It's been a rough week (read "30 years") to be a Philadelphia fan. The Phillies stink. The Sixers, while I enjoy watching them, stink and Joel Embiid hurt his foot again. The perennially competitive Flyers stink, and their goalie lambasted the whole team last night. The Eagles were supposed to be the one team that gave us hope. Now, after an extremely bizarre string of moves, the Eagles might very well stink next season. While you will still find a good base of fans whose slogan is "In Chip We Trust", some fans are beginning to lose faith in the Chipper. I myself am somewhere in between, but beginning to draw comparisons between Chip and another highly successful college coach that joined the pro ranks and was given carte-blanche to create his own team. That of course, did not work out well.
Richard Pitino was at the height of his power in 1997. He was coming off of an NCAA Championship with Kentucky in 1996, and another near miss in the championship game the next season. The next logical step for the highly successful and innovative college coach was to try his hand again (he had coached the Knicks in the 80s for two years) at the NBA. The Celtics were willing to bet the farm on his success. They had two first round draft picks in the upcoming draft, and gave Pitino a 10 year contract and full power over player personnel. With rookie Antoine Walker and a shot at Tim Duncan in the upcoming draft, the future was bright for the green.
As we all know, the Celtics did not get Tim Duncan. Instead, Coach Pitino spent his picks (#3 and #6 respectively) on Chauncey Billups, and one of his Kentucky guys Ron Mercer. Mercer was a miss, but Billups and Pitino's other Kentucky guy Antoine Walker would surely be a solid foundation for the future. Not so fast my friend.
Just 51 games into his rookie season, Pitino decided that Billups didn't fit his "playing style" and shipped him off for Kenny Anderson. This would be a theme throughout Pitino's tenure in Boston. Nobody fit his playing style and players came in and out of Boston rather quickly. Pitino wanted college-like effort out of his million dollar pros. Pitino could never find the right pieces to carry out his master plan, and he often tried finding them in several of his former Kentucky stars (Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer, Walter McCarty, Wayne Turner). When the losses piled up and push came to shove with the media, Pitino defiantly blamed the city for the team losing in a now infamous speech. It wasn't his fault that the team was losing, it was the fans. The mastermind wasn't to be questioned. Ultimately, Pitino never had a winning season and resigned from the team in 2001. He has since returned to the college ranks and won himself another championship.
Doesn't that sound at least a little bit like Chip Kelly's tenure in Philly so far? The man was extremely successful in college, and it was considered a coup that the Eagles were able to pry him away from Oregon. In order to keep him here, the team has handed over the reigns of all personnel decision to the Madman from Manchester (copyright pending). Over the past two seasons, Kelly has shipped out Lesean McCoy, Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Nick Foles because they didn't fit the scheme, or didn't have the right attitude. More and more we are seeing Chip fill his roster with his homegrown Oregon Ducks. Chip hasn't come out and blamed the fans yet, but his master plan is certainly not to be questioned. Could Chip be headed for a flame out in the style of Rick Pitino?
I'm still holding out hope for the future because Chip has had two winning seasons already. He took a roster in flux in his rookie season and made the playoffs. He nearly brought them back to the playoffs with Mark Sanchez last year. Maybe Chip does have a master plan; I'm willing to give him a little more time. All I'm saying is, we have seen this kind of cycle play out before and it didn't end well for the team involved. In Chip We Trust. We have no choice.