The Washington Post

Washington is actually America’s coaching graveyard, study confirms

(Matt Slocum/AP)

Well, the world is starting to agree.

USA Today this week published a lengthy analysis of the average coaching tenure in the 29 markets with at least two major pro sports teams, and the grand conclusion is this: Washington wins. Or loses. Or whatever. Washington coaches have the shortest average tenure of any city in the country, and by a sizable margin.

From the story:

Washington has been called a coaches’ graveyard, and a USA TODAY analysis shows it’s no hyperbole: The nation’s capital has the highest coaching turnover of any market with more than one team in the four major professional sports. The last five managers/head coaches of each Washington team — a total of 19 skippers — lasted an average of less than 2½ seasons in the job.

Susan O’Malley, former president of the firm that owns the NBA’s Wizards and the NHL’s Capitals, says it’s a reflection of the city’s personality, an extension of the cutthroat political climate that permeates the area.

“Washington is for winners. If you lose, you leave your job and you leave town,” said O’Malley, who was with Washington Sports and Entertainment (now called Monumental) for 21 years. “You only got there by winning. You got there because your guy won and you’re with him....The tolerance for losing, in my mind, is less in Washington than anywhere else.”

See, I told you I was right, I knew this wasn’t just something I....wait a second, hold on, what’s that? The tolerance for losing is less in Washington than anywhere else? Because outsiders who come into the city from other regions of the country and continue to root for their own sports teams only get here by winning elections?

And so there’s no tolerance for losing in a city where the hockey team has never won a game in the Stanley Cup Finals, where the basketball team has won a grand total of one playoff series over the last 29 years, where the baseball team has never had a winning record, and where the football team has been a stinking cesspool of mediocrity for nearly 20 years? That city? That’s the one that has less of a tolerance for losing than anywhere else?

O’Malley says cities have distinct personalities and their sports teams usually reflect that.

“Every town has an identity,” she said. “I do think teams reflect (their cities). New York and Washington are the least forgiving. You’ve got the Yankees and Knicks and that reflects the town to me — power, money. They don’t tolerate much.”

Geez, I dunno. I guess you could argue that Washington fans have shown their unforgiving nature by refusing to show up to support losing teams like the current Wizards and the Caps of the mid-2000s. But that’s apathy to me, more than an intolerance for losing. And people flock by the tens of thousands to FedEx Field, year after inglorious year, to watch a team that never wins and treats fans like insects. That’s tolerating a lot.

But the point isn’t about Susan O’Malley. The point is that Washington is indeed America’s coaching graveyard. The study analyzed the five most recent full-time bosses of every team, not counting interim coaches. Washington checked in at an average tenure of 2.38 years, nearly a third-of-a-year less than any other city. The gap between D.C. and the next city (Seattle) was larger than the gap between any other two cities on the list.

So whatever the reason, science now tells us that D.C. is indeed the place that coaching careers go to die. Or at least take an abrupt pause.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.


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