Wednesday, May 08, 2013

5/8 (Coaching) Quickie

Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson retired today. He is the greatest coach in soccer history, which qualifies him on the short list for discussion about the greatest coaches in sports history, period.

Domestically, it is hard to appreciate Ferguson's career, so in today's Morning Win column for USA TODAY Sports, I tried to pull it back to wonder what the toughest coaching seats to fill are, with the qualifier of current coaches.

Ferguson is near the top, but I would rank Nick Saban ahead of him. Alabama might be able to get a top-tier replacement eventually -- maybe not someone at the Urban Meyer level, but certainly Dan Mullen or, if the NFL doesn't work out, Chip Kelly. But the reality is that no one in U.S. sports runs a team like Saban.

I actually thought that Butler's basketball coaching job would be immensely difficult to fill -- I mean, they will find someone. But they will be hard-pressed to find someone as good as Brad Stevens, who is arguably the best coach in college basketball.

Jim Harbaugh has immediately set a new gold standard for NFL coaching, thus making himself fairly indispensable. (You wonder if Stanford's David Shaw could immediately step in and take over the role with little drop-off... that mitigates Harbaugh's "toughest seat to fill" status.

I actually think Doc Rivers will be hard to replace in Boston -- not only is the head-coaching pipeline in the NBA really weak, but it is almost impossible to find the combination of Rivers' prior head-coaching experience, plus his work as an assistant, plus his authority as a former player (who played for some all-time great coaches). Then layer in the end of the Big Three era -- and, with it, any realistic shot that Boston will be competitive at the top level for the foreseeable future. Maybe that makes the job easier to fill -- the expectations are fairly low, a testament to the job Rivers has done.

Anyway, please check out the column, which also includes a rip on Phil Jackson (as your team's top executive), praise of Matt Harvey (the obvious current choice to start the All-Star Game for the NL) and thumbs-up for the Grizzlies and Knicks.

-- D.S.

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