Coaches must win or be fired

Published 8:32 am Friday, January 2, 2015

This is usually the time of the year when college and National Football League head coaches learn if they’ve been given the proverbial axe or allowed to stay for another year or so.

The carousel that is the coaching profession was really busy after last weekend’s games. Three head coaches were fired after sub-par seasons, while another, bolted for Ann Arbor, Mich., to become the head coach at the University of Michigan.

The Atlanta Falcons’ firing of Mike Smith on Monday was somewhat of a surprising move, especially since the Falcons were in the running for the NFC South Division championship until the final game of the season. But a 6-10 record, coupled with a 34-3 blowout defeat to the Carolina Panthers got Smith canned.

Along with Smith, the Chicago Bears’ Mark Trestman was let go, and the New York Jets’ Rex Ryan. Neither Trestman nor Ryan could turn their respective teams around in their tenures, so they’re gone.

Jim Harbaugh appears to be the big winner in all of this. He signed a multimillion-dollar contract to be the head coach at the University of Michigan. Harbaugh was a standout quarterback and four-year letterman at Michigan under coach Bo Schembechler.

To make room for Harbaugh, Michigan fired Brady Hoke after four seasons. Hoke took over for Rich Rodriguez.

Two of the most memorable coaching changes I had occasion to have insight were were John Brady’s taking over the LSU basketball program at LSU and Steve Sloan’s arrival at Ole Miss during my second year in Oxford.

Brady made the mistake of taking over the program from Dale Brown, who coached the Tigers for 25 seasons. I went to school with Brady in McComb, Miss., and knew his intensity level first hand.

At the introductory press conference at the Maravich Center, I remember Brady paused 11 times to compose himself.

Brady took over LSU in 1997 when the Tigers were on probation, but just a short time later, Brady had LSU playing in the Sweet 16.

Brady’s LSU teams were also successful in the 2005-2006 season. The Tigers reached the Final Four for the first time since the 1986.

But Brady couldn’t maintain the momentum from that season, and he was let go after 10 seasons and a 184-126 overall record that included two SEC regular season championships and four NCAA Tournaments.

When Sloan was hired at Ole Miss, Rebel supporters thought they had just won the lottery. Here was a guy who had led lowly Vanderbilt to a bowl game. I thought if he can do that at Vanderbilt, there is no telling what he could do for us.

The day of Sloan’s press conference there wasn’t a seat to be had to hear him speak.

But Sloan’s couldn’t sustain prolonged success like John Vaught had a long time before him and he was gone after five seasons and a 20-34 record.

They say coaches are hired only to be fired. Such is life.

Randy Hammons is a staff writer for the Daily News. He can be reached at 985-732-2565 or by email at