Philadelphia is enjoying the salad days of coaching and managing — four renowned leaders guiding our teams and carrying our dreams. There’s only one problem. The lettuce is wilting. The croutons are stale. The salad is going bad.
Charlie Manuel, Andy Reid, Peter Laviolette and Doug Collins all have one unfortunate thing in common. They are overrated, in their city and in their sports. Their impressive reputations are no match for their recent results. Their talk of impending championships sounds more like a fantasy every day.
Manuel, our only recent champion, said last week that he had been planning to talk to his underperforming team for at least 10 days, “but I don’t know what to say.” He is in his eighth season here, has worked with the core of the team for most of that time, and he can’t find the words to wake them up?
Of course, the next day he not only found the words but delivered them behind closed doors after a gut-punch of a three-game sweep by the Mets. The Phillies responded by beating San Diego two out of three. With the abysmal Astros and Cubs next, this new winning direction could continue for a while, but it doesn’t explain Manuel’s terrible performance so far.
Last week, the manager ordered Placido Polanco to bunt the potential winning run to third base so that Freddy Galvis (.189) and Erik Kratz (.000) could try to drive it in. After that game, the manager said the Phils had already blown seven or eight games they should have won. He didn’t specify how many of those were the result of his own mindless strategy.
Laviolette, who won a Stanley Cup six years ago, admitted that he had no answers to the smothering defense of the Devils, who buried the Flyers four straight times to ruin another season. Laviolette’s loud, passionate style has a built-in expiration date on it. It looks like the young players are already tuning him out.
Reid may be coaching for his job, but most fans can’t believe he’s still here. He needed four meaningless wins to finish 8-8. He still can’t manage the clock, still can’t make adjustments and still can’t hold a news conference without embarrassing the organization. Does anybody believe the new season is going to be different?
Despite the emergence of Collins as our coaching golden boy, smart fans know the truth. He snuck past the first round of the playoffs because of injuries, but he still has no idea how to use his guards and has done nothing to improve them, especially Evan Turner. He does cry well at news conferences, though.
Four leaders, four big names, and one disappointment after another. Well, here’s a wild prediction. One year from now, all four of them will be gone.
Iguodala still an enigma
For one brief, shining moment — five seconds, to be exact — Andre Iguodala was everything we had hoped he would be. He ripped down a rebound, raced up the court, charged at the basket and drew a foul. Then he swished two free throws, won a playoff series and spoke eloquently about his heroics.
Who was this man? And where has he been hiding? Before Game 6 of the Chicago series, Iguodala was a true basketball enigma, blessed with athleticism but with no heart to match it. No player in Philadelphia has been less reliable with the game on the line.
And then suddenly he made one of the most spectacular and courageous plays in Sixers history. There was no logical explanation for it, though he did provide one for the two perfect free throws that followed. He said Tony Battie told him to visualize teaching foul shooting to his son when he was in a key spot. What Iguodala never explained is why he waited for the sixth game of the NBA playoffs to try it.
Immediately after the big game, the media drones proclaimed that Iguodala was the most underappreciated player in our city, and that this was a new, improved version. Could this game turn around his entire career in Philadelphia?
Uh, no. In Game 1 against Boston, Iguodala had some brilliant moments, but not when it counted most. Don’t expect another magical five seconds from Andre Iguodala anytime soon.
Shut it, Bryz
After allowing one of the worst goals in Flyers history, Ilya Bryzgalov had some advice for the fans who care so much: Get a life. And now it’s time to offer the $51-million goaltender two helpful tips of our own: Stop the puck and shut your mouth.
It’s hardly a secret that Bryzgalov is unique. His diatribes on the vastness of the universe and his impromptu announcement that he was being benched in the Winter Classic are just two highlights. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with showing your personality. But it is downright offensive when an athlete pockets a treasure chest of American dollars and then passes negative judgment on the culture that provided that bounty. In his parting message to fans, he said they expect players to be robots, that their passion suffocated him.
Bryzgalov displayed this generosity of spirit by blowing off a Philly media that had covered his exploits in a fair and responsible way and speaking only to a reporter from a Soviet agency. And he can’t understand why we refuse to console him?
Ilya Bryzgalov is funny, puzzling, emotional, unpredictable. But he needs to learn one more lesson. When you rip the customers, you’re just
asking for trouble.
– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 to 10 a.m.