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Friday (Mike Yeo and the State of Opportunity) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Wild coaching Updated: June 17, 2011 - 8:42 AM

The NHL has a reputation for recycling its coaches like the rest of us recycle cans. As a matter of fact, we were surprised when a cursory check of the 30 coaches in the league revealed that ONLY half of them are in at least their second NHL head coaching stint.

Mike Yeo is not in that recycled category. Yeo, who will be formally introduced as the new Wild head coach later this morning, is 37 years old and coming off successful stints as an assistant with the Penguins and head coach of the Wild's affiliate in Houston. Considering Todd Richards, the man he is replacing, was also getting his first crack in the NHL, the Yeo move might come as somewhat of a surprise.

But if you look at the big-picture history of Minnesota pro sports, it makes quite a bit of sense. We are the Land of Opportunity, not the Land of Retreads, when it comes to head coaches.

The Vikings? They've never hired a coach with previous NFL head coaching experience. Norm Van Brocklin, Bud Grant, Les Steckel, Jerry Burns, Denny Green, Mike Tice, Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier were all first-timers.

The Twins? You have to back to Gene Mauch more than three decades ago to find a manager with previous MLB experience. Since then, Johnny Goryl, Billy Gardner, Ray Miller, Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire have taken their first jobs and run (or sometimes crashed).

The Wolves? Five of their last six non-interim head coaches were first-timers -- Sidney Lowe, Bill Blair, Flip Saunders, Dwane Casey and Kurt Rambis -- with only Randy Wittman's short and unsuccessful stint in Cleveland interrupting the run.

Jacques Lemaire, of course, had plenty of experience before taking to the Wild bench. But he's the exception there, rather than the rule -- as proven again by the two men who have succeeded him.

Has Minnesota not been a destination job for "name" coaches all these years? Has money been a factor? Are we just more prone here to see in someone -- or think we see in someone -- the special qualities that would elevate them to their first top-level head coaching job? Are we simply more loyal (plenty of examples abound of coaches promoted from either assistant or minor league positions to head coaching jobs here, including Kelly, Gardenhire, Burns, Tice and now Yeo)? Is it not so much an anomaly -- that is, do you think we would find a plethora of similar patterns if we had the time to extensively study other markets?

Your thoughts, please, in the comments.


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