Nothing lasts forever, particularly in the sports world. Player careers are usually short, and coaches, general managers, and team presidents are regularly hired and fired. Despite that, several big names have managed the prove that they have a rare degree of staying power. Which ones might be nearing the end of the line, either overall, or at their current stop? Let’s take a look at how much time is left for some coaching and front office legends.
- April 24, 2021
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Ainge followed a 14-year NBA playing career with a stint coaching the Phoenix Suns but has achieved most of his post-playing notoriety as the Celtics’ general manager and president of basketball operations. Ainge has been on the job in Boston since 2003, and while his trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett after the 2006-07 season sparked a 42-win improvement, the biggest in league history, and led to the Celtics winning the 2007-08 NBA title, his recent work has fallen flat. Ainge has plenty of job security, so even though the Celtics are languishing in seventh place in the east, if he leaves the job, it will be on his terms.
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Auriemma has nothing whatsoever to prove in women’s basketball. Connecticut’s head coach since 1985, he has compiled a 1,119-144 record, hasn’t lost a conference game since the 2012-13 season and has won 11 national titles. Connecticut hasn’t won one since 2015-16, including a Final Four loss to Arizona this year, but the Huskies are almost always the betting favorite to win the title in a given season. He can stay on the job as long as he wants, and at 67 years old, it’s fair to wonder if the time for him to take on new challenges has passed.
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Belichick’s 7-9 season in 2020 was his first losing campaign with the Patriots since his first year on the job in 2000. Belichick’s job security is ironclad, and he’ll be allowed to coach the Pats for as long as he desires. He’s about to turn 69 years old, and currently sits 48 wins behind Don Shula for the all-time record. With Tom Brady around, the Patriots would have been a good bet to match that number in four seasons or five tops. With Brady gone, Belichick has had to figure out how to retool New England. Shula’s record is the only thing he has left to chase, and given his obsession with football, it stands to reason that he’ll stick around long enough to get it done, but perhaps not long past that.
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To hear Boeheim tell it in 2015, he had three more years left on his coaching clock. His son Buddy committing to play for the Orange in 2018 changed things, perhaps aided by Syracuse’s surprising NCAA Tournament success. The Orange made a surprise Final Four run in 2015-16, and have qualified for the Sweet 16 in two of the last three NCAA Tournaments, despite playing as a double-digit seed both times. Boeheim recently said he would coach until he “couldn’t win anymore,” which means that even at 76, he figures to be around for at least two or three more seasons.
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Brown owns the Cincinnati Bengals, of course, but since 1991, he has also acted as the team’s de facto general manager, much to the chagrin of Bengals fans. Brown is 85 years old and, though he has delegated some responsibilities to others, still has the final say on personnel; while Joe Burrow was promising until his rookie campaign was cut short by injury, Brown’s total control over the franchise has been negative. His health has by and large held strong, however, so as long as Brown is physically and mentally able, it seems likely that he’ll keep the status quo in place.
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After stints at UMass and Memphis, Calipari took over as Kentucky’s head coach in 2009. He has coached the team to four Final Fours in that time (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015) and won the national championship in 2012. Since 2015, Calipari has made it to at least the Sweet 16 in just two seasons; 2015-16, and 2020-21, which at 9-16 represented his worst record since his first season at UMass. Calipari agreed in April 2019 to a “lifetime” contract with Kentucky, one that includes a lifetime paid ambassadorship when he retires. Given that he just turned 62, it seems safe to assume that he’ll be running the program for at least another decade.
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Carroll came to the Seahawks after a wildly successful stint at USC that saw him resurrect a dormant powerhouse to lofty status. Since 2010, he has worked similar magic in Seattle, winning the Super Bowl in the 2013 season, falling one infamous play short of repeating the following year, and only in 2011 finishing worse than second in the division. At 69, and turning 70 early in the upcoming season, Carroll is the oldest head coach in the league, and would only need to coach a few more seasons to become the oldest head coach in league history. That said, he carries himself with the energy and enthusiasm of a much younger man and seems likely to keep coaching as long as he’s enjoying himself, and the Seahawks keep winning. Translation: Carroll might be sticking around for five more years – at least.
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General managers come and go in baseball, with teams changing regimes regularly. Only three current general managers were hired in the 2000s or before; the rest have been hired in the 2010s or 2020s. That makes Cashman a dinosaur, as he was hired by the Yankees on February 3, 1998. Cashman was the second-youngest GM in baseball history at the time of his hiring and given then-owner George Steinbrenner’s volcanic temper, it was a small miracle that Cashman wasn’t fired, despite having overwhelming success. In the last decade, he has fully consolidated power and has a stronghold on the job. Despite being burdened with massive annual expectations, Cashman, just 53 years old, figures to be on the job in the Bronx as long as he wants.
