It’s the weekend, there isn’t a lot going on in Pittsburgh, so I wanted to take a slightly different direction with this one. The big news of this past week is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ thrilling Game 7 win over the Ottawa Senators. Their win, and back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals only reinforces what the city of Pittsburgh represents. Quality, steady coaches.
Mike Tomlin has created and maintained an impressive culture with the Steelers. He may not be lauded for his X’s and O’s the way Bill Belichick is but he commands the locker room just the same. Players fight hard for him and with him. It isn’t a one-way street. Of course, that isn’t all from Tomlin, it’s the longstanding philosophy of the Rooney’s, but Tomlin ran with it and enhanced that feeling. Pittsburgh has been as steady as ever, never having a losing season under him – Noll had four post-dynasty and Cowher had three – and adding another Lombardi to the collection.
I admit I don’t follow the other sports as closely as football but Mike Sullivan has brought similar to the Pens in a much shorter time. He inherited a flailing team under Mike Johnston and immediately turned them around, winning the Stanley Cup in his first season. With a target on their backs this year, and just as many injuries, Sullivan brought the Pens back to the Finals this year.
Both coaches, Tomlin and Sullivan, are guys who seemingly don’t get too high or too low. On its surface, you can’t tell if they’re reacting to a win or a loss. Even in his post-game presser Thursday night, Sullivan was calm and collected, deflecting the praise to the players while congratulating the Sens on a hard-fought series. Adversity, of which there’s been plenty, hasn’t affected either team’s course.
Then there’s Clint Hurdle, who likely would come in third place in the mind’s of most fans when asked to rank the three. The Pittsburgh Pirates may be struggling now but Hurdle inherited a mess, akin to what Noll was brought in to fix. A bunch of lovable losers. By his third season, he transformed the club from basement dwellers to their first playoff appearance in over 20 years. He followed that up with playoff runs the next two seasons before the dropoff in 2016. He has a similar approach to the others; serious when he has to, jovial when it’s appropriate.
I posed the question last week on Twitter and still think the answer is up for debate. Does Pittsburgh have the best three coaches – combined – of a city with an NFL, NHL, and MLB team. Maybe Boston? With Belichick, which gives them a big leg up, and up-and-comer Brad Stevens. Chime in with your thoughts; maybe I’m missing one.
All I know is that I’m grateful for the steady, strong leadership Pittsburgh sports has. It’s rare and something that needs to be cherished.