|Best coaching in a game or series|
By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff
Jack McKeon took over the sub-.500 Marlins in May and led them to the World Series, defeating two 100-win teams in the process.
Besides his decision to start Josh Beckett on three days' rest in Game 6, McKeon made two other key moves during the postseason:
1) Batting 20-year-old rookie Miguel Cabrera cleanup (he hit four home runs and drove in 12 runs in 17 playoff games).
2) He wasn't afraid to tinker with his rotation. Brad Penny started in the rotation, went to the bullpen, and then moved back into it and beat the Yankees twice. Carl Pavano started in the bullpen but went to the rotation and pitched a great World Series game. Mark Redman struggled, so McKeon went with Beckett instead in Game 6.
As clutch as McKeon's moves were, however, he didn't make our top 10 list of greatest coaching or managing in one game, series or tournament:
1. Herb Brooks, 1980 Olympics
"Throw the puck back and weave, weave, weave. But don't just weave for the sake of weaving."
"Let's be idealistic, but let's also be practical."
The team followed this advice, and Brooks' leadership, to an upset over the Soviets, gold and glory.
2. Howard Schnellenberger, 1984 Orange Bowl
The Cornhuskers rallied back and the game would go down to a final play: after Nebraska scored to make it 31-30 with 48 seconds left, the Cornhuskers went for two. It failed and Miami had the upset win and its first national title.
"A miracle? I'd prefer to say this was a team of destiny," Schnellenberger said. "I wasn't surprised. All along I'd felt it coming."
3. Bill Belichick, 2002 Super Bowl
4. Walter Alston, 1955 World Series
In Game 7, Alston bypassed 20-game winner Newcombe (who had started Game 1 and always had trouble in big games anyway) and Erskine (who pitched poorly in Game 4) for 23-year-old Johnny Podres, who was just 9-10 during the season but had won Game 3. Leading 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Alston made another key move: he moved left fielder Jim Gilliam to second base (replacing Don Zimmer) and put Sandy Amoros in left. With two runners on and no outs, Yogi Berra drove a ball into the left-field corner and Amoros made a fantastic catch with his glove hand and doubled Gil McDougald off first base. Podres finished off the 2-0 victory.
5. Jim Valvano, 1983 NCAA Championship
But Jimmy V, whose N.C. State team had lost 10 games before taking the ACC tournament and advancing, surprisingly, to the Final Four, figured something different: slow it down. Force Houston outside. The strategy worked, as did his end-game tactics. With the score knotted at 52 with two minutes left, V said to foul Cougar frosh Alvin Franklin. Good choice. Franklin missed the front of a one-and-one, the Wolfpack rebounded, and held the ball for the last shot. Which, unfortunately, turned out to be a 30-foot desperate heave by Dereck Whittenburg. Which, fortunately, fell short into the leaping Lorenzo Charles' hands. Charles slammed the real last shot down with one second remaining, giving N.C. State a 54-52 win. And a triumph of brains over brawn.
6. Jon Gruden, 2003 Super Bowl
7. Steve Fisher, 1989 NCAA Tournament
In a situation that could have devolved immediately into chaos, Fisher took control. He told forward Glen Rice that he was The Man. Good move: Rice responded with big game after big game, scoring a record 184 points in six games. He instilled, and reinforced, confidence in his team. Good move: "Coach Fisher is easier to relate to [than Frieder]," Michigan forward Loy Vaught said before the final. "He seems to have us a little more fired up both on the court and off. In the locker room before games, he makes it a positive situation. He'll tell us, 'I've viewed the tapes six times and if we do this, I've got confidence that we're the better team.' Whereas Coach Frieder used to stand up and say, 'If we play our best basketball game, we might have a chance to win.'"
In the final against Seton Hall, Michigan won in overtime 80-79, as Rice scored 31 and Rumeal Robinson sank two free throws with three ticks left. Fisher started his head coaching career with six straight wins, all in the NCAA Tournament. Can it get any better?
8. Mayo Smith, 1968 World Series
Smith had another big decision. Down 3 games to 2, he elected to start Denny McLain in Game 6 on two days' rest (McLain had only lasted two innings in his previous start), but that meant starting Mickey Lolich in Game 7 on two days' rest -- against Bob Gibson.
It all paid off. Stanley played errorless ball at short, Northrup had the key hit in Game 7 and Lolich beat Gibson, 4-1.
9. Mike Krzyzewski, 1991 NCAA semifinals
But Krzyzewski outsmarted Jerry Tarkanian. First, he showed his team some game film, and convinced his players that the previous year's blowout wasn't entirely deserved. Then he came up with a strategy: On offense, attack inside with Christian Laettner. On defense, double-team Larry Johnson and shut down the Rebels' running game. Be careful: let the Rebels make mistakes, but don't make them yourself. It worked. Laettner scored 20 points in the first half and iced the game when he sunk two free throws with 12 seconds left. Duke won, 79-77.
"They followed Coach Mike Krzyzewski's formula for success as if it were gospel," wrote Gene Wojciechowski in the L.A. Times, and that formula would work again as Duke beat Kansas in the final.
10. Jesse Harper "invents" forward pass
Also receiving votes: