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On John Spencer’s firing: spinning the managerial wheel early and often never a smart plan

Jul 9, 2012, 3:28 PM EDT

Seattle Sounders v Portland Timbers Getty Images

Initial reaction to John Spencer’s dismissal: Timbers owner Merritt Paulson had it right – before he got it wrong.

Paulson is the kind of owner you want: present, engaged and emotionally invested. He wants badly to win, so it’s easy to see how he could lose the bigger plot in the frustrating fog of it all.

Just last May, Paulson (pictured, on the left) told the Oregonian: “Too many owners across sports are too quick to make coaching changes just for the sake of change.”  Exactly. I’m sure Paulson doesn’t feel like this is change for change’s sake – but it’s still not a wise move.

Generally speaking, organizations do themselves no favors by spinning the coaching wheel early and often. Great examples are at Chivas USA and Toronto FC, where rudderless management has mostly prevailed from Day 1, quicksand pits where coaching careers usually go to die.

As I’ve said about others before: I don’t know if John Spencer can or can’t function as a successful manager in Major League Soccer, but I’m sure that he didn’t get a fair chance to show us one way or the other.

Spencer’s record in a season and a half with an expansion team isn’t glorious, but it’s far from awful. At 16-22-13 it’s about what anyone could reasonably expect.

The crush point is a mindset that says “We are different” and “We are not like everyone else.” Of course, by definition, everyone else is everyone else.

This isn’t 1998, where a feeble league still in infancy can be had by an expansion team. That will never happen again. Believe it. Portland came close to making the playoffs last year, which is all any expansion club can hope for. Yes, I know about Seattle, a.k.a. the “exception” and not the “rule.”

What I’ve said before: Clubs that plot a sure course and steadily stay the course will eventually reap benefits. The rest wander erratically, altering course like stray mutts, only rarely finding their way home.

Paulson could prove right on this one. But at this moment I wouldn’t bet on it.

  1. bobinkc - Jul 9, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    If you fire the head coach every so often, you eventually get to the point where no one wants to coach for you. We have seen this happen in every major league sport that exists at one time or another. When you run out of either good coaching candidates or people that are stupid enough to take a job with that kind of management, you’re stuck: you have no one to do your coaching, no one wants to play for you, and the fans give up caring (Chicago Cubs are a major exception to that rule). Terminating coaches in mid-season is almost never a good idea and certainly does not suddenly guarantee that your team will win for the remaining season.

  2. greej1938l - Jul 10, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    I totally agree

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