He was once the face of college basketball, Hoosiers personified, a small-town kid who this spring brought a smile, a swagger and a national championship resume to the UCLA program.
Yet before he even coached one practice, someone had created a Facebook page titled "Fire Steve Alford."
He was once baseball's best manager, the steady force who brought the Angels their first and only world championship, the creator of what many now consider halo heaven.
FOR THE RECORD:
Coaching in L.A.: In the May 5 Sports section, a column about sports coaches in the hot seat said that New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan has coached the team for six seasons and that New York Mets Manager Terry Collins has headed his team for four seasons; in fact, Ryan has coached the Jets for four seasons and Collins is in his third season as Mets manager. —
Yet recently, a blog called "Halos Heaven" conducted a Mike Scioscia poll that asked: "Is he toast?"
Yet there is not one, but two, Twitter accounts named after Vinny Del Negro's imminent demise, @FireVinnyDelNeg and @FireVinnyDNegro.
Welcome to the home of what has become the toughest job in sports, a place where perspective is forgotten, continuity is ignored and patience comes to die.
If you want to coach a major sports program in Los Angeles these days, lose your sense of pride, find your sense of humor and prepare to spend every waking hour apologizing for not being Phil Jackson.
Welcome to Hot Seat City.
"Coaches who come to L.A., you always think you're ready for it," said Warren LeGarie, a prominent agent for NBA coaches. "But you are never ready for it."
How could you be?
How could one of LeGarie's clients, Mike Brown, know that he would be fired just five games into this season? How could another of LeGarie's clients, Mike D'Antoni, know that he would be welcomed by thousands of Lakers fans chanting for another coach?
How could USC football Coach Lane Kiffin know that, mere months after going 10-2 with a depleted roster, he would have to interrupt a postgame news conference to announce he wasn't getting fired?
How could Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly guess that his owners would preach stability and continuity in assembling the most expensive team in baseball history, then refuse to extend his ordinary contract past the end of the summer?
"Coaches all want the beauty of L.A.," said LeGarie. "But there is a real difficulty in L.A."
Recent trends are turning that difficulty into a near impossibility. Suddenly, it seems, coaching a team in the best market in sports has become one of the worst jobs in sports.
Of the 10 coaches of Los Angeles' major sports programs, five are under such duress and could be fired by the end of the year: Kiffin, D'Antoni, Del Negro, Mattingly and Scioscia.