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Sports Saturday

How bad is Chicago’s collection of pro coaches? Let’s just say we’re partying like it’s 1999

With all due respect to Matt Nagy and his terrific rookie campaign, the head coaching landscape with the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox has rarely, if ever, looked so bleak.

Carolina Panthers v Chicago Bears
The Bears’ Nagy went from a Midas touch in 2018 to pretty much everything going wrong in 2019.
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Boston has Bill Belichick, Bruce Cassidy and Brad Stevens.

The Bay Area has Steve Kerr, Kyle Shanahan and Bob Melvin.

Miami has Joel Quenneville and Erik Spoelstra. Philadelphia has Doug Pederson and Joe Girardi. New York has Barry Trotz and Aaron Boone.

When it comes to head coaches in the Big Four professional sports leagues, the Los Angeles market might have the most going for it of all: Sean McVay, Dave Roberts, Doc Rivers, Frank Vogel — oh, yeah, and Joe Maddon, too.

Yep, that’s how you do it.

But then there’s a little place I like to call Chicago. We are — how to put this nicely? — the disaster area of the coaching profession. Of the 13 cities or markets with at least one team in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB, Chicago simply has to rank last or, best case, tied for last as far as the collective accomplishments and reputations of its coaches.

It ain’t that great in the Arizona desert, believe me. You can look up the names if you want to, but suffice it to say the most impressive résumé there belongs to the Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo.

Lo-who-lo? Exactly.

Chicago is similar.

We’ve got one manager, the Cubs’ David Ross, with zero games under his belt, and another, the White Sox’ Rick Renteria, who wouldn’t know a winning record if it kissed him on the mouth.

We’ve got Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton, only 35, who has made such an impact since replacing Quenneville 15 games into the 2018-19 season that he might be able to disappear back to Rockford — or all the way back to Sweden — without anyone even noticing.

We’ve got the Bulls’ Jim Boylen, and, hey, anybody seen any good movies lately?

And then there’s Matt Nagy of the Bears. Mr. Offense. Mr. Potential. Right? Yet much — all? — of the promise Nagy showed in a 12-4 debut in 2018 was basically undone in 2019, when he did everything wrong. Not playing starters in the preseason blew up in his face. His complete failure to get Mitch Trubisky unlocked can’t be denied. A monumental coaching gaffe against the terrible Chargers dealt a crushing blow to the Bears’ season.

So, that’s what we’ve got. Some of our coaches could turn out to do fine, even outstanding, work. Championships could be won. This isn’t an assessment of where we’re headed, but it’s an assessment of where we are.

Right now, we stink.

How much so? It’s possible there has never been a time when the coaching landscape here — again, talking Big Four leagues only — has looked so bleak.

That’s never, as in never, though 1999 sure gives 2020 a run for its money. That year gave us Dirk Graham and Lorne Molleken with the Hawks. It featured the spectacular failure of Tim Floyd and the Bulls. Jerry Manuel’s Sox had a second straight sub-.500 season as Jim Riggleman’s Cubs plummeted to 67 wins. And the Bears, led by rookie coach Dick Jauron, wheezed their way to a last-place finish.

That was really bad. Overall, the teams probably have more going for them now than they did then. But the coaching ranks are just as star-dudded.

Go back as far as you want, and you won’t find a time when there wasn’t a star coach in town, or at least someone with a quality track record.

If there wasn’t Frank Chance, Fielder Jones, Jimmy Dykes, Joe McCarthy, Charlie Grimm or Al Lopez, there was always George Halas.

Even when the Bulls arrived in 1966, “Papa Bear” was still at it. The Bulls’ first coach, Johnny Kerr, won league Coach of the Year honors right off the bat. The Cubs had Leo Durocher, a giant figure and media star. The Hawks had Billy Reay, who remains their winningest coach. In 1968, the Bulls upgraded big-time to Dick Motta. It was a high-caliber collection.

Since, there have been coaching superstars. Mike Ditka owned the 1980s, and Phil Jackson the ’90s. But there were also Tony La Russa, Jim Frey, Doug Collins, Don Zimmer, Mike Keenan and so on.

In more recent years, we could point to Dusty Baker, Ozzie Guillen, Scott Skiles, Lou Piniella and, of course, Lovie Smith. Along came Quenneville, Tom Thibodeau, Maddon. They brought credibility. Where has it gone?

Other markets go first class, but not Chicago. Not right now. We’re stuck, and guess where? That’s right: back in coach.