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Wild 3, Blackhawks 2 (OT)
Bruins at Blackhawks, 7 pm, NBCSN
Who should’ve been the Andy Reid of Chicago sports?
So watching a nation of sports fans get happy for Andy Reid on Sunday night got me to thinking: Which Chicago coach or manager do you wish had validated his time here with a championship?
It’s a tricky question. For every Phil, Q or Ditka, there’s a Tim Floyd, Alpo Suhonen or Marc Trestman. Most leadership tenures in Chicago end badly with only a lucky few still on terms good enough for a spot in the media (I’m looking at you, Wanny!) or as a team ambassador (hey there, Savvy!).
There’s also no one who was really a direct parallel to a pre-title Andy Reid. Even before Sunday’s championship, Reid was universally respected and probably a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame as the second-best coach of his generation — even without a Super Bowl title. There’s really no one in Chicago sports history whose resume said he deserved to win a championship but just didn’t.
Still, there’s a solid tier of coaches just below the legends. The guys who were good enough to get their teams close and even inhabit a soft spot in the heart of the fans they left behind. In my mind, your answer probably comes from this crop:
Lovie Smith: There are two types of Bears fans. Those who won’t give Lovie any credit even though they believe he was an underrated coach in spite of not being able to win a challenge. And those who prefer to pretend his time in Chicago didn’t happen at all. The ensuing Trestman, Fox and Nagy tenures have done little to throw shade on my belief that Smith’s tenure (81-63, third in wins to Halas and Ditka) will look even better as time drags on.
Tom Thibodeau: I suspect this will be the answer for most of you. Thibs went 255-139 for the second-best winning percentage in franchise history and was the leader of some of the most beloved Bulls teams of all time. That he was snakebit by bad luck injuries and an incompetent front office that ultimately drove him out only makes him more of a folk hero in town these days.
Doug Collins: Is there an alternate timeline where Collins gets MJ and Co. past the Pistons and Phil Jackson has to go elsewhere to achieve his greatness? Eh, probably not.* Still, Collins is loved by so many people in the sport and the thought of that glorious perm lifting the Larry O’Brien in ‘88 makes me happy.
*Agood thing, considering the thought of Phil kumbaya-ing those Knicks, Magic, Pacers or Heat teams to dynasties makes me shudder.
Jim Frey, Don Zimmer or Lou Piniella: Your answer to this one probably depends on which of those playoff teams was your favorite. Piniella already had a World Series title with the ‘90 Reds, so as entertaining as he would’ve been ending the Cubs’ curse, I’m riding with a pre-Pedro Zim ending the drought 27 years ahead of schedule.
Dusty Baker: The new Astros manager might actually come closest to the Andy Reid comparison. With 1,863 victories, Dusty ranks 15th on the all-time list but still doesn’t have a World Series title to his name. Everyone in front of him except for Gene Mauch has won a World Series while everyone in front of him except for Mauch will be in the Hall of Fame once Bruce Bochy gets in. Still, it’s doubtful anyone is going to be answering Dusty to this question after the eighth inning of Game 6 or the ensuing destruction of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood’s arms.
Al Lopez: You’re showing your age if Lopez is your answer. But it’s also the correct one. Lopez was the only manager to wrest a pennant away from the Yankees between the years of 1949 and 1964, first doing it with Cleveland in 1954 and then with the White Sox five years later. Lopez finished second with the White Sox five times and also won more than 90 games on the South Side five different times. Never winning a title ultimately didn’t count against his legacy; he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.
Who’s your pick? Why? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll print the best responses in a future newsletter.
The slow-starting Hawks battled back in Minnesota to steal a point with two third-period goals, but couldn’t get the job done in OT. They’re two points out of a playoff spot as they host the Bruins tonight at the United Center.
The Cubs front office got to see how it’s done as the Red Sox traded away a generational talent in order to get some “flexibility” with the luxury tax. Cubs fans, meanwhile, got to see just how little talent those generational talents are bringing back these days. Hey, who’s ready for pitchers and catchers?
The White Sox, meanwhile, saw a team that might’ve competed against them for a wild card spot get significantly weaker though the divisional rival Twins picked up a rotation piece in Kenta Maeda.
• The Jaguars are playing two of their home games in London this year, but the Bears and Steelers won’t have to travel there as an opponent. Both teams are guaranteed to be playing their games in Jacksonville. Can’t imagine why that is. (Jaguars)
• ESPN1000’s new boss isn’t afraid to have his hosts talk hockey. (The Athletic)
• This situation at Lincoln Park High School is insane. (Block Club Chicago)
• About those new Sox BP hats … Yeah, no. (Twitter)
The Cubs are a bit better, but not by much.
Have a great Wednesday, everyone …
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