Coaches generally are not always the most popular figures in this city (or maybe any city). But given the general current upswing of the pro sports franchises, there really are only two coaches that would draw a no-confidence vote right now: Georgia football coach Mark Richt and Tech basketball coach Paul Hewitt.
I’m going to ask you a question soon. But first, here’s my rankings of the eight coaches for the four major pro sports teams – Atlanta Dream(s) fans, please stop emailing me – and the four college teams.
This is NOT based merely on their overall resume but rather how things are currently trending on their respective team/program.
♦ 1. Mike Smith (Falcons): Has led the Falcons to three straight winning seasons and two playoff berths, with the current team being touted as a Super Bowl contender. He keeps players on an even keel, regardless of whether they won or lost.
♦ 2. Craig Ramsay (Thrashers): Has installed an effective system and motivated and developed a low-budget roster, leading to one of the NHL’s surprise teams. The Thrashers could make the playoffs.
♦ 3. Mark Fox (Georgia basketball): Awakened a dead program and a comatose fan base, engineering upsets in year one. The Dogs could be in the NCAA tournament this year.
♦ 4. Fredi Gonzalez (Braves): Difficult to put him higher or lower because he hasn’t managed a game for the Braves yet, but he was respected for the job he did in Florida by everybody except the Marlins’ owner.
♦ 5. Paul Johnson (Tech football): Two strong seasons (9-4 and 11-3, including the ACC title) were followed by one awful one (6-7, capped by an Independence Bowl loss to Air Force). Big questions include how well he can recruit and will the Jackets’ special teams improve.
♦ 6. Larry Drew (Hawks): A case could be made that he deserves to be ranked higher because he has gotten players to share the ball more than Mike Woodson did. The Hawks are 22-14 despite having injury problems, but they’re 2-4 against three teams ahead of them in the East: Boston (0-2), Orlando (2-1), and Miami (0-1).
♦ 7. Mark Richt (Georgia football): The Dogs have underarchieved with their talent in the past few years and too often they appear to lack an edge or direction. Other programs in the SEC have passed them by. Richt’s win totals in the past four years have dropped from 11 to 10 to eight to six and this year Georgia went 3-5 in a down season for the SEC.
♦ 8. Paul Hewitt (Tech basketball): The Jackets are 7-6 and haven’t even played an ACC game yet. They’ve lost to Kennesaw State (which has dropped 10 straight since), Siena (4-8) and most recently Charlotte (8-6). Last season, Tech went 23-13 and got back to the NCAA tournament but won only one game with a team that included Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal.
So there are my rankings. Agree or disagree?
Now here’s the other question: Which coach do you believe is more likely to turn around their respective program: Richt or Hewitt?
I’ve got a poll up. (Try to answer honestly without regard to whether you’re a Georgia or Tech fan, though I realize that may be asking too much.)
Thanks, and I’ll check back for comments.