Barry Trotz resigned as head coach of the Capitals on Monday, less than two weeks after guiding the franchise to its first Stanley Cup title. Trotz leaves Washington a champion, something no other coach in the Capitals’ 44-year history, and only a handful of coaches of D.C.’s other pro sports teams through the years, can claim.
Trotz finished with 205 wins in his Capitals career, second only to Bryan Murray’s 343, and his 36 playoff wins are a franchise record. After capping four years at the helm with a championship, Trotz assumes the title of greatest coach in Capitals history, but does he crack the Mount Rushmore of D.C. pro coaches? Here’s a shortlist of his competition:
A Mount Rushmore of the greatest coaches in D.C. history could honestly just feature Gibbs alongside carvings of the three Lombardi Trophies he won with three different quarterbacks as boss of the Redskins from 1981 to 1992. He failed to recapture the glory years after coming out of retirement to coach the Redskins from 2004 to 2007, but finished his Hall of Fame career with a 198-115 record, including a 17-7 mark in the postseason.
Like Trotz, Motta, who spent the first eight years of his coaching career in Chicago, coached for four years in Washington. In his second season at the helm, Motta led the Bullets to the 1978 NBA title and popularized the phrase “The opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings” during Washington’s playoff run. Motta led Washington back to the NBA Finals the following year, but players soured on him during his fourth season, which ended with a first-round playoff loss. “He just acted like he didn’t care sometimes,” guard Larry Wright said after the season. “It seemed sometimes like he didn’t even want to coach us.” Motta had one year remaining on his contract, but left to become coach of the Dallas Mavericks. The Bullets hired Gene Shue, who coached the Baltimore Bullets from 1966 to 1973, as his replacement.
Harris led the Washington Senators to their first World Series title in 1924 after being named player-manager by owner Clark Griffith. Only 27, Harris hit .268 with one home run and 58 RBI as the Senators’ everyday second baseman that season. The Senators won the American League pennant under Harris again in 1925, but lost the World Series to the Pirates. Harris was traded to the Tigers after the 1928 season, but would return to Washington as manager from 1935 to 1942 and again from 1950 to 1954. In 18 seasons with the Senators, Harris went 1,336-1,416.
Arena, who won five NCAA titles at Virginia, led D.C. United to the first two MLS Cup titles in league history in 1996 and 1997. After the 1998 season, Arena was named coach of the U.S. men’s national team. Thomas Rongen and Piotr Nowak led D.C. United to MLS Cup titles in 1999 and 2004, respectively, but Arena, who went 75-38 in his three seasons in Washington, remains the greatest coach in club history.
Flaherty went 47-16-3 during his six years as coach of the Redskins in Washington after the franchise relocated from Boston in 1937. As The Post’s Shirley Povich wrote when Flaherty died at age 90 in 1994, his “two NFL titles and one Eastern Division title in that relatively short term compare favorably with the 67 percent success rate and three Super Bowl titles won by the Joe Gibbs-coached Redskins over a 13-year span.” After guiding the Redskins to the 1942 NFL title, Flaherty left to serve overseas as a U.S. Navy lieutenant.
Allen went 67-30-1 in seven seasons with the Redskins from 1971 to 1977 and led Washington to its first Super Bowl appearance, a 14-7 loss to the Dolphins in January 1973. Allen, who was fond of trading away high draft picks for experienced players, never had a losing season in Washington, but his Redskins teams went 2-5 in the playoffs. “Truly there is something about George Allen and the way he operates that inevitably turns admirers into detractors,” The Post’s William Gildea and Kenneth Turan wrote after Allen was fired following the 1977 season. “In no other coach do we see such a flipflop of opinion, of players loving him at first and later feeling quite bitterly the opposite.”
Murray, who died last August after a lengthy battle with cancer, became the Capitals’ eighth coach in eight seasons when he was hired to replace Gary Green in November 1981. In his first full season at the helm, Murray guided Washington to its first playoff appearance. The Capitals would qualify for the postseason in each of the next six years under Murray, who was fired after an eight-game losing streak in January 1990 and replaced by his brother, Terry.
Here’s my Mount Rushmore of D.C. pro coaches: Gibbs, Harris, Motta, Trotz. What’s yours?
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