Ratto: You’re not parting way, you’re getting fired

10 professional coaches, managers and GMs axed in 15 days

Ray Ratto
January 15, 2020 - 2:23 pm
Ratto: You’re not parting way, you’re getting fired

Bob Levey/Getty Images

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This is the 15th day of January, and already 10 professional coaches and general managers have been fired. Not "let go." Not "parting ways." Not "moving on" or "pursuing other opportunities" or "spending more time with the family." Fired.

It is that time, after all, but the four most recent firings have been the most momentous, foreseen and utterly unimagined, in that order.

The Houston Astros fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch because (a) a sign-stealing scandal put the team in ill repute and (b) because Major League Baseball and Astros owner Jim Crane needed to stage-manage the result of their shame. The Boston Red Sox fired manager Alex Cora because he is being pinned as a mastermind of the sign-stealing apparatus. 

And now, five weeks after he was deemed inadequate to the task of running the San Jose Sharks, Peter DeBoer has been hired to coach the significantly better Vegas Golden Knights, who fired their coach, Gerard Gallant, for being three points behind the Arizona Coyotes with only 33 games still to play, a seemingly insurmountable deficit.

The Sharks and Knights have history, all surrounding a bogus five-minute penalty on a hit that resulted in the Knights blowing a four-goal lead, getting knocked out of the playoffs. After that game, Gallant called DeBoer a clown, and now DeBoer has been promoted to Clown Emeritus at Gallant's expense.

But before this week, Ron Rivera was fired in Carolina, Jason Garrett in Dallas, Pat Shurmur in New York and Bill Callahan in Washington (who was listed as an interim coach but was told to take a hike at year's end nonetheless) all got the works. So did Peter Laviolette in Nashville and general manager Ray Shero in New Jersey, six weeks after he fired John Hynes, who replaced Laviolette.

Oh, and Freddie Kitchens and John Dorsey in Cleveland don't make this list only because the lunatics who run the Browns snuck in and whacked them both right before New Year's Day.

In short, these are fun times if you believe that creative management requires shedding managers. You could make the case that Luhnow, Hinch and Cora had to go, but they were convenient political choices for Crane and Boston owner John Henry, who will probably not know the joy of firing Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool for about 40 years, and that Garrett lasted longer than he would have under any owner other than Jerry Jones.

But the hockey firings are just wacky on toast, making little sense at the time and deteriorating since then. Laviolette and Gallant had been wildly successful in their most recent stops, but someone got a wild hair and hired people who, while sufficiently qualified, hadn't even finished their new set of household chores before getting new gigs. This almost reeks of "Well, we had to do something."

And frankly, most coaching firings are about that. There is a level of twitchiness when an owner (or a school president, when you count the 12 college football coaches who got pinkslipped) reaches that level of dissatisfaction, and that frontier is crossed largely at whim. The hockey hilarities make this all the more evident, and given that this follows the European soccer model of dropping the ace on a manager at a moment's notice, the merging of these seemingly separate cultures is apparently pickling up steam.

But 10 heads in 15 days is beyond the unemployment office's wildest imaginations. Plus, the NBA hasn't even weighed in yet, and they have loads of candidates. This could be the best year for the prefix "ex-" in decades.

Now we just have to restore the word "fired" to its proper place of prominence. Maybe we transition from "parted ways" to "sacked with immediate effect," like the Brits do.

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