With 2013 in the rearview mirror we speed into the 2014 with a new attitude and wishful thinking for bigger and better things in the calendar year. The same can be said for the local sports scene here in the Valley.
Below are five head coaches (listed alphabetically) and a resolution for each.
Bruce Arians-find the future, not the present: the 61-year-old waited patiently for his first head coaching position and thrived guiding the Cardinals to a ten-win season and league-wide respect. Carson Palmer was a significant upgrade at quarterback but Arizona was -1 in turnover margin and Palmer’s 22 interceptions played a big part in that. The Cards will no longer be the big unknown heading into ’14, going from the hunter to the hunted. Many key, long-term pieces are in place. Quarterback is not one of them.
Kirk Gibson-keep your job: I know this isn’t technically a resolution but no Arizona coaches’ seat is hotter than his entering the new year. Gibson’s moves have been puzzling since the Dbacks’ 2011 post-season run, particularly his “lineup bingo” which makes it difficult for any position player on the roster to find their groove. Gibby’s hands have been tied with injuries, underperforming players (Miguel Montero, Trevor Cahill) and one of the worst back-end bullpens in MLB history. Back-to-back 81-81 seasons and last year’s mid-summer collapse are still fresh on Ken Kendrick’s and Derrick Hall’s minds. With that being said some inside the organization believe they’ll give Gibson the benefit of the doubt for as long as they can, particularly without a coach on staff ready to step in mid-season to guide the ship.
Todd Graham-fix your special teams: It’s a shame an otherwise excellent season (10 wins, a Pac-12 South title) will be overshadowed by some by a blowout loss to Stanford and arguably the worst performance by a team this bowl season, getting drilled by Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. Kicker Zane Gonzalez performed well, especially for a true freshman but the Sun Devils finished dead last in the conference in net punting (33.2 yards) and were victimized in the return game in all three 2013 losses. Graham, promised to “take personal interest in” correcting the issues said the problem “will be dealt with immediately.”
Jeff Hornacek-don’t take your foot on the pedal: it’s obvious the Suns, whether they want to admit it or not, used the “who cares what the experts think approach” back in training camp. No one and I mean NO ONE expected Phoenix to have close to 20 wins all season, much less in early January. General manager Ryan McDonough’s vision and Hornacek’s hands-on approach have turned the Suns into the biggest surprise in the NBA. With that being said, there will be bumps in the road this spring. Coach, it’s clear you’re much closer to a playoff team than a lottery one. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, even during the losing streaks.
Dave Tippett-get defensive, clean up the power play: the Coyotes find themselves in the middle of the playoff picture and will get a big boost from the return of Shane Doan who’s missed nearly a month recovering from Rocky Mountain Fever. Phoenix, who’s goals for/against are nearly even, rank towards the bottom of the NHL in power play kill percentage. As history has shown, the playoff picture can flip quite a bit in the final weeks so securing as many points as possible is key for a team like Phoenix who has played extremely well at home.