He had never been a head coach at the highest level of his sport. Even so, it took him only a few seasons to shape his young team into a legitimate title contender.
He won games and fans. The media hung on his every quote. In a major metropolitan area where other teams in other sports had more tradition, his team, with the assistance of a couple of charismatic superstars, soon was competing for space on the front pages.
A few weeks after he achieved his greatest success, earning respect in a playoff series against the eventual champions from Detroit, his team’s management rewarded him by firing him.
Philosophical differences were cited. He played his stars too much. He didn’t develop young players. He attracted too much attention to himself.
“We said when we made the decision it would not be popular,” the team’s president said. “But we didn’t care so much about our public image that it would prevent us from making a decision that has to be made.”
Ron Wilson and the Mighty Ducks?
No, Doug Collins and the Chicago Bulls.
Although it was apparent after the 1989 season that the Bulls with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were closing in on the NBA championship, owner Jerry Reinsdorf and General Manager Jerry Krause decided another coach should lead them there.
So the Bulls unceremoniously dumped Collins, much like the Ducks did to Wilson last month.
Today, the Washington Capitals will name Wilson as their coach, ending a perplexing chapter in his career on a lucrative note. He reportedly will earn $700,000 a year, doubling his Duck salary.
As for the Ducks, they’re still searching. President Tony Tavares and General Manager Jack Ferreira can only hope to have as much good fortune in finding a replacement as Reinsdorf and Krause did.
Four championships later, soon to be five perhaps, hardly anyone in Chicago remembers Collins was the coach.
I don’t mean this to justify Wilson’s firing. I’m merely pointing out that Duck management can overcome a curious decision if their next one succeeds.
Of course, Tavares and Ferreira might be limited in their candidates. Disney isn’t likely to go for a bearded, Zen following, erstwhile acid dropper like Phil Jackson.
Has Rupert Murdoch changed his mind yet? . . .
Bill Russell is a nice guy who knows baseball, but there’s only one man who could get the Dodgers’ attention. . . .
Does anyone have A.J. Foyt’s number? . . .
Tickets for the Dodgers’ interleague games next week at Chavez Ravine against the Angels aren’t going as quickly as expected. . . .
Fans seem more intrigued by the Aug. 30-31 games against Seattle. . . .
They’re likely to witness Ken Griffey Jr.'s race to break Roger Maris’ home-run record. . . .
They might not see Randy Johnson pitch, though. The Mariners are reluctant to put him in a situation where he has to bat for fear he might re-injure his back. . . .
The Boston Red Sox open interleague play this week at Shea Stadium, where they let the World Series slip through their legs 11 years ago. . . .
Bill Buckner will not be surprised that the first game against the Mets is scheduled for Friday the 13th. . . .
Limited financially in Minnesota, the Twins predictably are trying to figure out how to move without changing the logos on their caps. They’re considering Mexico City. . . .
Bill Clinton is free to go to the U.S. Open. If Silver Charm had won the Triple Crown, the President would have had to stay at the White House to greet him. . . .
Gary Stevens’ guarantee that Silver Charm would win the Belmont excited New Yorkers because it brought back memories of Joe Namath. . . .
But Namath would have warned Stevens never to bet on a Colt. . . .
Remember sports before Dennis Rodman? When Namath wore panty hose for a commercial, that was considered outrageous behavior for an athlete. . . .
Then there’s Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten, who didn’t know what to do when French Open officials complained about his colorful apparel. . . .
“The only thing white I have is my underwear,” he said. . . .
Even louder than Kuerten’s tennis clothes are the fans at the Delta Center. In fact, Delta’s arena is even louder than its jets. The crowd noise for Utah Jazz home games registers at between 110-120 decibels. A jet taking off registers at 100.
While wondering what Terry Murray would say about the Dodgers, I was thinking: That team doesn’t need a shove in the back but a kick in the butt, the Mighty Ducks gave Detroit more of a scare than Philadelphia did, it’s nice to see Foyt mellowing.