Just right


Issue: "Beyond the nightly news," Oct. 11, 2003

Sometimes sports franchise owners seem like Goldilocks when trying to find the right coach for their team. The New York Mets decided flamboyant manager Bobby Valentine was too eccentric and loud to lead the Mets, so the team hired Art Howe, Mr. Valentine's personality opposite. The result was a more mellow, but still underachieving Mets team.

The Lakers fired coach Del Harris during the 1998-99 season after Shaquille O'Neal grew weary of Mr. Harris's demanding style. After all, it's easier to find a coach than it is to find a Shaq. The solution for L.A. was Phil Jackson, who calmed the waters and led the Lakers to championships.

Maybe the year's best coaching move came from Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who canned the rigid Jeff Torborg midseason and replaced him with the wisecracker Jack McKeon. Most people laughed at Mr. McKeon's age-72 years old-rather than his jokes. No one's laughing now, though, as the once-hapless Marlins advanced to the postseason.

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Then there was Philadelphia coach Larry Bowa, whom even unforgiving Phillies fans called too hard on his players. Unlike other ownership groups, the Phillies front office has said the organization will stick with Mr. Bowa as he tries to get more from the Phillies lineup next year.


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