I looked at a couple studies that investigated the success of teams in the games immediately following a coaching change. You can check them out here and here… if you want to, they are a little dry with a lot of methodological blah, blah, blah, which I know some of you will appreciate. They come to the same conclusion that changing the coach doesn’t result in any positive change in production in the long run. I guess they discovered that a sinking ship continues to sink even if you change the captain.
But what about Saturday’s game? How does this affect us? There are arguments that teams have a short period of improved results immediately following a coaching change. Some of it is due to the psychological affect on the players that pushes them to bust their butts a little harder, and some of it is simply regression to the mean. After all, coaches are usually let go during a particularly bad run of results and even struggling teams are going to win sooner or later.
Robbo and the players’ party line this week is to be prepared for a Dynamo team with a lot to prove and some extra motivation. I think Robbo needs to say that to keep his charges focused and hungry, and the players need to say that because, well, they want Robbo to put them on the field. Jordan Harvey may have been right in his interview when he said the Houston players would be fighting extra hard for jobs and to impress a new coach, whomever that will be. But really! Is the new coach going to evaluate the players on the two to three games after the coach leaves before, according to the studies, the team resumes its downward spiral. Or rather, will they be evaluated on the ten games that got them in their sorry position in the first place.
Now it needs to be restated that this is not officially a sacking of the coach. They left on mutual terms with Coyle stating that him living so far from home is a strain on his family. But one wonders if this same decision is made had Houston won five of their last seven games… So, there isn’t a new coach behind the bench, nor is there a new coach in the stands, or one watching on TV at home. That leaves Saturday’s game to be managed by the three remaining assistant coaches, which makes the players’ motivation to play for the new coach a little more abstracted.
Andrew Jacobson may have said it best with, "we don’t know what to expect." The Dynamo could be a wounded tiger that just arrived in Vancouver, grumpy and disoriented because someone just knocked over their cage and the guy that feeds them is nowhere to be seen, but I think it is a tall order for the Houston to walk into BC Place and play their best.
My non-academic, fan boy prediction: advantage Whitecaps.