By: Jamie Samuelsen
About a year ago, I put together my first ever list of local coaches and how much power/job security that they held in their current gig.
After one of the more eventful years on record, I thought it was worth taking a look again to see how they stacked up. The polling is completely scientific (in other words, it’s a total gut feeling on my part) and the results have a margin-of-error of plus or minus 100%.
1) Tom Izzo (Last Year’s Ranking – 1) There’s not much else to say about Izzo. He’s easily the most powerful man in East Lansing and he may have as much power as any coach in America not named Nick Saban or Mike Krzyzewski. He’s dying to get that second National Championship to put him in company with some of the greats of all time. He doesn’t need it. He’s already there.
2) John Beilein (Last Year’s Ranking – 6) It’s been quite a year for Beilein. He’s coaching one of the best teams in America. He brought in one of the top recruiting classes in America. And he me be coaching the best player (Trey Burke) in America. Crisler Center is all of a sudden a state of the art facility. And he’s being roundly praised for “doing it the right way”. Michigan basketball is exciting again and it’s all thanks to Beilein.
3) Brady Hoke (Last Year’s Ranking – 4) Much like Beilein, it’s pretty obvious that the Michigan athletic department and the University as a whole has a love affair with their football coach. Hoke continues to pile up strong recruiting classes and foster the brand. His “This is Michigan…for God’s sake” quote became an advertising slogan for the school. It’s very easy to envision him in this job for quite a long time. Oh yeah – the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry seems primed for another highly competitive era.
4) Mark Dantonio (Last Year’s Ranking – 3) You could take Hoke, Beilein and Dantonio and shuffle them up and I wouldn’t argue with the order you ended up with. All three seem perfect for their schools and all three clearly have strong support within the athletic department and alumni base. Dantonio takes a step back because of a disappointing season where the Spartans entered as Legends Division favorites and didn’t win a single Big Ten home game. That’s unacceptable given the defense and the presence of running back Le’Veon Bell.
Notice anything in the top four there? All four college coaches are on top and the pro coaches are down below. That’s what’s kind of year it’s been.
5) Jim Leyland (Last Year’s Ranking – 7) The job for Leyland is rather simple this season – win a World Series or lose your job. That may seem a tad blunt but when Mike Ilitch brought his manager back on only a one-year contract that was the clear message. Leyland has the backing of Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski – but only to a point. Remember, they didn’t extend him until after the season was over. The rocky regular season made everyone a little uncomfortable with Leyland.
6) Mike Babcock (Last Year’s Ranking – 2) Easily the biggest fall on the list. This is based on nothing more than a gut feeling, but I’m starting to wonder if Babcock’s style is starting to wear on the Red Wings players just a little bit. The team had tons of cap room during this past summer and ending up striking out on most of their targets. Was that because players liked the offers elsewhere? Perhaps. But there’s a small nagging part of me that wonders if some players weren’t thrilled with the notion of playing for the hard-driving Babcock. That said, if Babcock were to leave, he’d have a new job instantaneously.
7) Jim Schwartz (Last Year’s Ranking – 5) Not as big of a fall as Babcock, but it was a rough year for the Lions head coach. Last year, he was one of the hottest young coaches in the NFL and seemed able to name his price for a contract extension. This year ended with eight straight losses and reports that the Ford family had actually looked into buying out his contract. Much like Leyland, Schwartz is in a do-or-die year. If he doesn’t get the Lions back to at least .500 this fall, he won’t appear on this list in 2014.
8) Lawrence Frank (Last Year’s Ranking – 8) I’m not sure any coach works harder than Frank, but the facts are the facts. Pistons coaches just don’t last very long. Fans aren’t flocking to the Palace to watch this team play. And owner Tom Gores can’t have a ton of patience when it comes to either Frank or GM Joe Dumars. Still, the Pistons play good defense on most nights and rebound the heck out of the ball. They’ve been playing better since the acquisition of Jose Calderon before stubbing their toe big-time on Monday night against the Hornets.