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Colbert has been running the Steelers as general manager since 2000. In his time at the helm, the team has won two Super Bowls (XL and XLIII) and gone 217-117-2, a record bested only by the New England Patriots. Colbert and Mike Tomlin have worked together since 2007, and while they collaborate on the draft process, Colbert has the final say on the picks. He has been going year-to-year on his contract, and there has been speculation in Pittsburgh that he might retire once Ben Roethlisberger’s career ends. Whenever it comes, the end of Colbert’s time with the Steelers will almost assuredly be on his terms. The guess here is that when Roethlisberger walks away, Colbert will follow.
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Ferentz has been the head coach at Iowa since 1999; in 2017, he became the longest-tenured FBS coach at one program, and also became Iowa’s all-time wins leader in 2018. Ferentz’s program has come under fire recently, with ESPN publishing an article that alleged that the program’s culture was hostile toward Black student-athletes. As a result, strength coach Chris Doyle was fired, but Ferentz largely weathered the fallout from the story. He has a contract that runs through 2026, and at 65, it seems a reasonable bet that he’ll coach at least until the end of that deal, and possibly longer.
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Few has been on the job at Gonzaga since the 2000 season when he took over for Dan Monson, who left for Minnesota after bringing the Bulldogs to national prominence. Gonzaga has made the NCAA Tournament in every one of Few’s seasons at the helm, and though they were blown out by Baylor in this year’s NCAA title game, have moved fully from a mid-major power to a national one. Few has repeatedly rebuffed bigger coaching offers, and with the Bulldogs starting to attract five-star recruits, it’s easy to see why. At 58 years old, he figures to have plenty of time left, which means plenty more wins for Gonzaga.
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Izzo has been on the job at Michigan State since 1995, winning a national championship in 2000, and making it to the Final Four on eight separate occasions. He has won multiple Coach of the Year Awards during his time with the Spartans and is as much a fixture in East Lansing as any college coach is anywhere. This year’s Michigan State team was Izzo’s worst since his first year on the job, but job security is not a problem. Izzo is 66 and has an intense style, so it is reasonable to wonder whether or not he might consider retiring sooner rather than later. He has recently said that any choice to step down would likely stem from a lack of desire to recruit any longer, but so far there has been no indication of that happening.
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Harbaugh has just one losing season in 13 years with the Ravens and brought Baltimore its second Super Bowl this century with a surprise title run in 2012. It seemed he was in major trouble when the Ravens floundered to start the 2018 season, but Lamar Jackson’s insertion into the starting lineup not only jump-started the team but likely saved Harbaugh’s job. The Ravens are one of the NFL’s most stable franchises, and Harbaugh’s job was in danger only after multiple lackluster seasons. If he can get Jackson to the next level in the postseason, there’s no reason that Harbaugh, a relatively young 58, will be done in purple and black anytime soon. If the Ravens keep stalling out in the playoffs, though, perhaps a change will come.
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Jones is 78, and like Mike Brown in Cincinnati, has personnel control over the Cowboys. He managed to find his next franchise quarterback in the form of Dak Prescott, and the Cowboys routinely field one of the league’s most explosive offenses, but the team has just three playoff wins this century and only four since their Super Bowl XXX win. Many view Jones as the league’s most powerful owner, and a sort of shadow commissioner, and the combination of that power and Jones’ ego means that he will likely continue running the show as de facto general manager in Dallas until he physically can’t continue – which isn’t good news for Cowboys fans.
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Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils struggled badly this season, finishing 13-11 and missing out on the NCAA Tournament. Krzyzewski’s status as one of the greatest coaches in any sport is already secure, but he has proven himself plenty adaptable to the one-and-done era of college basketball and would have no real imperative to quit other than wanting to enjoy his later years. At 74, he could easily go for another three to five seasons or so. One x-factor is whether or not a clear successor would emerge to take the reins in Durham. Krzyzewski no doubt wants to leave the program in good hands, but so far none of the popular choices for that job have had enough success to warrant it.
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Somehow, Moore is the second-longest-tenured general manager in baseball, trailing only the Yankees’ Brian Cashman. He managed to do the impossible, and take the small-market Royals to back-to-back World Series in 2014 and 2015, taking home the title in 2015. Like Cashman, Moore got the job when he was young – he was 39 when he was hired – and survived an ownership change in 2019. If he can rebuild the Royals successfully yet again, Moore figures to have a job in Kansas City as long as he wants one, which could be for a long time to come.
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Payton heads into his 15th year as Saints head coach sporting a 143-81 record, but the 2021 season will be his first without Drew Brees under center. Payton already has a Super Bowl on his resume, and his reputation as one of the game’s best offensive minds is firmly intact as well. He’s still just 57 years old and still has two years left on one of the richest coaching contracts in the NFL, so, like many others with his level of accomplishment, how long he stays on the job will likely be up to him. If the Saints can’t find their quarterback of the future, the end might come sooner rather than later, but if a worthy heir to Brees emerges, it’s reasonable to assume that Payton will keep right on coaching.
