The bull's-eye has become bigger in Los Angeles than in the traditionally tough markets. As sports has slowly joined hands with entertainment, the entertainment capital of the world has become sports' toughest audience. From screaming columnists and snappy social media sites to chanting fans and pressured officials, coaches here are judged more skeptically, ripped more furiously and held to a higher standard than anywhere.
You think New York is mean? Rex Ryan has made the playoffs just twice in six seasons with the Jets, while Terry Collins has had a losing record over his four seasons with the Mets. You'd hate to coach in Philadelphia? Not if you're Andy Reid, who lasted 14 years there without leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl title.
In Los Angeles, at UCLA, Ben Howland made three Final Fours in 10 years — and it wasn't enough.
"Clearly, the life span of a Los Angeles coach or manager is much shorter than ever," said Fred Claire, the general manager of the Dodgers when Tom Lasorda was in the middle of a 20-year reign as manager. "There just isn't patience among the decision-makers anymore. With all the money being spent, management thinks there's a magic wand that can fix everything."
Indeed, there is a record amount of Hollywood-style money flowing through Los Angeles' teams, and coaches are drowning in its wake.
Howland's firing was at least partly due to his inability to fill the expensive new Pauley Pavilion, and entirely possible because of the new Pac-12 TV contract that gave UCLA officials the funds to pay him off.
The Lakers' new billion-dollar TV deal with Time-Warner has placed a more desperate emphasis on winning, and allowed them to make impulsive changes — see: Mike Brown — when they don't win.
The expectations for Don Mattingly increased, and the patience with Mike Scioscia decreased, in direct proportion to the amount of money both franchises recently spent for star players.
"You're talking wealthy, high-profile teams with one objective," said George Belch, a professor in San Diego State's sports marketing program. "It's like, 'I've got you the best horse, I want you to win the race.'"
Even two teams that never seem to care about their coaches are now being motivated by their checkbooks. Kevin O'Neill wasn't fired as USC basketball coach a couple of years ago after his scuffle with an opposing booster; he was fired this winter after school officials grew weary of an empty Galen Center. Del Negro was hired to coach a cheap Clippers team, and soon will probably be fired because he is not trusted with an expensive one.
"I found that throughout the Dodger organization, managers and coaches learned more by going through the tough times," said Claire. "Unfortunately, today, guys don't get a chance to use that experience."
Claire emphasized that experience leads to continuity, which eventually leads not only to championships but to legacies that even the largest payroll or biggest rights fees cannot create.
Could the demand for instant coaching excellence that is regularly seen in this column space and many others actually hinder consistent coaching excellence? Well, hard to say. But there was once a guy who showed up here from the Midwest and was allowed to coach a Los Angeles team for 16 years before he finally won a championship.
Good thing nobody created @FireJohnWooden.