Winning the Press Conference Doesn’t Count

Sometimes I don’t think ownership, front office, or athletic director types have any real clue as to what fans want.  Whenever a coach gets fired, the ones that fire him at some point mention exciting the fans.  Whenever a team has flagging attendance because the team sucks the front office and ESPN talking heads talk about exciting the fans.  The easiest way to excite the fans is to hire some big name coach or mortgage the team to sign a free agent the franchise cannot really afford.  That stuff is always temporary.

What fans really want and what gets fans really excited is a good team.  If the team wins and plays hard, fans will show up for every game.  That is more than just splashing around the most famous names you can find.

For one of the few times in the history of this Earth, I agreed with something Mike Golic said.  On Monday, when seven NFL coaches were fired, he and I think Ryen Rusillo (sitting in for Mike Greenberg) interviewed Sal Paolantonio about Andy Reid being fired in Philadelphia.

Golic had two correct points.  The first, there are only one or two names each cycle that excite the fans.  If you are one of the 5 teams that doesn’t get one of these guys, you are screwing your next head coach.  This is not the guy you promised your fans and they will take that out on this guy with every loss.  Second, what fans want is to win.  When he was hired, Bill Belichick didn’t excite the New England fan base, but he does now because all he does is win.

Too many times the ones doing the hiring care more about what is known as “winning the press conference.”  There have been many owners and athletic directors who have won the press conference with guys they have had to fire less than 2 years later.

Sports franchises need to care what their fans think.  Those fans are customers and you want them to come back.  However, you can never base your decisions solely on what the fans think because most of them have no clue how to run your business.  Fans want to know that you are doing your best to win games.  They want you to make moves that give them and franchise hope.

Fans are also delusional.  This is especially true in college where fans and alumni over value the strength of their programs.  You see it every season.  A job at pretty good program (football or basketball) opens up and the fan base starts putting out its wish list on Twitter and fan message boards.  This list always starts with the most famous coaching names in that sport and works its way down.  This year’s entry into the, “we think this job is much better than it actually is” was the University of Tennessee.

The fan base really wanted Jon Gruden.  The fan base got Butch Jones.  In the long run, Jones is probably the better hire for Tennessee, but if he doesn’t win right away many fans will turn on him because he isn’t Jon Gruden.

Once again I wonder why anyone would want to coach, especially in college.  The fans are crazy, and you keeping your job depends on the mindset of a bunch of 18-22 year old American males.


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