It’s not easy to point to the time when a coach becomes good or, at the very least, accepted by their fanbase. Job approval ratings rarely hit 100 percent across the board, even for guys like Nick Saban, Bill Belicheck or Gregg Popovich. It’s an unforgiving profession.
Even when people get really excited about a hire, things can go south quick. Fans can fall in love quick, and fall out of love even faster.
There’s really no rhyme or reason as to how coaches become legends. Belichick was fired by the Cleveland Browns – the model of football futility – before becoming a six-time champion with the Patriots. Popovich was nearly fired in 1999 when the Spurs, led by David Robinson and Tim Duncan, started 6-8. After a spirited pep talk by team leader Avery Johnson before game 15, the Spurs went on to finish the short season 37-13 and win the title.
He’s been regarded as the best coach in the NBA for the last two decades.
While it’s difficult to figure out what will make a coach last, it’s usually a lot easier to figure out when it is time to make a change. When a coach has lost his team, no matter whose fault it was, it’s time to move on.
That’s what makes Vanderbilt’s announcement early Tuesday morning so baffling. By all accounts, the Commodores have quit playing hard for coach Derek Mason.
Vanderbilt (2-8) may have surprised some by beating then-ranked Missouri in October, but have responded by losing to fellow SEC East members South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky by a combined margin of 118-21.
As players showed visible frustrations to the team's struggles, Mason didn’t do himself any favors after Saturday’s 38-14 loss to Kentucky when he intimated that Vandy fans should realize their program’s success – or just making bowl games – will come in waves. It can’t be sustained.
I’ve been around coaches who are honest to a fault, but even the most-blunt ones wouldn’t go on record saying their team is going to be bad as often as it is good. Even if you think it, it’s probably better not to say it aloud.
Vanderbilt athletic director Malcolm Turner went to Twitter Tuesday to tell fans Derek Mason will be the coach moving forward. As expected, it wasn’t a popular opinion.
Even if Turner is right in other points – like saying Vandy has to spend more on athletics to expect success – he’s missing the big picture here.
It’s hard to find the right guy, but it’s usually easy to know when you have the wrong one.