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Plucking coach out of blue is risky move

SHARE Plucking coach out of blue is risky move

Though Tim Floyd had been rumored for a while to be the successor to Phil Jackson as coach of the Chicago Bulls, his hiring Thursday (actually as coach-in-waiting) nonetheless raised eyebrows around the country.

Here's a college coach who has no pro experience as a player or assistant and he's handed the reigns of U.S. sports' only current dynasty. It might sound unprecedented, but similar situations have happened.Does the name Gerry Faust mean anything?

Faust was plucked out of a high school coaching job in Cincinnati in 1981 and made head football coach at Notre Dame, where he promptly went 30-26-1, including 5-6 in his first and last seasons. He wound up at Akron, where he didn't make it either.

Faust is the poster boy for hires that elicit reactions such as "Who's he?" and "They did what?"

Not all of those kinds of hires are failures, however. In fact, the Bulls have some precedent for this kind of action. In 1968, they hired an unknown college coach from Weber State in Utah named Dick Motta. All he did was stay until 1976 and make the playoffs six times. Of course, those weren't the marquee Bulls of today and the pressures were entirely different, but it worked.

Here's a look at some other attention-getting moves in sports:

WALTER ALSTON had one major league at-bat - for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1936; he struck out - and some minor-league managing experience when he was named manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. One New York paper ran the headline: "Dodgers Pick New Pilot - It's a Guy Named Alston!" It wasn't long, though, before everyone knew him. Alston stayed with the team for the move to Los Angeles and remained manager until 1976. He's now in the Hall of Fame.

PETE ROZELLE, the 33-year-old general manager and former public relations man with the L.A. Rams, was a compromise candidate when elected commissioner of the NFL in 1960. The owners had met for four days and gone through 21 ballots before New York Giants vice president Wellington Mara offered Rozelle's name. He lasted until 1989.

GEN. WILLIAM ECKERT, called the "Unknown Soldier" by one reporter when hired as baseball commissioner in 1965, roundly was considered totally overmatched by the job. He lasted three unhappy years.

CHICAGO CUBS COLLEGE OF COACHES proved one of the most unusual managing experiments in history. From 1961 through 1965, six Cubs coaches shared managerial duties. The run included Harry Craft going 7-9 to Bob Kennedy going 182-198. Overall in that span, the Cubs went 353-449. None of the six had a winning record.

HARLAND SVARE became the answer to a trivia question when he was named head coach of the Los Angeles Rams midway through the 1962 season, replacing Bob Waterfield. At 31, he became the youngest man to be a head coach in the NFL. But youth did not serve him well. He went 14-31-3.

DAVE SHULA was picked for his pedigree. The son of Don Shula was hired by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1992 to replace Sam Wyche. Local media concluded that GM Mike Brown hired the young Shula because he wanted a yes man. He lasted until 1996 but managed a .500 record just once.

BARRY SWITZER had quite a bit of success when he coached the wishbone at Oklahoma. But he had been out of coaching six years when Jerry Jones announced Switzer would replace Jimmy Johnson just as the Cowboys were about to turn into a dynasty. Switzer managed to win a Super Bowl but his tenure was wracked with controversy, and he left, only to be replaced by . . .

. . . CHAN GAILEY, an assistant on the Steelers with extensive coaching experience but hardly the first choice - or the second. Jones flirted with some big names before bringing in another surprise pick. Gailey currently is conducting his first training camp.

BOB WADE was a high school coach in Baltimore when he was tapped to succeed the popular Lefty Driesell as basketball coach at Maryland in the wake of Len Bias' death from a cocaine overdose. Wade lasted three years, going 36-50.

BILLY MARTIN was not a shocker the first time George Steinbrenner hired him in 1975. But their relationship would be anything but routine: July 24, 1978, Martin resigns. July 29, 1978, Yankees announce Martin will return as manager in 1980. June 18, 1979, Martin returns early, replacing Bob Lemon. Oct. 28, 1979, Martin replaced by Dick Howser. Jan. 11, 1983, Martin named for a third time, replacing Clyde King. Dec. 16, 1983, Martin replaced by Yogi Berra. April 28, 1985, Martin replaces Berra. Oct. 17, 1985, Martin replaced by Lou Piniella. Whew.

STEVE MARIUCCI had pro experience as an assistant when he was named before the 1997 season to succeed George Seifert as coach of the San Francisco 49ers, perhaps America's premier team at the time. Mariucci had just finished his first year as coach at Cal and owned a less-than-sparkling 6-5 regular-season record. The jury is still out on his tenure with the 49ers.

GERRY DINARDO had a losing record at Vanderbilt when he was hired to restore LSU's football glory. The fans howled but soon began to cheer. His record at LSU: 26-9-1.

ST. LOUIS BROWNS FANS were asked by owner Bill Veeck on Aug. 24, 1951, to become "grandstand managers" for a game against the Philadelphia Athletics. Fans flashed "yes" or "no" signs after coaches posed questions at key times in the game. St. Louis won, 5-3.

TED TURNER, in maybe the biggest surprise of all, hired himself as manager of the Atlanta Braves for one game on May 11, 1977, after a 16-game losing streak. He proved to be no stopper, losing to Pittsburgh, 2-1, and was banished upstairs by commissioner Bowie Kuhn. But the Braves won the next day.