The Philadelphia Coaching Carousel: Out With the Old…


Peter Laviolette was the fourth Philadelphia coach to lose his job in the past year. Image Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

On the morning of December 31, 2012, the four major professional sports teams in Philadelphia were all coached by well-respected veterans. Three of the four coaches had once led their teams to the finals of their respective sports, and two of the coaches were arguably the best in franchise history. Over nine months later, none of those coaches remain employed in Philadelphia.  When the Flyers fired Peter Laviolette on Sunday, that meant that all four franchises have named new coaches in the year 2013. Andy Reid was the first – and least surprising – firing.  As the painful 2012 season came to a close, it was obvious that Reid’s lengthy tenure had run its course.  Reid had accomplished a great deal with the Eagles, but his past two seasons were tremendous disappointments, and the team seemed to have lost direction. Reid quickly found a new job with the Kansas City Chiefs, while the Eagles replaced him with highly touted University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly.  Thus far, both sides seem very happy with the new arrangement.

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The next coach to go was the 76ers’ Doug Collins.  Collins was notorious for never lasting more than three years at any coaching stop.  Apparently, his legendary intensity can apparently become a bit too intense for players after a few years.  Heading into last season, it looked like Collins might finally make it to year four, but after a poor 2012-2013 season that was partially brought about by the disastrous Andrew Bynum trade (a trade which Collins reportedly pushed for), ownership wanted to go in a new direction. Former Spurs assistant Brett Brown will run the Sixers this season, but considering how bad the team is expected to be, it will be difficult to evaluate just how good of a coach he is.  If the Sixers can even come close to playoff contention, Brown would probably deserve some Coach of the Year votes.

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The most surprising firing might have been Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.  While there were plenty of indications that a change was coming after the season, few people expected Manuel to be fired in August.  There are differences in opinion as to how much blame Manuel deserves for the Phillies missing the playoffs the past two seasons, but considering the Phillies were already planning on moving on, it wasn’t the worst idea in the world to make the change when they did. Third base coach Ryne Sandberg was the heir apparent to Manuel, and after Manuel was fired he was named the interim manager.  The team’s record didn’t improve much after Sandberg took over, but there did seem to be some subtle improvements in quality of play.  At the end of the season, the “interim” was removed from Sandberg’s title, and he will move forward as the team’s manager.

Aug 11, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel watches batting practice before the game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Laviolette was the final coach to get the axe.  It was assumed that he was on shaky ground, as he was named the coach most likely to be fired in a preseason poll. Prior to the season, general manager Paul Holmgren said that he didn’t hold Laviolette responsible for the team missing the playoffs last season.  Apparently, a poor preseason followed by an 0-3 start to the season was enough to change Holmgren’s mind.  Either that, or Holmgren was starting to feel a lot of pressure regarding his own job.  Earlier this year, I made an unflattering comparison between the Flyers and the Washington Redskins, and this move did nothing to change my opinion. The new coach is former assistant (and Flyers player) Craig Berube.  Berube’s appointment isn’t a shock, as he had reportedly been in the mix for other coaching jobs.  Will he be able to get the players to perform any better than they had under Laviolette?  Holmgren’s job likely depends on it.

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After a few years of watching the teams helmed by veteran coaches, barring unforeseen circumstances (Are we sure Chip Kelly has no interest in the USC job?) we’ll be heading into 2014 with four first time head coaches.  Obviously, this is a big change, but considering the sad state of the franchises lately, these types of changes were probably necessary.  While there’s no denying that those former coaches had experienced a good deal of success in Philadelphia, it was also obvious that all four teams were not headed in the right direction. Now the only questions is whether the new blood will be able to turn the teams around and reach the same level of success that their predecessors did.