In sports, no job is forever. Coaches are hired to be fired and no matter what kind of success you have at a franchise, the only certainty is that one day they will be replaced. Hopefully, you get to do so on your own terms.
For most franchises, winning a championship is a defining moment that hangs banners from the rafters, fills trophy cases with hardware, and coaches get honored with statues in front of the stadium or streets named after them. Some get revered to the point of legend (Ditka!) yet some see their honeymoon end rather quickly. There have been plenty of coaches and managers who didn't last long after they brought their teams to the top of their sport.
It happens in a variety of ways. Some coaches have a toxic relationship with management that forces them out. Some struggled to recapture the glory days and were quickly let go. Sometimes outside forces bear down on the situation and force a move. It recently happened when the Philadelphia Eagles fired Doug Pederson just three years after he led them to their first Super Bowl title. It can sour very quickly.
Here are 20 times a head coach was let go within four seasons from bringing their franchise a championship.
Altobelli took over the Orioles in 1983 after long time manager Earl Weaver retired. Altobelli's bunch (led by MVP Cal Ripken Jr.) went 98-64 and would beat the Philadelphia Phillies in five games to win the World Series. Baltimore struggled a bit the following season, dropping to fifth place in the American League East despite winning 85 games. The O's started the 1985 season 29-26 and Altobelli was fired -- replaced by Weaver, who came out of retirement.
Brenly left the broadcast booth to take over as the Arizona Diamondbacks' manager in just their fourth year of existence. Behind pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, the D-backs beat the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series, ending the Yankees' three-year run as champions. Arizona would win the NL West the following season but were swept by the Cardinals in the division round. After a 29-50 start to the 2004 season, Brenly was fired and replaced by Al Pedrique. He went back into broadcasting and is currently working for the Diamondbacks.
Larry Brown has had a lot of jobs as he seemingly never sits still -- even if he wins a championship. His Pistons stunned the Lakers to win the 2004 NBA championship and would return to the Finals in 2005 before ultimately losing to the Spurs. In those Finals, Brown was a bit of a distraction as he was openly flirting with various jobs with the Knicks and Cavaliers despite being under contract with Detroit. He also delayed surgery until after the All-Star break, causing more disruption. The Pistons grew tired of his antics and bought out the remaining years of his contract, ending a successful two-year run in Detroit (doesn't it feel like he was there longer than that?). Brown would immediately take the Knicks job, making him the highest-paid head coach in league history. That job would last just one season.
Chizik was hired at Auburn in 2009 after he went just 5-19 over two seasons at Iowa State. He and Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton stunningly lead the Tigers to a 14-0 record and the national championship in his second season. Newton would go on the NFL and the Tigers would settle into an 8-5 record in 2011. In 2012, Auburn sunk to a 3-9 record ... losing all eight SEC games ... and was beaten 49-0 by Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The following day, Chizik was fired with a $7.5M buyout ending one of college football's most remarkable slides from a championship program.
Cora was a bench coach for the Houston Astros during their 2017 World Series championship season. He would then be hired to take over as manager for the Boston Red Sox, and then went on to win the 2018 World Series ... becoming just the fifth rookie manager to win a World Series. After a 84-78 season the following year, Cora's name was tied to the Astros' sign-stealing scandal and there were allegations he brought the practice with him to the Red Sox. An investigation into the Astros found that Cora was the only non-player actively involved in the sign-stealing. The Red Sox, in the middle of their own investigation that could elicit a harsh penalty for Cora, parted ways with their manager prior to the 2020 season (Cora ended up receiving a one-year suspension). His replacement, Ron Roenicke, was fired after the season after the Sox finished in last place. Cora ... after serving his suspension ... was re-hired to be Boston's manager in 2021.
Dark had made the rounds as a manager, leading the Giants, Indians, and the Kansas City Athletics before coming back to the A's in 1974. The Oakland A's had won consecutive World Series titles in 1972 and 1973 when Dark took over for a retired Dıck Williams and had trouble earning the respect from the players. The Athletics would win a third straight World Series that season and would handily win the AL West in 1975. The A's would get swept by the Boston Red Sox in the AL Championship Series and owner Charles Finley fired him a second time.
