If at first you don't succeed ...
By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff

After Mike Price was fired as Alabama's head coach last weekend, he said he'd made a plea for a "second chance." Judging by recent sports history, second chances (and third, and fourth ones), seem almost like a constitutional right. The athletes, coach and broadcaster listed below all got many, many chances after making big mistakes. There's a lesson for Price in the stories below -- just wait. You'll coach again. Just not at 'Bama.

Steve Howe
This isn't the only snow that almost consumed Howe.
1. Steve Howe
Howe, a promising Dodgers reliever when he debuted in 1980, set the all-time record for second chances. He was suspended from baseball for drug abuse (cocaine, alcohol) seven times over a career that spanned 17 years. In 1991, he returned to the bigs after a four-year absence and pitched well for the Yankees, recording a 3-0 record and 1.68 ERA. Then Fay Vincent banned Howe from baseball when he was arrested for buying a gram of cocaine.

Still, he was ultimately reinstated,and the Yankees stuck with Howe, who played in pinstripes from 1991 to 1996. His best post-ban season by far came in 1994, when he saved 15 games and had a 1.80 ERA.

2. Doc Gooden
Doc's first second chance came in 1987. He tested positive for cocaine, went to rehab at the start of the season, and returned in time to finish with a 15-7 record. After years of being on-again, off-again with drugs and alcohol, he was suspended in Sept. 1994 and through the entire 1995 season.

What do you think?
Page 2 columnist Eric Neel believes Larry Eustachy and Mike Price didn't deserve a second chance.

Should they have? Should coaches be given another chance after messing up? Vote in our second-chance poll to tell us what you think.

George Steinbrenner gave him another "second" chance after his suspension; Gooden went 11-7 for the Yankees in 1996 and pitched a no-hitter. But from there, it was all downhill: Doc won only 26 games in his final four years as a major league hurler, shuttling among the Yankees, Indians, Astros and Devil Rays, finally finding himself out of baseball at 35.

3. Bob Knight
For Coach Knight, Indiana was an awfully forgiving place -- until a couple of years ago. You know the story. Knight was unceremoniously dumped after yet another "incident." But he found an even more forgiving place: Texas Tech, a school desperate to appear anywhere on the basketball radar screen.

The combo was an immediate hit, like PB&J. In Knight's first season, he took Tech from 9-19 to 23-9 and a berth in the Big Dance. Tech went 22-13 in 2002-03, falling in the NIT semifinals. Knight said he felt he didn't deserve his $250K salary, and returned it to the University.

4. Darryl Strawberry
In 1995, Steinbrenner came to the rescue, signing Darryl after three miserable seasons with the Dodgers and Giants in which the former future great played only 104 games. During Strawberry's five-year run with the Yankees, Steinbrenner gave the slugger multiple second chances to come back from drug and alcohol problem, but the same old sad story kept repeating itself. In 1998, Strawberry gave us a glimpse of the old form, hitting 24 homers and driving in 57 in 101 games.

Zero tolerance
These folks didnšt get a second chance:

Pete Rose -- Banned from baseball in 1989, and you know the rest of the story.

Joe Jackson and the 1919 Black Sox -- Banned from baseball after the 1920 season.

O.J. Simpson -- Banned from polite society after his murder trial.

Art Shell: The first African-American head coach in the NFL was fired by the Raiders in 1995 despite leading the team to a .587 winning percentage and being named Coach of the Year in 1990. His name has come up for top spots since then, but hešs never been given another chance to head coach. Itšs a puzzler. "Gosh, I don't know why," said Dan Reeves when asked about Shell being passed over, again and again. "Art is very knowledgeable. He has a great rapport with players. I can't answer that."

Al Campanis: The Dodger exec, one of the most racially progressive front office men in baseball, stuck his foot in his mouth on ABC's Nightline in 1987, saying African-Americans lack "some of the necessities to be a field manager or general manager." The Dodgers fired him within days, despite his 46 years of service with the club and despite the opinion of many that his remarks were entirely out of character.

Jimmy the Greek Snyder: On Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday in 1988, the CBS commentator was fired after saying that the success of black athletes was due to superior breeding. "During the slave period, the slave owner would breed his big black with his big woman so that he would have a big black kid­that's where it all started." He was fired the next day, never to return to the airwaves.

