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Replacing a Multi-Championship Winning Coach/Manager

Posted by Andrew McKillop on May 28, 2011

Everybody knows it’s hard to follow in the foot steps of a head coach with multiple championship rings.  This week Mike Brown took on that task by reportedly becoming the Los Angeles Lakers head coach.  Brown fills the vacancy left by the legendary Phil Jackson.

There have been 62 instances, in which teams from the four major professional leagues have replaced a coach/manager that has brought them multiple championships.  The average length of stay for the replacement coach is 3.7 seasons.  Ten such replacement coaches (five of them interim) haven’t even lasted a full season.  Only 13 coaches have had a better team record than their predecessor.

There is an advantage however in replacing a multi-champion coach.  Usually champion coaches leave talented teams behind.  A little over 37% of the successors have gone on to win championships with the team themselves.

Previous head coaching/managerial experience doesn’t statistically make a difference in determining success of the successor coach.  There have been only 13 successors that have had more than one full season of head coaching experience, when taking over for a multi-champion coach.  The average length stay for the experienced replacement coaches is only 2 seasons (four of them didn’t even last one full season), and only one of them (Bernie Geoffrion, Montreal Canadians) won a championship with the team.

The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t had a lot of success in replacing multi-champion head coaches.  Only one successor (Mike Dunleavy) out of three lasted more than a whole season.

Take a look at the complete list.

Note: I didn’t include “absences” on the list, but I did include separate stints on the list (i.e. Phil Jackson, Lakers & George Halas, Bears).  Statistics were only tallied for applicable leagues/teams.

Legend: Sea (Season of Transition), I (Interim coach), Yrs (Full seasons with the team), C (Championship won with team)

