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LEEInks List: Worst coaches in Boston sports history

10.19.12 at 9:17 am ET
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With the recent firing of Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine, one has to wonder where he ranks among the worst managers/coaches of all-time in Boston sports. Valentine had it all — disastrously bad record, poor relationship with players (although he’ll tell you otherwise) and incident after incident in which he embarrassed himself and the team.

We’ve gone through the history books to determine which men had the least impressive performances leading one of the major professional teams in Boston. Our ranking is based on a combination of factors including team record, coaching decisions, relationship to players, and perception by fans/media.

When you’re done reading this list, check out our poll so you can cast your vote on who deserves recognition as worst of the worst.

10. M.L. Carr, Celtics

In defense of Carr, it’s widely believed that the Celtics’ intention was to lose in order to get a better draft position. And lose they did. In two seasons, Carr’s teams went 48-116.  In 1996-97, the C’s went 15-67, their worst record ever. They had the second-worst record in the league and hoped for a fortuitous lottery so that they could select consensus top pick Tim Duncan. However, they ended up dropping to the No. 3 spot and settled for Chauncey Billups, who was traded (for Kenny Anderson) midway through his rookie season by Carr’s successor, Rick Pitino. At least Carr can look back fondly at his playing days for the C’s.

9. Phil Watson, Bruins

The B’s coach during the 1961-62 season and part of 1962-63, Watson had just 16 wins in 84 games. A former Rangers center who coached the Blueshirts from 1955-56 until 1959-60, Watson was known as a hard-worker, but he never made things click for the B’s. Boston finished last in the NHL both seasons he coached. Talent obviously was a big part of the issue, as Milt Schmidt was not much more successful after taking over during the 1962-63 campaign. Watson, who went on to coach in the AHL for three seasons, died in 1991.

8. Pinky Higgins, Red Sox

Higgins was a three-time All-Star who had two stints playing for the Sox before he had two stints as manager, starting in 1955. Higgins’ overall record over eight seasons was unimpressive but not disastrous (560-556). Higgins earns a spot on this list for being widely recognized as a bigot who conspired to keep African-American players from playing for the Red Sox. Boston was the last team to integrate and that is credited in large part to Higgins (allegedly in concert with team owner Tom Yawkey). Higgins, who went on to become the team’s general manager until being fired in September 1965, was charged in 1968 with killing a man and injuring several others when he was driving drunk and his car plowed into a Louisiana highway department crew. He died in 1969, the day after being released from prison.

7. Billy Herman, Red Sox

A standout National League second baseman in the 1930s and ’40s, Herman took over managing the Red Sox from Johnny Pesky for the final two games of the 1964 season, reportedly because Pinky Higgins (see above entry) didn’t get along with Pesky. Herman led the team to consecutive ninth-place finishes in 1965 and 1966, with a 128-192 record. Herman’€™s 1965 season featured a stunning 100 losses. The lack of improvement the following season led to Herman being replaced with 16 games remaining in the season. Herman, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975, died in 1992.

6. Dave Lewis, Bruins

In Lewis’ one season in Boston in 2006-07, the Bruins went 35-41-6 and finished last in the Northeast Division. Lewis was ushered in with new general manager Peter Chiarelli and was expected to have a bright future in Boston after coming over from the Red Wings. The team had acquired free agents Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara in the offseason and drafted Phil Kessel, but Lewis was unable to get the unit to jell. Lewis was dismissed after the season and replaced with Claude Julien. Lewis joined the Hurricanes as an an assistant coach prior to last season.

5. Clive Rush, Patriots

Rush was hired by the Patriots in January 1969, less than three weeks after serving as offensive coordinator for the Joe Namath-led Jets team that upset the Colts in Super Bowl III. After nearly being electrocuted at his introductory press conference, Rush couldn’€™t electrify the Patriots during his two seasons as coach in 1969 and 1970. In 21 games as coach, Rush won only five. Rush also was not particularly well-liked by players or, apparently, anyone else. He quit during the 1970 season after suffering an irregular heartbeat during a loss to the Bills. Rush died of a heart attack in 1980 at the age of 49.

4. Butch Hobson, Red Sox

Hobson, a former Sox third baseman, had a good start with the Sox organization as a coach. He managed well at Triple-A Pawtucket during the 1991-92 season, leading the PawSox to first place in the International League with a 79-64 record. The Sox scooped him up to replace Joe Morgan, reportedly afraid that Hobson would head elsewhere, but it didn’t go well in the majors. The Sox never finished above .500 in Hobson’s three seasons, which included an AL East last-place finish in 1992. Hobson’s post-Boston career included an arrest for drug possession in 1996 while managing the Phillies’ Triple-A team. He just completed his second season as manager of the Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League.

3. Rick Pitino, Celtics

Pitino arrived in Boston in 1997 with much fanfare, having established himself as a standout in the college ranks. He was coming off back-to-back appearances in the national title game (a win and a loss) with Kentucky. His experience with the Celtics, though, was far less successful. Pitino immediately turned heads with his egomaniacal behavior — including taking the title of president from Red Auerbach — and impatience. He never led the Celtics to the postseason or even a winning record before his midseason resignation in 2000-01. He did leave Boston with some memorable sound bites, however.

2. Bobby Valentine, Red Sox

It started bad, with unhappy players saying they were told the team would not hire someone like Valentine. It got worse early, with reports of discord in spring training. It got even worse at the start of the season, with a devastatingly bad opening series in Detroit followed days later by the manager criticizing one of the team’s veterans (Kevin Youkilis). And then it went downhill from there, ending with Valentine’s quick dismissal following a 69-93 record, the team’s worst since 1965. Even those who initially supported Valentine had trouble defending him following bizarre behavior such as his attempt to defend himself on WEEI for showing up late to the clubhouse before a game in Oakland.

1. Rod Rust, Patriots

The 61-year-old Rust oversaw the worst team in Patriots history, the 1990 squad that went 1-15, and that was the beginning and end of his NFL head coaching career. The Pats eked out a victory over the Colts in Week 2, followed by 14 straight losses to end the season. The Patriots scored only 181 points while allowing 446. Their offense ranked 26 out of 28 teams and their defense ranked second worst in the league despite Rust’s background as a defensive specialist. Following his forgettable stint as a head coach, Rust returned to being an assistant in the NFL and Canada, most recently in 2005 as defensive coordinator for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Read More: bobby valentine, Butch Hobson, Clive Rush, Dave Lewis