Even two weeks later, the parting of ways between Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz almost feels surreal, if only because this time last year we were comparing the two of them to the Bill Torrey/Al Arbour partnership that created perhaps the last great hockey dynasty (we’ll save Islanders vs. Oilers for another day).
Nine times out of 10, when a coach around here is fired it almost feels like a mercy killing. It is almost always inevitable. Joe Judge was a fired coach walking the final few games last year, Adam Gase for almost all of 2020. There were few complaints when the Mets let Luis Rojas go. Every Knicks coach between Jeff Van Gundy and Tom Thibodeau (save for maybe — maybe — Mike Woodson) was fired by the fans long before the brass got around to it.
Trotz’s dismissal came accompanied by a wave of shock, and anger, and sadness, and regret, all things that almost never come along with the business of firing a manager or a coach. There was a significant portion of the Islanders fan base, even those who have sworn by Lamoriello for three years, who immediately began swearing at him. Some are still miffed.
That’s a pretty unusual dynamic. Even Joe Torre, who only won four world championships with the Yankees, had seemed to run his course by the time he left after the 2007 ALDS loss to Cleveland. Casey Stengel was 70 when the Yankees fired him, and TV cameras had caught him napping during the 1960 season. Yankees fans were grateful, yet ready to move on.
The Yankees are actually an interesting case study because they actually have made some of the least-popular managerial firings in the city’s history. Part of that can simply be attributed to George Steinbrenner’s itchy trigger finger, which allowed him to believe firing Dick Howser in 1980 was a good idea, which led him to not renew Buck Showalter’s contract in 1995. Two terrific managers, caught in the dragnet of an impatient owner.
Still, there has never been a firing as resoundingly unpopular as when Steinbrenner finally axed Billy Martin in 1978. Technically, Martin resigned in Kansas City a day after issuing his infamous “one’s a born liar, the other’s convicted” assessment of Reggie Jackson and the Boss. But Martin’s job had been on the line going back to the summer of ’77. He almost certainly would’ve been canned in another week.