You would think that Terry Francona would have had a lifetime job with the Red Sox after winning the 2004 World Series in his first season as manager, ending an 86-year championship drought for the franchise. Three years later, Boston beat Colorado to win their second World Series title under his leadership. After two more playoff appearances, the Red Sox melted down in the 2011 wildcard race, blowing a nine-game lead over Tampa Bay and missing the playoffs. After the season, the Red Sox declined to pick up his option and moving on from the winningest manager in franchise history.
Haney didn't have a great managerial resume when the Milwaukee Braves promoted him to manager during the 1956 season (he was 288-526 over six years with the St. Louis Browns and Pittsburgh Pirates). In his first full season in Milwaukee, the Braves went 95-59 and beat the Yankees in the 1957 World Series. The following season, the Braves nearly pulled it off again but lost to the Yankees in seven games. In 1959, Milwaukee tied Los Angeles atop the National Leagues standings but lost a three-game playoff series to the Dodgers. Haney wanted more authority over the roster and decision making and when owner Lou Perini declined to do so, Haney quit.
Harrick is known as the UCLA coach not named John Wooden to lead the Bruins to a national championship. UCLA roared to a 31-1 record in 1994-1995 and would win the NCAA tournament, beating defending champion Arkansas. The honeymoon in Westwood was short-lived as he was found to have falsified expense reports prior to the 1996-1997 season. When turning in receipts for a dinner, Harrick included the names of his wife and an assistant coach to cover up the fact that it was two current players instead, which was a violation. The cover-up of a relatively minor infraction caused the university to fire Harrick, just one season after their national championship.
Heinsohn won eight championships as a player with the Celtics in the 1950s and 1960s and would lead Boston to titles in 1974 and 1976 as head coach. The team fell off a bit in 1976-1977, winning just 44 games and losing to Philadelphia in the conference semifinals. After starting the following season 11-23, the Celtics fired Heinsohn, just 116 games after winning the 1976 title. He would go back into broadcasting for the Celtics for the next few decades and worked the CBS broadcasts for the iconic Celtics-Lakers Finals during the 1980s.
Hinch was hired to be Houston's manager after the 2014 season to head up the Astros' post-rebuilding phase. The Astros would reach the playoffs in Hinch's first season and in 2017 would win the franchise's first World Series title. Houston would be one of the most successful teams over the next two seasons, winning 103 games in 2018 (lost in the ALCS) and 107 games in 2019 (lost in the World Series). It was after the World Series loss to the Washington Nationals that Houston's sign-stealing came to light and Hinch would be suspended for one year by Major League Baseball. The Astros fired Hinch immediately and hired Dusty Baker as his replacement. Hinch served his suspension and was hired by the Detroit Tigers to be their manager.
As anyone who watched The Last Dance knows, Bulls general manager Jerry Krause informed Jackson that the 1997-1998 season would be his last with the Bulls no matter how the season turned out ("I don't care if it's 82-0 this year, your f****** gone!"). Chicago, of course, beat the Utah Jazz in six games, winning the Bulls their third consecutive championship and sixth in eight seasons. After the season, Jackson rode off ... on a motorcycle ... into the sunset. He would turn up a year later as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would win five championships over the next 11 years.
Johnson's quick rise with the Dallas Cowboys was as stunning as his exit. Johnson accepted the Cowboys head coaching job from new owner and friend Jerry Jones, replacing Tom Landry -- the franchise's only head coach. After a dismal 1-15 season in 1989, the Cowboys built a team that would win consecutive Super Bowls after the 1992 and 1993 seasons. In that '93 season, a rift began between Johnson and Jones over control of personnel decisions. Soon after the season, Jones told the media that anyone could have coached the Cowboys to a title, essentially ending their working relationship. Johnson left with Jones paying him a $2M bonus.
