Now that Ozzie Guillen has migrated south to the Miami Marlins, Chicago is once again left with just one head coach who has won a championship for his Windy City squad. Before Blackhawks head man Joel Quenneville led the Hawks to the Stanley Cup, Chicago had not had two coaches who had reached the summit since 1992. That year Phil Jackson was in the midst of his first three-peat with the Bulls and Da Coach (Mike Ditka for you Indiana readers) was coming off back-to-back 11-5 campaigns with the Bears. Ditka would unfortunately end ’92 with a 5-11 season and get sacked by the Bears.
With Ozzie gone, and both baseball teams bringing in new managers, it is time to establish a new hierarchy of professional coaches in Chicago. The following rankings are based solely on my opinion and will be backed up by very few statistics or expert opinions. If after reading you feel my opinion is somehow biased, good job! It is. Let’s jump right in. Here are my Chicago coach rankings:
1) Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks- Coach Q (and his mustache) is the second longest tenured head coach in Chicago. He is in his fourth year with the Hawks and is the only head man in Chicago with a championship trophy. In his three plus years at the helm, the Hawks are 170-88 ( .659 winning percentage) and have made the playoffs in each year. The biggest reason Quenneville tops my list is his one Stanley Cup. Reason number two is his mustache. The last four Chicago coaches to bring home titles have worn a mustache at some time in his career. Taking notes Lovie?
In his 15 seasons Quenneville has finished above .500 every year. He has also only missed the playoffs one time in his career. Earlier this year Q won his 600th game, and again, he has a great mustache. While hockey is the forgotten sport in many cities, it is certainly not forgotten in the Second City. The Quenneville era has been a great time for hockey fans in Chicago, and he is the reason.
2) Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls- Thibs is in only his second year as the head coach of the Bulls, but you cannot argue with results. Thibodeau took Chicago back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since Michael Jordan was knocking out the Indiana Pacers. Last season the Bulls won a league high 62 games. Perhaps the most impressive thing Thibodeau has done in Chicago is getting a professional sports team to go all-out, all the time. That was the biggest reason for their 62 win season, following back-to-back 41 win years with Vinny Del Negro
not calling the shots.
In the NBA half the battle is getting players to respect the coach. Derrick Rose has raved about Thibodeau’s dedication, and relentless work. Starters Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer have taken their occasionally reduced roles in stride. There appears to be no doubt that Thibs is the man in charge, which is no small feat considering the last “coach” nearly came to blows with his boss over playing time. With Thibodeau in town, Bulls fans can feel confident about the direction of the team, which is certainly a welcome change.
3) Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears- Over the past eight years, Bears fans have stared at Lovie Smith staring at the sky. There have been good years with Lovie leading the Bears, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2007 and a trip to the NFC title game last year. Unfortunately there have been more bad years than good. Lovie-led teams have made the playoffs only three times in eight years. Four teams failed to post winning records, and twice the Bears finished dead last in the division.
Since his Super Bowl appearance the Bears are only 42-38, and have won only one playoff game. Perhaps Lovie is merely struggling through one of the longer Super Bowl hangovers, but it is a little more likely that the
fearless fireless leader of the Bears is nearing the end of his run. There is one thing Lovie could do to save his job and steer the Bears in the right direction: Grow a mustache.
4) Dale Sveum, Chicago Cubs- When I re-write this a year from now, I fully expect Sveum will have leap-frogged Lovie Smith. All it will take for this to happen is for Dale to prove himself competent as a manager and to finish somewhere in the top four in the NL Central. I know, lofty standards I have. The only reason Sveum finds himself behind Lovie is that he is in his first year as a big league manager.
Like Thibodeau, Sveum captured a world championship in Boston prior to taking over in Chicago. Unlike Thibodeau, Sveum does not have Derrick Rose. It is hard to predict how managers will do in their first year leading a team, but Dale is a baseball man through and through, and seems like a pretty good fit for the job.
5) Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox- Ventura finds himself taking over a White Sox team in the midst of a rebuild. Robin’s situation seems a lot more similar to that of Vinny Del Negro than Tom Thibodeau. Ventura was one of the best hitting third basemen of all time, ranking third in seasons with 90+ RBI (8) and eleventh in career slugging percentage (.444). Robin also belted 18 career grand slams, fifth most in history.
Unlike Sveum, Ventura has virtually no coaching experience. Captain Paul Konerko played his first game as a White Sox the year after the club allowed Ventura to leave for New York. The fact that Ventura was apprehensive about taking the job has worried many Sox fans, but hopefully Ken Williams sees something in Robin that he didn’t see in himself. Sox fans can expect year one of the Ventura era to be rocky, but his baseball pedigree may allow him to turn into a nice manager. Either way, expect a lot fewer “White Sox Manager Blows Up” headlines on SportCenter.
Honorable Mention: Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire- Why is Klopas honorable mention rather than ranked 6th? Because I honestly do not consider the Chicago Fire to be a part of the Chicago professional sports scene. I called my only friend who follows soccer and asked him if he could name the Fire coach off the top of his head. Brian could not. He was initially offended when I explained my list to him, and my decision to make Klopas honorable mention, but when I reminded him he didn’t even know the guy’s name, he seemed okay with the lack of a ranking. Seeing as I know nothing about Frank Klopas, nor do I know anything about soccer, I will not attempt to further rationalize his being left out of the top five. I did find a picture of good ole Frank, but he does not have a mustache, so it is not worth sharing.
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