Gary McCord: In 1994, McCord, calling the Masters for CBS, said Augusta "bikini-waxed'' the greens, and that "body bags'' were located behind the 17th green. "McCord wasn't far off when he used his morbid metaphor," wrote SI's John Garrity of the 17th. "Everyone describes a shot hit here as death." Nonetheless, after his comments McCord never again broadcast golf's premier event.

In his first nine seasons, Strawberry was named rookie of the year and then played in eight straight All-Star games. In his last eight years, he appeared in only 335 games.

5. Marv Albert
NBC fired the veteran sportscaster after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery in a case that involved accusations that Albert went too far during what Court TV called "rough sex," with a woman he'd had an affair with for years. Besides being canned by The Peacock Network, Albert resigned from his job with the MSG cable channel.

A year later, he was back with MSG. NBC rehired Albert after another year, to broadcast hoops. "I'm fortunate the way things have worked out," Albert said. "I'm thrilled."

6. Mike Tyson
At 20, he became the youngest world heavyweight champ in history, knocking out Trevor Berbick on Nov. 22, 1986. Six year later he was in prison, and he ended up serving three years for rape. Five months after leaving the bars behind, he was back in boxing, and regained his WBC and WBA titles. Then came the ear-biting in the Evander Holyfield bout, which resulted in the revocation of his Nevada boxing license. No problem in the world of boxing -- as long as he brings the big purses, he'll keep having chances to fight.

7. George Steinbrenner
The Boss likes giving folks second chances, and he's received quite a few himself. In 1974, not long after he bought the club, Steinbrenner became a footnote in Watergate history, pleading guilty to making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's presidential campaign. Bowie Kuhn suspended him for two years, but lifted the suspension after only nine months. In 1990, commish Fay Vincent banned him for life after it became known that Steinbrenner had paid a gambler $40,000 to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield. Steinbrenner was allowed to come back two years later.

8. 1972 USSR Basketball team
Trailing by one point to the U.S. in the 1972 Olympic basketball final, the Russians got three chances in the final three seconds to score the winning basket. Eventually, they succeeded, "winning" the gold medal, 51-50. "We couldn't believe that they were giving them all these chances," said U.S. forward Mike Bantom, who had no doubts that cheating was involved. "It was like they were going to let them do it until they got it right."

9. Art Schlichter
He QBed Ohio State all the way to the Rose Bowl in 1979, and the Colts made him their first pick in the 1982 draft -- fourth overall. Long before his rookie season ended, he had gambled away about a half million, and was banned by the NFL, missing the 1983 season. In 1984, he was allowed to return after being treated for his gambling addiction. He played the 1984 and 1985 seasons, continued to gamble, and got banned again, this time for good, before the start of the 1986 season. He played a total of only 13 games in the NFL

Lawrence Phillips
The sky was the limit for Lawrence.
10. Lawrence Phillips
In September of his senior year, the Nebraska star was suspended from the team after accusations that he brutally assaulted an ex-girlfriend; he pleaded no contest, and returned to the Cornhuskers a month later. (Coach Tom Osborne: "It's not as though Lawrence is an angry young man all the time and a threat to society. But there are occasions every four to five months where he becomes a little explosive.")

A first-round draft pick in 1996, the running back played less than two seasons for the Rams before being fired for insubordination. During that period, he had been arrested three times and spent 23 days in jail. The Dolphins gave the running back a second chance later that season, but Phillips was accused of hitting a woman who refused to dance with him at a nightclub, and Miami said goobye after he pleaded no contest to a battery charge. In 1999, the 49ers gave him yet another chance, suspended and released him, again for subordination.

Strike three came, said 49ers executive Bill Walsh, when Phillips said, "Why should I practice? You're not going to play me anyway." But, Walsh added, "It wasn't just a one-remark incident. It was a series of them during a practice and, to some degree, some of the previous practices. Lawrence indicated to a number of other players and to other people he did not want to play for the 49ers and was expecting to play for Buffalo in the very near future."

Phillips would not go on to play for Buffalo, or any other NFL team, for that matter. But last year, he led the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL in rushing with 1,022 yards and 13 TDs. This during a season in which he quit the team twice.

But even the Als have had enough. They released Phillips just a few days ago, saying he "did not meet the minimum behavioural standards expected."

Also receiving votes:
Marge Schott
Michael Ray Richardson
Dennis Erickson
Rick Pitino
Roy Hobbs
Don King
Roy Tarpley



Jeff Merron Archive

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