Monday, September 17, 2012

The Different Paths of Coughlin, La Russa and Calhoun

Originally published February 2012.  Posted again because Jim Calhoun has announced his retirement today as UCONN men's basketball Head Coach.  

While Jim Calhoun is on medical leave at the age of 69 from his head basketball coaching duties at the University of Connecticut, his team is in disarray.  They are not setting their usual standard of winning ways on the court and the team is in trouble with NCAA infractions, sanctions and suspensions off the court.

This has been a difficult year for Calhoun after coming off a remarkable coaching experience in taking his young team of Huskies to the 2011 National Championship.  It was his third time being champ, after wins in 1999 and 2004.

He is the rarest breed of coaches in the U.S. to have won multiple championships in his craft at the highest of levels.

Lamentably, he didn't take the opportunity to retire with grace after his stellar career and third championship.  Instead, probably for reasons of ego and greed, he tried unsuccessfully to carry forward in his coaching duties for this 2011-12 season.

Tony La Russa did the opposite of Calhoun.  He retired following the St. Louis Cardinals' unpredictable comeback World Series title of 2011.  This was his second World Series championship with the Cardinals (2006) and his third overall (He also won a World Series as manager of the Oakland A's in 1989).

La Russa has hung up his cleats for good at the age of 67, except for this year's MLB All-Star game, in which he was invited to guest manage.

Tom Coughlin is also that rare bird who has multiple championships as a coach or manager.  He won in 2008 and 2012.

Coughlin has made it clear he is returning to the sidelines to try for one more Super Bowl title with the New York Giants.  He is 65 years old.  Is this the right decision, considering how it worked out for Calhoun?

When is the right time to step down?

For players, stepping down after winning titles is not a common occurrence.  John Elway and David Robinson are two of the few that retired after a championship winning season.  Both did it after their second titles.

It comes down to individual circumstances.  But, should age and championships factor in to the individual's decision?

Joe Paterno's situation at Penn St. lingered too long in many people's opinions.  Critics have said he was too old to be able to handle all of his responsibilities and negligence led to how Jerry Sandusky got away with what he was doing.

Calhoun is already in the Hall Of Fame.  Coughlin is probably destined to be there too, along with La Russa.  So, what else does Tom Coughlin have to prove?

Coughlin should change his mind before its too late and go out as a humble, multiple champ who won't tarnish any of his past accomplishments.  If he retires, he won't ever be run out of town because of a bad record or clashing with young players.  If he retires, he has any analyst job out there to choose from. If he retires now, fans will remember him always on top.

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