It is no surprise to see Keenan on this list, as he was known for being difficult to work with. He took both the Flyers and Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals but lost both jobs soon after. He took over the New York Rangers for the 1993-1994 season and led the franchise to their only Stanley Cup championship since 1940, beating the Canucks. After the season, however, Keenan clashed with general manager Neil Smith and claimed the team breached his contract by missing a payment by one day and was attempting to force him out. He would move on to be the coach and GM of the St. Louis Blues, which lasted just two seasons. In all, Keenan coached eight different NHL franchises but none of those stops lasted more than four seasons. The 1994 season was his lone championship.
Lue replaced David Blatt in the middle of the 2015-2016 season and was thought to be a favorite of LeBron James. Lue got the Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals that season, where they met up with the 73-win Golden State Warriors -- coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series. Lue and the Cavs would reach the next two NBA Finals, losing to the Warriors both times. LeBron James would leave for the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency in the summer of 2018, and Lue was fired after an 0-6 start to the 2018-2019 season.
After nine seasons managing the Tampa Bay Rays, Maddon would take the same position with the Chicago Cubs in 2015. The Cubs had gone through a major rebuild and featured young talent who were on the verge of winning big. He signed a five year contract that paid immediate dividends. After making the playoffs as a wildcard team in his first season (Chicago would lose to the Mets in the NLCS) the Cubs broke out to a 103-58 record in 2016 and winning the franchise's first National League pennant since 1945. In the World Series, the Cubs battled fellow lovable losers Cleveland Indians in an epic 7-game series. Chicago would overcome a 3-1 series deficit and then a rain delay in the 10th inning to win their first World Series since 1908. The Cubs would reach the playoffs the next two seasons but would not extend Maddon's contract after the 2019 season. After his lame duck year ended, Maddon left to become manager of the Los Angeles Angels. Just three seasons after leading the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series in 108 years, Maddon was let go.
McCafferty took over the Baltimore Colts' head coaching job when Don Shula left for Miami. He found instant success, as the Colts went 11-2-1 in his first season, winning the AFC East title and beating the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V. They would finish behind Shula's Dolphins in the division the following year and would lose to them in the AFC championship game. Robert Irsay bought the team during the summer and would fire McCafferty after refusing to bench Johnny Unitas during a 1-5 start to the 1972 season.
Ollie had the unenviable task of replacing legendary coach Jim Calhoun at UConn. Ollie, who played four years for Calhoun, took the Huskies to the 2014 national championship in his second season (the program had a postseason ban in his first year). In the four years after that title, UConn made the tournament just once and winning just one game. In 2018, he was fired for just cause for "failing to monitor" the program and responsible for handing out impermissible benefits, which led to vacating every Huskies win in the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons. Ollie and the university have been in dispute over his firing and proper compensation.
The 2019 season in Baton Rouge couldn't have gone any better. In his third full season as LSU's head coach, the Tigers unexpectedly ran the table with a 15-0 record and a dominant run to a national championship. Quarterback Joe Burrow won the Heisman trophy, the following two NFL drafts were filled with LSU players and the Louisiana-born Orgeron was the toast of the college football world. The COVID season of 2020 put a damper on that, and losing his offensive and defensive coordinators led to an embarrassing 5-5 season, leaving many to wonder how much Orgeron contributed to that title run. After a 4-3 start to the 2021 season -- as well as a Title IX lawsuit that lists him as a defendant -- Orgeron and the school agreed to part ways at the end of the season. Just two years after one of the greatest seasons any college football team has ever enjoyed, Coach O was out.
There is a statue of Pederson outside of the Eagles' stadium after he led the franchise to their first Super Bowl championship in 2018. Three years later, Pederson was unceremoniously fired after a 4-11-1 season where his relationship with high-priced quarterback Carson Wentz had become too damaged. In five seasons, he won two NFC East championships and went to the playoffs three times.
