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By Stephen Pederson

Why Fire the Coach?

Mid-Season Firing of Coaches is an Act of Futility

Coach for Cathedral Senior High School Minnesota...

Coach for Cathedral Senior High Minnesota

You are the general manager of a professional sports team.  Your team is half-way through the season and they are sinking fast in the standings.  The fans are mad, your players are ineffective, and the journalists are roasting you alive.  Quick – what are you going to do?Fire the coach.

They say that coaches are hired to be fired.  But does firing the coach actually help?  Or, is it an act of desperation by struggling management who are throwing a Hail Mary hoping for … anything.

There have been a number of studys on numerous sporting leagues and most of them have come to the same conclusion: firing the coach during the season is a waste of time.  In the following studies, firing a coach during the season, usually leads to worse performance by the team.   If you have to fire a coach, fire them during the offseason.  Coach changes during the off season have more success than during the season.

Some supporting studies:

College Football

The findings have important implications … and suggest that the relatively common decision to fire head college football coaches for poor team performance may be ill advised. - Pushing “Reset”: The Conditional Effects of Coach Replacements on College Football Performance, Adler, Berry, Doherty


“If coaches truly can change the productivity of their players, one should see player performance change when it comes to a coach … of the 62 coaches studied, 42 – or 68% – didn’t have a statistically significant positive impact on player performance.” - Stumbling on Wins, Berri and Schmidt

“The empirical evidence, though suggests that changing the coach, wihich is often quite expensive, is not likely to make much difference.  What the teams should focus on instead is changing the players.” – Stumbling on Wins, Berri and Schmidt


“There is no evidence at all that teams making a within-season change of a coach out perform those not making a change … The empirical results suggest team that changed their coach within-season tended to perform worse subsequently in the short term than those that did not.”

“… the results suggest that a change of management in the dmidst of a crisis is unlikely to improve performance …” – Modelling Employment Durations of NHL Head Coaches: Turnover and Post-succession Performance, Audas, Goddard, Rowe

To read more on the coaches being fired:

Change You Can’t Believe

Is Changing the Coach Really the Answer?

Pushing “Reset”: The Conditional Effects of Coaching Replacements on College Football Performance

Stumbling on Wins – Berry and Schmidt

Stumbling on Wins: Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports, Berry and Schmidt

The next quantum leap beyond Moneyball  – Amazon


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