the other hand, his failures the last three seasons (including this one) could be chalked up to the serious injuries the Yankees have had. The fact that he's been on the job longer than any coach in the Area, except for the one man ahead of him on this list, shows that he does know how to win. After all, it doesn't matter how much the players cost: They still have to produce, and the manager still has to make the choices that will lead them there. Girardi may only have done that once, but he has done it. Previously managed the team then known as the Florida Marlins for one season, and, despite a losing record and being fired right afterward, was named National League Manager of the Year.

1. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants. Ten seasons, easily the leader among active Area managers/head coaches. .549 percentage. Five Playoff berths, leading active Area managers/head coaches. Twice rebounded from what seemed like they would be poor regular seasons that could have gotten him fired to get the Giants into the Super Bowl, and win it, both times upsetting the New England Patriots. He has coached an Area team to more World Championships than all of the other eight combined (Girardi one, the rest none).

The Giants have missed the Playoffs the last two seasons, and are .500 over that span. But Coughlin has built a championship team, had to pretty much start over, and built it again. Although he's by far the oldest of these men -- he'll be 68 when the next season kicks off in September -- who's to say he can't do it again? Previously coached the Jacksonville Jaguars, and got them to two AFC Championship Games, so he's gotten to within four game of the Super Bowl four times, twice as many as Ryan has.

As recently as early 2001, the Tri-State Area had as managers and head coaches the following: Joe Torre (won four World Series with the Yankees), Larry Robinson (led the Devils to a Stanley Cup), Bobby Valentine (won a Pennant with the Mets), Jim Fassel (reached a Super Bowl with the Giants), and Jeff Van Gundy (reached an NBA Finals with the Knicks). While the current crop is largely new, and some haven't truly been tested yet, aside from Coughlin and Girardi -- and, considering the last two seasons of each, maybe including them -- the Area doesn't seem to have the kind of leadership it used to.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Peter Deboer's last coaching job was the Florida Panthers. He has never coached the Carolina Hurricanes.