Seifert took over for legendary coach Bill Walsh after Super Bowl XXIII and would lead the Niners to a repeat championship, blasting the Broncos, 55-10. Five years later, Seifert and Steve Young would beat the Chargers in the Super Bowl, becoming a defining moment for two men who were trying to get out of the shadow of their predecessors. Two years after that Super Bowl title, the Niners went a combined 23-9 but lost to the Packers in the divisional round both years. While Seifert technically resigned as head coach just two years after winning a Super Bowl, team president Carmen Policy wanted Cal's Steve Mariucci to replace Seifert in a head-coach-in-waiting role for a season, which Seifert declined.
Stengel is a baseball legend for his success (nine World Series championships as a player and manager) as well as his entertaining quotes and colorful teams he managed. Stengel led the Yankees to one of the most dynastic stretches in baseball history -- winning World Series titles in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, and 1958. In 1959, however, the Yankees dropped to their worst record in 35 years and the front office was starting to think Stengel was getting too old for the job. He turned fortunes around with newcomer Roger Maris and won his 10th American League pennant in 12 seasons. New York would lose to the Pirates when Bill Mazeroski hit his iconic walk-off home run in Game 7 of the fall classic. Right after the series, management informed Stengel that they would not have him back as manager ... even citing his age (70) as a factor. Two years later, Stengel would become the manager of the expansion New York Mets.
Tarkanian, "Tark the Shark", wasn't fired by UNLV, but the cloud of the NCAA over the program effectively squeezed him out of Vegas. Tarkanian led the legendary 1990 Rebels team to their only national championship, capping off his amazing building job of a forgotten program. The 1990-1991 team finished the regular season, before losing to Duke in the Final Four. After that loss, photos showed up of Rebels players in a hot tub with a known gambler. That, along with several other scandals surrounding the program, caused Tarkanian to announce he'd retire after the 1991-1992 season -- one in which the Rebels were serving a postseason ban. In his final ten seasons in Las Vegas, his Rebels went 307-42.
After 15 seasons as the Nashville Predators head coach (the longest unbroken tenure in NHL history), Barry Trotz would become head coach of the Washington Capitals in 2014. The Caps were notorious for being one of the better teams in the league who just couldn't find success in the postseason. In Trotz's first three seasons in D.C., the Capitals continued that trend -- winning two President's Trophies yet getting eliminated in the second round three straight years. Washington finally broke through in 2017-2018, beating the Columbus, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay to reach the franchise's first Stanley Cup Final since 1998. There the Capitals would beat the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in five games, winning their first ever championship and cementing Alex Ovechkin's legacy as one of hockey's greats. Less than two weeks later, Trotz stepped down from his post after a contact dispute couldn't be resolved (his expiring contract had a two-year option that would've kept him at one of the lowest paid coaches in the league). After declining his option, he would quickly become the new head coach of the New York Islanders.
Vogel wasn't the Lakers first ... or second or third ... choice to take over the LeBron James-led Lakers in 2019, but he got the job and navigated Los Angeles through one of the most challenging seasons in history. The Lakers were the top seed in the Western Conference when the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the season and playoffs started back up in the Orlando bubble, Vogel guided the Lakers through a series of different opponents to win the franchise's record-tying 17th championship.
The following two seasons saw the team slide. Injuries to both Anthony Davis and LeBron James derailed the 2020-2021 season, which ended in a first round loss to the Suns. Davis and LeBron missed huge chunks of the 2021-2022 season, and the offseason acquisition of Russell Westbrook didn't pan out. The Lakers finished with a 33-49 record and Vogel was fired right after the regular season.
NBA fans certainly know that the Lakers' Showtime dynasty began with rookie Magic Johnson and MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar beating the Sixers in the 1980 Finals. Most people forget that Paul Westhead was the head coach of that Laker team. Westhead replaced Jack McKinney after he suffered a head injury falling off a bicycle early in the season and LA went on to win the championship. The Lakers lost to the Rockets in the 1981 playoffs and Westhead was fired 11 games into the 1981-1982 season. Legend has it that Magic demanded that owner Dr. Jerry Buss fire Westhead, but Buss later said he had already decided to make a coaching change. Assistant coach Pat Riley took over and led Los Angeles to the championship that season.