Team Sea New Coach Yrs W Pct C Old Coach Yrs W Pct C
MLB
Athletics 1951 J Dykes 3 0.450 0 C Mack 48 0.484 5
Athletics 1974 A Dark 2 0.580 1 D Williams 3 0.603 2
Blue Jays 1998 M Queen (I) 0 0.543 0 C Gaston 6 0.518 2
Cardinals 1946 E Dyer 5 0.578 1 B Southworth 5 0.657 2
Cubs 1913 J Evers 1 0.575 0 F Chance 7 0.664 2
Dodgers 1976 T Lasorda (I) 19 0.526 2 W Alston 22 0.558 4
Dodgers 1996 B Russell (I) 1 0.537 0 T Lasorda 19 0.526 2
Giants 1932 B Terry 9 0.555 1 J McGraw 25 0.591 3
Red Sox 1917 J  Barry 1 0.592 0 B Carrigan 3 0.612 2
Reds 1979 J McNamara 3 0.533 0 S Anderson 9 0.596 2
Twins 2002 R Gardenhire 10 0.543 0 T Kelly 15 0.478 2
Yankees 1930 A Fletcher (I) 0 0.545 0 M Huggins 11 0.597 3
Yankees 1946 B Dickey (I) 0 0.543 0 J McCarthy 15 0.627 7
Yankees 1961 R Houk 3 0.637 2 C Stengel 12 0.623 7
Yankees 1964 Y Berra 1 0.611 0 R Houk 3 0.637 2
Yankees 2008 J Girardi 3 0.588 1 J Torre 12 0.605 4
Team Sea New Coach Yrs W Pct C Old Coach Yrs W Pct C
NBA
Bulls 98-99 T Floyd 3 0.205 0 P Jackson 9 0.738 6
Celtics 66-67 B Russell 3 0.661 2 R Auerbach 16 0.667 9
Celtics 69-70 T Heinsohn 8 0.619 2 B Russell 3 0.661 2
Celtics 78-79 T Sanders (I) 0 0.371 0 T Heinsohn 8 0.619 2
Celtics 88-89 J  Rodgers 2 0.573 0 KC Jones 5 0.751 2
Knicks 82-83 H Brown 4 0.413 0 R Holzman 13 0.559 2
Lakers 59-60 J Castellani 0 0.306 0 J Kundla 10 0.583 5
Lakers 90-91 M Dunleavy 2 0.616 0 P Riley 8 0.733 4
Lakers 04-05 R Tomjanovich 0 0.558 0 P Jackson 5 0.700 3
Lakers 11-12 M Brown P Jackson 6 0.657 2
Piston 92-93 R Rothstein 1 0.488 0 C Daly 9 0.633 2
Rockets 03-04 J Gundy 4 0.555 0 R Tomjanovich 11 0.559 2
Team Sea New Coach Yrs W Pct C Old Coach Yrs W Pct C
NFL/AFL
49ers 1989 G Seifert 8 0.766 2 B Walsh 10 0.605 3
49ers 1997 S Mariucci 6 0.594 0 G Seifert 8 0.766 2
Bears 1942 H Anderson (I) & L Johnsos (I) 3 0.639 1 G Halas 19 0.689 4
Bears 1968 J Dooley 4 0.357 0 G Halas 20 0.593 2
Bills 1966 J Collier 2 0.433 0 L Saban 4 0.679 2
Broncos 1999 J McDaniels 1 0.393 0 M Shanahan 14 0.616 2
Browns 1963 B Collier 8 0.679 1 P Brown 13 0.694 3
Chiefs 1975 P Wiggin 2 0.314 0 H Stram 15 0.590 3
Colts 1963 D Shula 7 0.724 0 W Ewbank 9 0.527 2
Cowboys 1989 J Johnson 5 0.550 2 T Landry 29 0.598 2
Cowboys 1994 B Switzer 4 0.625 1 J Johnson 5 0.550 2
Dolphins 1996 J Johnson 4 0.563 0 D Shula 26 0.656 2
Eagles 1951 B McMillin 0 1.000 0 G Neale 10 0.568 2
Giants 1954 J Howell 7 0.631 1 S Owen 23 0.563 2
Giants 1991 R Handley 2 0.438 0 B Parcells 8 0.606 2
Lions 1957 G Wilson 8 0.510 1 B Parker 6 0.653 2
Packers 1950 G Ronzani 3 0.304 0 C Lambeau 29 0.626 6
Packers 1968 P Bengtson 3 0.476 0 V Lombardi 9 0.730 5
Raiders 1988 M Shanahan 1 0.400 0 T Flores 9 0.610 2
Redskins 1943 D Bergman 1 0.600 0 R Flaherty 7 0.692 2
Redskins 1993 R Petitbon 1 0.250 0 J Gibbs 12 0.674 3
Steelers 1992 B Cowher 15 0.621 1 C Noll 23 0.564 4
Team Sea New Coach Yrs W Pct C Old Coach Yrs W Pct C
NHL
Canadiens 38-39 J Dugal (I) 0 0.500 0 C Hart 8 0.497 2
Canadiens 55-56 Toe Blake 13 0.547 8 D Irvin 15 0.481 3
Canadiens 68-69 C Ruel 2 0.543 1 T Blake 13 0.547 8
Canadiens 79-80 B Geoffrion 0 0.500 0 S Bowman 8 0.661 5
Flyers 78-79 B McCammon 0 0.440 0 F Shero 7 0.556 2
Islanders 86-87 T Simpson 2 0.433 0 A Arbour 12 0.532 4
Maple Leafs 50-51 J Primeau 3 0.462 1 H Day 10 0.474 5
Maple Leafs 69-70 J McLellan 4 0.406 0 P Imlach 10 0.553 4
Oilers 89-90 J Muckler 2 0.469 1 G Sather 10 0.565 4
Rangers 39-40 F Boucher 10 0.343 1 L Patrick 13 0.465 2
Red Wings 47-48 T Ivan 7 0.557 3 J Adams 20 0.428 3
Red Wings 54-55 J Skinner 3 0.498 1 T Ivan 7 0.557 3
Red Wings 02-03 D Lewis 2 0.585 0 S Bowman 9 0.586 3

 

Some more interesting information:

Jimmy Johnson is the only coach to replace two multi-champion head coaches; with the Cowboys in 1989 replacing Tom Landry, and the Dolphins in 1996 replacing Don Shula.

Listed below are coaches that replaced multi-champion coaches, to only be replaced as a multi-champion head coach themselves.

Team(s) Coach Replaced Replaced By
Celtics Bill Russell Tom Heinsohn Red Auerbach
Colts/Dolphins Don Shula Weeb Ewbank Jimmy Johnson
49ers George Seifert Bill Walsh Steve Mariucci
Cowboys Jimmy Johnson Tom Landry Barry Switzer
Raiders/Broncos Mike Shanahan Tom Flores Josh McDaniels
Yankees Ralph Houk Casey Stengel Yogi Berra
Lakers/Rockets Rudy Tomjanovich Phil Jackson Jeff Van Gundy
Dodgers Tom Lasorda Walter Alston Bill Russell
Red Wings Tommy Ivan Jack Adams Jimmy Skinner



Reference: Sports-Reference.com (BB, BK, FB, HK)

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