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Coaches Fired After Successful Seasons

by Rob Joyce

May 15, 2018 - 3:43 pm

It turns out finishing first in the Eastern Conference and setting a franchise record for wins doesn’t get you very far these days. After getting bounced from the playoffs for the third straight year by LeBron James and the Cavaliers, the Raptors fired head coach Dwane Casey over the weekend. Winning five of the last six Atlantic Division titles, Toronto made the change largely due to a lack of postseason success – in that span the Raptors only advanced to one conference final, in 2016.

Winning 72 percent of your games in a season doesn’t often get you fired, but it’s certainly not uncommon in the sports world. Casey joins this unfortunate group of colleagues who were kicked to the curb despite successful seasons.

Dusty Baker:

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The Nationals find themselves with a new manager in 2018 despite comfortably winning back-to-back NL East titles and winning 192 combined games in that span. Baker found himself to be the scapegoat after a five-game loss in the NLDS to the Cubs, ending his brief tenure in Washington. With the Bryce Harper free agent clock ticking ever louder, the Nats are desperately looking for their guy to get past the NLDS, where the organization is 0-4 since 2012.

Bruce Boudreau:

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Prior to this year, Washington had famously never advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in the Alex Ovechkin era, often losing in heartbreaking playoff fashion. The first taste of that bitterness came under Boudreau, who took over during the 2007-08 season. In each of the four seasons he finished behind the bench, the Capitals won the division, but failed in the postseason. First it was a seven-game first-round exit in 2008, then a second-round loss in 2009. In 2010 the Caps won the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best team in the regular season, then lost in Game 7 of the opening round to Montreal. And in 2011 Washington was swept in the first round by Tampa Bay.

After starting 12-9-1 in 2011-12, the owners decided a change was in order, and Boudreau was let go in place of Adam Oates.

Avery Johnson:

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Taking over late in the 2005 season for Don Nelson, Johnson led the Mavericks to a 16-2 finish in the regular season and a trip to the second round of the playoffs. He followed that up by taking Dallas to the NBA Finals in 2006, losing to Miami in six games. Playoff success didn’t come after that. In 2007 the 67-win Mavs were shocked by eighth-seeded Golden State in one of the biggest upsets in NBA history. Another first-round exit in 2008 was enough for Mark Cuban to make a change, replacing Johnson with Rick Carlisle.

Davey Johnson:

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After winning the 1983 World Series, success was hard to come by in Baltimore, and after a 71-73 finish in 1995, Davey Johnson was brought in. He immediately took the Orioles to back-to-back postseasons for the first time since ’83, losing in the 1996 and 1997 ALCS to the juggernaut Yankees. But despite being the AL Manager of the Year, he sparred with team owner Peter Angelos, and Johnson resigned following the season. Baltimore didn’t reach the postseason again until 2012.

George Karl:

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Even in the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook heyday, the Thunder organization has never reached the success achieved by the SuperSonics under George Karl. In six seasons his teams never won fewer than 55 games, including seasons of 63, 64 and 61 victories (for context, since moving to Oklahoma City the Thunder’s best regular season was a 60-22 season in 2012-13). In 1996 Seattle lost to Chicago in the Finals, but otherwise only advanced past the second round one time. After a five-game exit to the Lakers in 1998, Karl was let go.

Marty Schottenheimer:

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The 2005 Chargers finished 9-7 when they were ready to hand the reins of the offense from Drew Brees to Philip Rivers. It appeared to work, as San Diego captured its best regular season in franchise history, going 14-2. Rivers threw for 3,388 yards, while LaDainian Tomlinson led the league with 1,815 rushing yards and a record-setting 28 touchdowns in an MVP season. But a divisional round loss to the Patriots, in which the Bolts led by eight with 8:30 to play, cost Schottenheimer his job. He still holds the record for most career wins (200) without a Super Bowl.

Casey Stengel:

Stengel did the unthinkable in the Bronx in the 1960s – went two years (!!) without winning a World Series. The Hall of Famer started his tenure with the Yankees by winning five straight championships, and in his first decade with New York won seven titles, while losing twice in Game 7s. Then in 1959 the Yankees finished in third place, its worst season since 1948, and despite going back to the World Series in 1960, lost in seven games to the Pirates on Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off. That was enough for Yankees’ brass to part ways with the 70-year-old.