Denver, CO – Anyone who has lived in the Denver area for any significant amount of time knows how passionate this area is about their local teams. Denver is actually one of the smallest markets in the country who has a team in all 4 major professional leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB). So that right there tells you that we are more than willing to spend our hard earned dollars to go out and see our Broncos, Avs, Nuggets, and Rockies. Success has not been plentiful, however, in many of the years throughout history. It took the Broncos until the ’97 and ’98 seasons to finally end their championship drought, which was so rewarding for so many fans who had watched them and supported them for several decades. The Avs spoiled local hockey fans when they won the Stanley Cup in their very first year in Denver (’95-’96). They also won it in 2001, but haven’t really sniffed the Cup since. On the flip side, the Nuggets and Rockies are still trying to break through and win a world championship. The Nuggets have had very little playoff success over the years, and even though the Rockies made a World Series trip in ’07, they are still looking for their first ever division title. Along these lines, we have had some very memorable coaches/managers who have led the way, from moderate success to championship gold. Marc Crawford was the Avs head coach in that magical ’95-’96 Avs season. Mike Shanahan was of course the head man who was here when the Broncos went back to back. Even guys like Doug Moe, Bob Hartley, Don Baylor, Dan Reeves, George Karl and a few others have left some nice lasting impressions. But what I wanted to look at was, well, the not so great side when it comes to Denver’s history of pro coaches/managers. This group of guys would probably rather that I didn’t bring them up, but for every great coach, there are a few stinkers, and we have definitely had our fair share. So in this installment of the “Top 7″ series, here are the 7 worst coaches/managers in Denver pro sports history……
7 – Clint Hurdle - Yes, I Know, Hurdle was the manager of our Rockies during that crazy, magical run in 2007. A lot of Rockies fans think very fondly of him when his name is brought up. I liked him as a guy, as it seemed he was very much a players manager, who understood his players because he used to play in the Majors as well. Hurdle was here from ’02-’09, but success was actually pretty rare when he was here. His all-time record as Rockies manager was 534-625, 91 games below .500. Too bad he didn’t win that World Series five years ago, because without it, he just simply wasn’t very good.
6 – Jeff Bzdelik - The Nuggets coach from ’02-’04, he just never seemed to really look the part. In 192 games, he went 73-119. They did make the playoffs in one of his seasons here, but lost 4 games to 1 in the first round. All too often, he seemed to get out-coached and really looked as if he belonged at the college level instead, where he has had much more success. Bzdelik potentially didn’t get enough time in Denver to prove himself, but in a win-now sports world we are in, his time ran out.
5 – Mike D’Antoni - Before his most recent head coaching jobs in New York and Phoenix, many forget he coached the Nuggets in ’98-’99. It was very short lived in Denver, as he went 14-36 in the strike shortened season. D’Antoni was fired after just the one year, and replaced by Dan Issel. He then went on to have quite a bit of success in Phoenix though, with several trips to the playoffs.
4 – Lou Saban - Saban was the Broncos head coach from 1967-1971, and winning did not happen very often during his time here. In Denver, his record was 20-42-3. Although it didn’t work out as coach of the Broncos, Saban did have success later on in Buffalo, where he coached O.J. Simpson for several years. Saban passed away on March 29, 2009, at the age of 87.
3 – Josh McDaniels - Hired before the 2009 season, McDaniels came over from New England after a ton of success there. Simply put, it just didn’t work out in Denver. His smug, smarmy attitude rubbed fans and the media the wrong way right off the bat. The Broncos did start out 6-0 in 2009, but collapsed entirely and missed the playoffs. He was fired during the 2010 season after a combined record of 11-17. McDaniels is the man mainly responsible for bringing Tim Tebow to Denver, which we all know made our town headquarters for Tebow-mania.
2 – Paul Westhead - The Nuggets head coach for two seasons in the early 90′s, Westhead had a very unique approach…don’t worry about defense, just run and outscore the opposition by wearing them down. Uh, that may have worked in college at Loyola Marymount to a certain degree, but not in the NBA. His record in Denver was 44-120, and was fired after just two seasons.
1 – Bill Hanzlik - After playing for the Nuggets from 1980-1990, Hanzlik was handed the head coaching job prior to the ’97-’98 season. That season would prove to be one of the worst in NBA history, as Denver went 11-71. This still ranks as the worst coaching record for any first year coach in the history of pro basketball. Hanzlik was fired after that season, and has been in broadcasting ever since.
Denver Sports by J Simp