7 Ugliest Coaching Breakups
by Rob Joyce
Over the weekend Jason Kidd attempted an unsuccessful power move in within the Brooklyn Nets organization, trying to go from simply the head coach to having complete control of all basketball operations. The team not only denied the request, but made it clear they would not want Kidd back at all. That led to Kidd being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks to become their head coach… even though the Bucks had a coach under contract in Larry Drew. It was a very quick, but volatile situation, among the nastiest separations ever between a coach and team… here’s some more of the ugliest coaching breakups ever.
7) Casey Stengel and the Yankees: After 10 pennants and seven World Series championships, Stengel did not get to set off into the sunset. Upon losing the 1960 World Series, a 70-year-old Stengel was forced into retirement. In his press conference, Stengel announced that his “services were no longer desired. That was their excuse; the best they’ve got.” After a year away from the game, Stengel returned to New York to manage the expansion Mets for four years.
6) Billy Martin and the Yankees: Martin would appear higher on the list if he didn’t continually patch up his relationship with George Steinbrenner. But of his five spells as manager with the Yankees, there were some memorable exits. His first stint ended in 1987 after continued controversies led to Martin calling Steinbrenner a “convict” and star Reggie Jackson a “born liar”. After being hired back the next year, a fight with a marshmallow salesman would force his second exit from the Bronx. His final act as manager in 1985 involved a fight with a pitcher that left Martin with a broken arm. Despite all this, Martin’s number one is retired in Monument Park.
5) Nick Saban and the Dolphins: Nick Saban’s reign at Alabama began under a cloud of controversy. After stumbling to a 6-10 finish in his second season with the Dolphins. During the final few weeks of the year, rumors were abound that Saban would leave Miami to fill the vacant opening at the University of Alabama. He repeatedly denied the rumors, eventually saying “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach”. Less than two weeks later, Saban indeed was the Alabama coach.
4) Jason Kidd and the Nets: It is one thing to pull a coup when you are already the head coach, especially when Kidd is arguably the best player to don a Nets jersey since they joined the NBA in 1976. But it is another to then force a trade to another team (in this case, Milwaukee) that already has a coach. And to top off the situation, Bucks ownership did not tell now ex-head coach Larry Drew that his job was being taken away. Essentially Drew was blindsided out of a job. Kidd and the Bucks look real bad here.
3) Bobby Petrino and the Falcons: Petrino is one of many college coaches who failed in the NFL, but his fall was a harder than most. Signing a five-year contract with the Falcons, Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring came to light as Year One began for Petrino, and Atlanta limped to a 3-10 start. Before Week 15, Petrino bolted back to the college game to become the head coach at Arkansas. Falcons players and staff were less than pleased by the four-sentence, laminated note left at each locker that let them know of his decision.
Controversy would also end Petrino’s reign in Fayetteville. He was fired in 2012 after Petrino crashed his motorcycle, revealing an adulterous relationship with a passenger on-board who was also an Arkansas employee.
2) Lane Kiffin and the Raiders: One of Al Davis’ last controversies before his death. After Kiffin’s first year at the helm of Oakland ended at 4-12 in 2007, Davis tried to force him to resign and forfeit the remaining $2 million on his salary. Kiffin (naturally) said no, so Davis fired him over the phone. At the news conference to announce the firing, the curmudgeonly Raiders owner went on the offensive, calling Kiffin a “flat out liar” who was “bringing disgrace to the organization”. Oakland tried to terminate the contract so they did not have to pay Kiffin $2.6 million. In response, Kiffin field a grievance against the Raiders. Both sides came out looking bad, and the Raiders have not gotten any better since (although Kiffin is only one of a laundry list of reasons why).
1) Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys: Together, Jimmy Johnson and owner Jerry Jones put together one of the most successful franchises of all-time. They won two Super Bowls and helped make the Cowboys return to their glory days as “America’s Team”. But there was one issue: both wanted credit. Jones wanted more say in football operations, something Johnson did not want to happen. Meanwhile Johnson was looking at other coaching jobs, which led Jones to declare that he would determine the coaching career of Johnson. Jones topped it off by saying that any coach could lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl. The two mutually agreed to part ways after the 1993 season.