Flip Saunders fired: Is it part of a D.C. coaching curse?
In one of the last memorable (or unmemorable) moments of Flip Saunders' head coaching tenure in Washington, we saw him flip out on a referee in Boston.
I actually liked it - but not just because the referee missed a glaring foul. Instead, it showed more heart and tenacity than most of his Wizards players displayed while losing 15 of their first 17 games; a record that cost Saunders his job on Tuesday.
Alas, it was obvious the clock was ticking at a rate much faster than the Washington's speed of play in what turned out to be Flip's final game as the team's coach. In their 20 point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, the Wizards literally walked down the court in offensive possessions, missed eight of nine buckets in the paint and racked up nine turnovers.
I'm not really sure you can call it the final straw in what the team's fan base had to endure since 2009, but it ended up being what sent Flip packing.
What's most interesting in Saunders' departure, however, is the empathy for him that many people expressed through social media after he was fired. It's not to say they didn't agree with the decision-making of the greater powers that be, but the commonly theme was something like, "What else could he do?"
That sentiment led me to a romantic notion: fans cling to the idea of curses because they need something to dispel and explain frustration. Writers use them because it makes a good storyline.
(Give me credit here. The Wizards are the worst team in basketball.)
Great, old Babe Ruth left his mark on Boston with the "Curse of the Great Bambino." Something had to explain Bill Buckner's infamous error in 1986, right? Fortunately for Boston fans, though, the Red Sox busted that curse in 2004.
Chicago Cubs fans aren't so lucky. Legend has it that Billy Sianis, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, brought his goat to Wrigley Field during the 1945 World Series against the Detroit Tigers. When he was asked to leave because of his pet's odor, he said the Cubs would never win another World Series.
They hadn't since 1908. Over a century later, they still haven't.
And when the Cubs became World Series contenders in the early 2000's, in came Steve Bartman. As we all know, he was the one who reached for what would have been the second out in the eighth inning of Game 6 in the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins. His actions kept Chicago outfielder Moises Alou from catching a pop fly, and Florida went on to score eight runs in that ill-fated inning.
A loss in that game and another in Game 7 the following night knocked the Cubs out of the playoffs, and the Marlins went on to win the World Series. Then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich even suggested Bartman join the Witness Protection Program. Fans don't mess around in Chicago.
But what does this have to do with Washington? In the span of just a year and a half, then head coaches of either professional or college programs have either been let go, have resigned or retired.
The list includes longtime Maryland Terrapins coaches Ralph Friedgen and Gary Williams, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, D.C. United bench boss Curt Onalfo, George Washington's Karl Hobbs, George Mason's Jim Larranaga, Navy's Billy Lange, the Mystics' Julie Plank, and last but not least, Saunders.
With Saunders gone, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan is now, remarkably, the longest tenured professional coach in Washington.
He's been here for two seasons. In that time, Shanahan's Redskins have posted an 11-21 record, which is actually worse than Jim Zorn's two-year tenure on the sidelines at FedEx Field.
You can blame the lack of player depth or the management or the owners (as many of you often do, especially in regards to one specific individual). Or, in what's usually the easiest path to take, you can blame the coach. But when it comes to Washington's coaching carousel, maybe ill-fate is dealt before they even take the reins.
Perhaps Washington has a coaching curse.
With that said, good luck, Randy Wittman.
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