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Poile stands out in the notoriously fickle world of NHL coaches and general managers; he has held just two general manager posts in a career stretching back almost 40 years. Poile was the Capitals’ GM from 1982-1997, and is the only GM in Nashville Predators history, having held that post from 1998 to the present day. Poile is the winningest general manager in NHL history, having surpassed Glen Sather in 2018. He’s 71 years old, and though the Preds aren’t seen as much of a threat this year, they’d still be in the playoffs if the season ended today. Poile hasn’t won a Cup in Nashville, but he’s had enough success that it’s hard to envision him not having the job unless he doesn’t want it anymore.
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Popovich’s place in NBA history is secure; he’s one of just five coaches to have won five titles and is seen by most as not just one of the greatest coaches in basketball history, but in any sport. Popovich recently won his 1,300th regular-season game, making him just the third coach to achieve that feat, and when playoff wins are factored in, is the winningest coach in league history. Popovich no longer holds the title of general manager, but still enormous impact in San Antonio’s front office. At 72, and with the Spurs trying to refashion themselves as a contender, it seems likely that he’ll stick around for a few more seasons, but given his interests outside of basketball, if San Antonio can’t get back to the top of the league, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him walk away.
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Riley essentially functions as the Miami Heat’s general manager, though his title is technically president. He ultimately has the final say on roster matters, and with the Heat coming off a surprise NBA Finals appearance, business is still booming in south Florida. That said, Riley is 76 years old, and while he still seems to have plenty of fire left in him, does he really want to spend too much longer in a high-stress situation. He’s a basketball lifer, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see Riley step away in the next few years, particularly if the Heat have a detailed succession plan in place.
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Most of Saban’s peers probably hope he hangs it up soon and decides that he’d like to spend his seventies playing golf, sipping drinks, and doing anything other than routinely obliterate the rest of college football. Saban has seven national championships, all but one of them with Alabama, where he has an almost unthinkable 165-23 record in 14 seasons. There’s no real reason to think that Saban wants to do anything other than keep right on dominating, however, so it seems he’ll be around for several more years. It’s too late for Saban to flirt with the NFL again, so the only thing that stands in the way of at least five more years in Tuscaloosa – and probably more – is boredom.
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How long will Self be on the job in Lawrence? For as long as he wants to coach, it appears. The Jayhawks seem happy with Self, despite the fact that he has been personally charged with a Level I violation by the NCAA, and despite the fact that Kansas might face huge penalties from the NCAA. Self has one national championship with the Jayhawks and is the second-winningest coach in school history. He also owns the Big 12, having won the conference in the regular season in 15 of the last 16 seasons, with 2019 the only exception. Self might cause Kansas administrators some headaches, but they seem more than happy to deal with them.
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Swinney has been the only coach to serve as a noticeable roadblock to Nick Saban most years and has compiled a 140-33 record in his time at Clemson. Under Swinney, the Tigers have two national championships and seven ACC titles, and if anything, his stranglehold on the conference will only get stronger. He can do no wrong at Clemson, and so the only question about his job security concerns whether or not he wants to give the NFL a shot. At 51, he’s young enough to do it, but it’s hard to imagine there would be a better scenario for him than coaching Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville, and Urban Meyer is going to do that instead. The guess here, though, is that Swinney will stay at Clemson for life; it’s easy to imagine his style not working with pros.
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Tomlin has still never had a losing season since succeeding Bill Cowher, starting with the 2007 season. He has a Super Bowl to his credit and another appearance under his belt, and won the AFC North this past year with a 12-4 record, despite the Steelers flagging badly down the stretch. Tomlin is just 49, and his charisma and skill as a speaker would make him a highly sought-after commodity for television networks, which would mirror Cowher’s jump to television. He could also have his pick of jobs if he decided to coach somewhere other than Pittsburgh. Ultimately though, the guess here is that he stays with the Steelers beyond the end of Ben Roethlisberger’s career, and tries to shepherd them into a new era.
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It’s good to be Tara VanDerveer these days, as her Stanford Cardinal just won their third national championship on her watch, though it was their first since 1992. VanDerveer is also the winningest coach in women’s college basketball history, and has gone to 13 Final Fours, won 25 Pac-12 regular-season conference titles, and 13 Pac-12 tournament titles. VanDerveer’s list of achievements is too long detail here, but suffice to say, she’s done everything there is to do in women’s basketball. At 67, she’s still got plenty of time left to add to her win total, and there’s no reason to think that she’ll be done anytime soon.
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Wright has been on the job at Villanova since 2001 and has gotten better with age, steadily building the program into a national powerhouse, and taking down NCAA titles in 2016 and 2018. The only job that seems like it might lure Wright away from Villanova is the 76ers gig if it comes open again. Having said that, he’s turned down that position at least once before, and if he still has a zest for recruiting, it stands to reason that he’ll keep on plying his trade in the college ranks. Given his recent success, he’ll also be able to call his shot about when and how he wants to go out. Wright still seems to have passion for the job, so I’d guess he’s running the show at Villanova for at least another five years, and probably more.