Is Mike Shanahan on the naughty or nice list this year? Photograph by Brian Murphy.
The holiday season is upon us, and I’m in a gift-giving mood. Now that I’ve finished shopping for friends and family, it’s time to find something for the coaches in our sporting lives.
Mike Shanahan: A quarterbacking automaton
What do you get for the man who has an entire room in his house dedicated to video golf? The one thing he truly desires, of course: A fully operational robot programmed to run the offense exactly as he and Kyle intend. Every single step in its drop and every read in its progression predetermined without the slightest hint of variance. That’s all he’s ever wanted.
Flip Saunders: The gift of patience
One look at the Wizards roster and the question answers itself. When you’re counting on veteran leadership from the inimitable trio of Andray Blatche, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee, you know it’s going to get frustrating at times. The team also features plenty of youth, including a second-year shooting guard with a true shooting percentage of 46.3 (that’s really bad) and a European rookie whose jumpshot is being retooled on the fly. With practice time being limited thanks to the compressed 66-game schedule, it’s going to be a long year for the coaches.
Dale Hunter: A rejuvenated Alex Ovechkin
Man, what a difference a high-energy Ovi makes to a team. The captain came out flying against Nashville, and his teammates responded in kind. This was the Ovechkin everyone who has ever written a “What happened to Ovechkin” column fawns over. That’s the Ovechkin that doesn’t get his coach fired. If Hunter is going to stick around in Washington, he’ll need performances like that to become the norm, rather than an abberation.
John Thompson III: A little love
JTIII has the Hoyas cruising just as Big East play is about to begin. They’re off to a 9–1 start that includes two marquee wins and respectable losses that won’t hurt their résumé come March. Everything is clicking, so it’s time to show Georgetown the love.
Randy Edsall: A buyout
His tenure has been a disaster. The team tanked, his players turned on him, and it’s only a matter of time before John Feinstein leads the torch-wielding villagers to his door. If I were Edsall, I’d happily take a big pile of money to go the hell away. It’s too bad Maryland’s athletic program is broke. Maybe they’ll accept donations?
Mark Turgeon: Alex Len
Maryland’s basketball coach will have to wait until after Christmas to open his present. Len, the Terps' intriguing seven-foot freshman, is set to come off of his ten-game suspension when Albany comes to town on the 28th. The team have held their own without him, but Turgeon must be excited to insert such a dynamic player into the rotation.
Ben Olsen: Some offensive firepower and progress on a new stadium
Everything has been pretty quiet in DC United land since the season came to a close. You’d think a team in such need of help up front would be making some waves in the off-season. Instead, they’ve been relatively quiet. Surely there’s a disgruntled European veteran looking to make his home in the states. Of course, if I were a guy like Didier Drogba, I wouldn’t be too excited about playing at RFK.
Davey Johnson: A healthy year for Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann
The Nats just went out and acquired Gio Gonzalez from Oakland. He figures to be slotted in as the number three pitcher in the rotation, so now Johnson just has to hope that the guys in front of him stay healthy. Zimmermann is now fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, and should be able to go the distance this season. Strasburg will have an innings limit, but should be able to pitch well in to the second half of the season.
Trudi Lacey: A winning season
The Mystics finished first in the East in 2010. The coach and GM were rewarded with permanen unpaid vacations. Lacey replaced them, and the team won just 6 games. Having a healthy duo of Monique Currie and Alana Beard would certainly help.