Friday, December 14, 2007

The grass is always greener on the other sideline

bump - I almost forgot something about this whole mess. It's now footnote number three, with Ted Nolan going to footnote number four. Sorry about that. We still have Mitchell Report madness the post right below this one, and it will be updated from time to time as I read more.

Quote from Louisville Cardinals Atlanta Falcons Arkansas Razorbacks football coach Bobby Petrino, as heard on SportsCenter last night: "It was difficult on one side, very easy on the other. It was difficult to leave Atlanta, the staff, players, fans. The timing of it probably is the thing that made it most difficult. Coming to Arkansas was the easy part."

He also said something to the effect of "I would have liked to have finished what we started here."

I call Bravo Sierra. He obviously didn't like it enough to actually, you know, DO IT.

If Alge Crumpler decided to sit out the rest of the season because Mike Vick went to the pokey and the Falcons went into the dumpster, he'd be fined... and if he decided to dog it to force a trade out of town, he'd be justly vilified. And if a college athlete decides to switch schools, the NCAA makes him sit out a full year. Heck, if I tried to access my 401-K before retirement, I would pay a hefty penalty for early withdrawl - and that's my own money in there. So, why not a similar penalty when the coach does it? He is breaking his contract; in Petrino's case, a FIVE-YEAR contract offered in good faith.* He lasted 13 games before deciding "boo-hoo, this is HARD" and fleeing back to college. ** (Or as he put it, "I knew I wanted to come back and coach in college football." Which, again, is Bravo Sierra, because if he DID know this when he signed the deal, he was putting his signature to a bald lie. Ask Sir Thomas More about that sometime.)

Ideally, there's a sanction for a guy like Petrino, or Nick Saban before him, or any of these other phony baloneys - nobody would trust them. Teams would be slow to hire them, for fear that the next open job would lure them away. At the very least, a pro team should seek some protection from the next big-time college hotshot jumping up in class - write into the contract a hefty penalty for ship jumping. The owner would have to pay any coach he fired, as per the contract; why is this a one-way situation? ***

This drives me particularly crazy on two levels.

1. In my little ghetto-hockey world, there is no such thing as contracts. If I agree to be the goalie for a team, I have an obligation to show up for the games, not quit if it's going badly, and should another team ask me to play with them, I would at the very least give my current team some notice, so they could get a new guy. If I didn't even tell them, and suddenly showed up for a game for the new guys and left them high and dry? My name would be mud; the commish would call me exotic obscenities, and I would very likely get run the first time I played my old squad. And I would deserve it. As a result, NOBODY does this in any of the leagues I've ever been in; not even forwards and defensemen, who are more easily replaceable. It's not worth it. Well, if we schlubs can honor our word, why not a highly-paid professional? Is it in part because of the pay, the idea that one is simply a mercenary who owes no loyalty, even while paying lip service to the concept of "family" and "commitment"?

2. Current Islanders coach Ted Nolan won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's best head coach back in 1995 (I think) with the Buffalo Sabres. He was then fired by the team (the sordid details are here) and suffered through a total blackballing lasting years - nobody would touch him before the Isles brought him aboard in 2006. This is a good guy with great coaching credentials who shows real commitment in giving back; but because he had a falling-out with his head-case goaltender and front office, nobody would give him a second shot, even as an assistant. This really ticks me off, frankly... apparently people would rather hire charlatans and head-cases to run teams, rather than dedicated and talented people. ****

And what happens to the defensive coordinator, Reggie Herring, who will coach Arkansas in their bowl game? It's likely that Petrino won't even retain him, and he will be pounding the bricks, uprooting his family in search of another gig. Some reward for loyalty to the program. The same may well go for the yet-to-be-named interim Falcons coach, if the "permanent" replacement wants to bring in his own staff. (update - it's Emmitt Thomas.)

* I would say "signed in good faith" as well, but the truth is that people have to sign contracts because their good faith is no good. If you could simply trust me to be your head coach, and I could trust you to pay me as agreed, then all would be well.

** Fun tidbit from the EPSN article linked above - Lou Holtz did the same thing in 1976 to the Jets; his destination? Arkansas. From football coaches to governors, this place seems to specialize in phonys.

*** Under-reported aspect of the story: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, an Arkansas alumnus, apparently had a hand in bringing the sides to each others' attention. The Falcons may stink out loud, but they are a conference rival. How is this not tampering? Do the Cowboys give the Falcons their first round draft pick, or do they skate on this?

**** I can only hope that Herring and Nolan and others choose to live by this fantastic quote from John Adams, so timely quoted by Sheila: "I thank God I have a Head, an Heart and Hands which if once fully exerted alltogether, will succeed in the World as well as those of the mean spirited, low minded, fawning obsequious scoundrells who have long hoped, that my Integrity would be an Obstacle in my Way, and enable them to out strip me in the Race. But what I want in Comparison of them, of Villany and servility, I will make up in Industry and Capacity. ... Nor shall Knavery, through any Negligence of mine, get the better of Honesty, nor Ignorance of Knowledge, nor Folly of Wisdom, nor Vice of Virtue."

John Adams - ^$*%# yeah!

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