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No Harmony For Coaching Quarter

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Commentary: No harmony for coaching quartet


By Greg Stoda


Palm Beach Post Columnist


Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Pat Riley is a couple of weeks into his reintroduction as head coach of the Miami Heat. Nick Saban is one game away from completion of his first season as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Jacques Martin is about halfway through his first season as head coach of the Florida Panthers. Joe Girardi is a couple of months away from the start of spring training, which will lead to his first season as head coach of the Florida Marlins.


Otherwise, though, there exists a difference in terms of perspective and task facing each of them.


Riley, who once upon forever ago coached the Los Angeles Lakers to four NBA titles, must deal with the greatest pressure and expectation. He built the Heat into what it has become, for better or worse, as team president and is now back in the coach's seat after a couple of years doing office work. A different kind of Miami team went all the way to the Eastern Conference championship round last season with another coach, but then Stan Van Gundy up and quit to prompt Riley's return.


Riley, who got the Heat that far only once in eight previous seasons as its head coach, had better get it at least that far this time around. If he doesn't, it'll be time for voices far more important than mine to raise questions about Riley's orchestration of Miami's version of The Shaquille O'Neal Era.


It was a couple of weeks ago somewhere in the cold or snow of Chicago or Milwaukee when Riley, who then was just beginning to throw himself back into the business of coaching the Heat, said: "The highest form of sanity is now, today, the present."


OK, but, Riley's sanity looked more like relief than anything else Sunday evening after Miami had escaped the Lakers... and it's only December.


Which brings us to a different kind of December: Saban's. He and the Dolphins have stuffed it with four victories in as many games to push their winning streak to five and their record to 8-7, which only has changed, well, everything.


Saban and the Dolphins were dealing with little or no demand to produce anything more than modest, if any, immediate improvement out of the wreckage of a 4-12 season.


"All I know is that in every situation that we've been involved in... we've made a significant contribution to the success of that organization," Saban said upon taking the Dolphins job a year ago. "And not to make comparisons, but we've never taken over successful programs."


There won't, or shouldn't be, considerations of championship possibilities for the Dolphins as soon as next season no matter what they might do Sunday afternoon against New England. Neither, however, will there be a getaway car parked at the corner of Wannstedt and Fiedler for Saban if he doesn't keep his team driving in the right direction.


Which brings us to whatever direction the Panthers and Marlins can find.


Martin was in the unusual position of being a coach with no season for which to prepare when the NHL lost its 2004-05 calendar to labor strife.


"This is a new start for a lot of the players. You don't come in with a lot of bias," Martin said the summer before the season that wasn't.


Some bias must be starting to form now, though, because the Panthers were 13-24 entering Monday night's game against Philadelphia in BankAtlantic Center, where the most significant goal remains getting people to come through the doors.


The Marlins know so much about attendance problems that they're shopping themselves to other cities. In the meantime, they've traded almost every player of note other than Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera.


"I expect them to compete for the (NL East title)," Girardi said just after Thanksgiving.


That kind of sentiment stems from the optimism that is part of being new to the boss' seat. The truth is Girardi will have done a reasonably good job if the Marlins don't lose 100 games next season.


What an odd quartet they make.


Riley is the veteran who seemed increasingly to be at loose ends without coaching, but these days seems emotionally detached given the chore he has assumed. Saban has stormed into the NFL after an excellent college coaching career, but hasn't yet really been introduced to the cauldron that is a Dolphins team on the rise. Martin finds himself in an NHL wasteland after producing 8 1/2 years of stellar work in Ottawa, where an ice rink is an altar of religion. And soon Girardi, who is of Chicago Cub and New York Yankee pedigree, will discover the awful truth about a place where baseball matters only slightly more than hockey.


These are South Florida's various insanities of professional sports at present.


Listen to Greg Stoda from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and Fridays on ESPN 760-AM.


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I can remember several years back (1998 I think) when the South Florida coaches were at the top of the ladder.


Doug Maclean, Jimmy Johnson, Pat Riley, and Jim Leyland.



i dont think it will be long before south forida coaches are eating ambrosia again.....


the heat will win the title this year, mark that statment along with the triumphent return of pat riley.....saban will have this team in the playoffs next year....superbowl 3 years, one quarterback and an offensive line later


the panthers, i honestly dont know much about, but they seem to have a lot of young talent to go with a coach that cant handle the new NHL....please correct me if i'm wrong....


giardi, well, florida might not have baseball for long, but while joe is here, everyone is going to love him, he'll do a fantastic job


not a bad way to start a legacy, huH? first mangerial postion: took a brand new team to unseen heights, it could be sweet

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