Has firing a coach ever turned a team around?

From losing ways to winning ways that is. Usually when a team starts to struggle or falls below expectations too many times the first one to go (often the only one to go) is the coach, mainly because you can’t just up and “fire” players i imagine. Usually this has no effect whatsoever, the team keeps right on losing, sometimes doing worse than before, but at least it gives the appearance that management is doing SOMETHING. What i am curious about is if there’s been any instances were the coach was really the problem and firing him resulted in the team becoming a lot better as a result.


Although, I have a feeling, when I provide details, you will declare that what I describe is not what you meant.

University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball

In the 2008-2009 season, Billy Gillepsie was the coach, and the team played so badly, they didn’t get invited to the NCAA March Madness. They got invited to the NIT instead. And lost.

Billy Gillepsie lost his job immediately afterwards.

John Calipari was hired soon after that.

This year, the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball team will quite likely be one of the Number 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, and even made an appearance at #1 in the polls.

Admittedly, this success is partly credit to John Wall-- a freshman likely to go pro after this season, and there are other personnel differences I won’t try to explain, but frankly, John Wall would most likely not have come to Kentucky had John Calipari not been the coach.

Yes, if that coach is named Jimy Williams, who was twice fired in mid-season by baseball teams that were underperforming (1989 Toronto Blue Jays and 2004 Houston Astros). Both times the team went on to play much better in the remainder of the season, making the playoffs and losing in the league championship series.

If you’re looking for IMMEDIATE results, how about the 1978 Yankees? They had fallen far behind the red-hot Red Sox, and manager Billy Martin had completely alienated many of the team’s best players, especially Reggie Jackson. Once Steinbrenner fired Martin, and the more genial Bob Lemon took over, the team breathed a sigh of relief, relaxed, and began playing great baseball again. They caught the Red Sox and went on to win the World Series. The pitching staff, especially Catfish Hunter and Eddie Fugueroa, performed a lot better under Lemon, who was an excellent pitcher and pitching coach himself. Lemon MAY deserve a lot of the credit for turning things around.

Now, can we KNOW that such a talented team wouldn’t eventually have turned things around under Billy Martin? Obviously not. I forget who I’m stealing this observation from, but someone once said, “Fans and reporters always look at a team that’s struggling, a team where everyone’s fighting and pointing fingers, and they think, if the team would just pull together, they’d finally win! But those fans and writers have it backwards. If the team would just win, they’d finally pull together.”

The Penguins fired their coach about this time last season. At the time they were out of the playoffs(and 8 of the 15 teams in their conference make the playoffs). They ended up winning the Stanley Cup.

Now, many will argue that getting some key players back from injury is what made the difference, but they had a huge turnaround under the new coach.

Last year’s Colorado Rockies were 18-28 so they fired their manager and went 74-42 the rest of the way.

damn you beat me to it. I was going to use this example. You can also say the same thing with Washington Capitals and Boudreau. They were really bad even with Ovechkin but somehow Boudreau changed the style of play and I guess lockerroom atmosphere to get the players to actually enjoy hockey. They’re a better team now than with the previous coach.

Similarly, the Florida Marlins started out 16-22 in 2003, fired Jeff Torborg, and replaced him with 72-year old Jack McKeon. They went 75-49 the rest of the way (which is close to a 100-win pace over a full season), took the wild card and went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

This was only the second year in the Marlins’ 11-year (at the time) history that they had finished with a winning record. McKeon would later guide the Marlins’ to two 83-79 seasons before Jeffrey Loria decided to purge the roster, and McKeon along with it.

I wonder if there’s another manager with Jimy Williams’ track record of being fired three times, and having each one of those teams substantially improve afterwards? (I’m still bitter that the Astros fired Larry Dierker for not being able to win in the playoffs and … hired Jimy frigging Williams to replace him. Of all people.)

A lot of good examples here, thanks guys. Has it ever happened in the NBA or NFL?

Immediate turnarounds are very hard in the NFL. No one player or coach can turn a lousy team into a great team in a hurry.

The biggest one-season turnaround I can think of in the NFL was the Miami Dolphins, who went from 1-15 to 11-5 in Tony Sparano’s first year as head coach.

Otherwise, even the best coaches usually need two or more seasons to achieve medicority, and a bit longer to turn a a bad team into a championship caliber team.

The Nets were 0-18 this year, setting the record for futility starting the season. New coach Vinny Del Negro took over and they immediately won 1 game. Then lost like 11 more, but hey, they’re like 7-40 or something since then!

The Nets also make the list for firing their coach in 2004 and hiring Lawrence Frank, who went on to set the record for most consecutive wins by a coach to start his career (13).

NBA – Red Holzman replaced Dick McGuire as coach of the New York Knicks in 1967-68 with the team at 15-22. It went 28-17 the rest of the way and made the playoffs.

To sane people (meaning people who aren’t UK fans), the 2008-2009 team probably never sank lower than mediocrity. But given UK’s storied history, mediocrity was unacceptable (and the coach’s off-court behavior wasn’t winning him fans). Still, the magnitude of change given the shortness of time, makes it worth noting as a possible example.

In 2008-2009 they went(19-12) (8-8 SEC)
2009-2010, they went (29-2) both losses in the SEC, and have high hopes coming into the tournaments. (SEC this weekend, and NCAA soon to follow).

Bill Parcells was hired as their head of football operations, and he has to get some of the credit for that one, too.

Their new coach is Kiki Vandeweghe. Del Negro is the coach of the Bulls.

Lawrence Frank coached the Nets for their first 16 games this year (0-16). Tom Barrise coached them for two games (0-18), in which time they set the record for worst start in league history, before Vandeweghe took over. I think Vandeweghe didn’t want to coach in the first place and wouldn’t take the job unless someone else was the coach when they set the loss record. Under him they are 7-38 - and they won his second game, not his first - and they have a chance to be the worst NBA team ever.

Particularly if you’re looking at during-the-season replacements, in which the new coach (who is often termed “interim” coach) doesn’t usually have a chance to install a new system.

One example I can think of is the San Diego Chargers in the late 1970s. They were mediocre, at best, through most of the 1970s, and they fired Tommy Prothro after 4 games (at 1-3) during the 1978 season. He was replaced by Don Coryell, who went 8-4 the rest of the way, and they barely missed the playoffs. Then, over the following 3 seasons, the “Air Coryell” Chargers, with Fouts, Jefferson, Winslow, etc. won 12, 11, and 10 games.

Dallas Cowboys

Dave Campo


Bill Parcells

The Florida Gators football team was languishing under Ron Zook’s leadership for three years starting in 2002. They weren’t terrible and had great recruits, but Zook’s coaching left much to be desired. They even lost to a Mississippi State team that was one of the worst in Division I-A. Finally Zook got run out of town, and the Gators won national titles in Urban Meyer’s second and fourth seasons as coach.

Ooops! :o I knew his name started with a V somehwere!