New York’s championship drought continued in 2022. But that does not mean the local professional teams lacked success. Or that some of the region’s head coaches and managers did not thrive.
Before we turn the page to 2023, ESNY has sat down and ranked every active coach in the market, best to worst, in 2022. The criteria: Regular and postseason success, team improvement, major awards, roster development and, to some extent, consideration of a coach’s overall resume and track record.
It is not a perfect science. Some coaches are just weeks into the job. But here is what we’ve got:
1-Buck Showalter, Mets. Showalter met the high expectations in Year 1. Well, almost all of them. The Mets racked up 101 regular season wins to end a five-season playoff drought. But they faded down the stretch and blew the NL East title to the Braves, then were eliminated by the Padres in the wild card round. The Mets were arguably the best-prepared team in baseball, though; and they overcame long stretches without co-aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer in the starting rotation. Showalter was named NL manager of the year. And his club will arrive to spring training as the World Series favorite following a historic offseason spending spree.
2-Brian Daboll, Giants. The guy has been a miracle worker. The Giants are on the verge of their first playoff berth since 2016 despite having major talent gaps, especially on offense. A great deal of credit goes to Daboll, who has found ways to prop up quarterback Daniel Jones while Saquon Barkley enjoys a bounce-back season. Daboll also gets credit for hiring defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, whose aggressive, blitz-happy scheme has masked issues on that side of the ball. The Giants have also navigated a late-season slump to give themselves a win-and-in matchup at home against the Colts on Sunday.
3-Gerald Gallant, Rangers. The ending was disappointing, sure. But no one can complain about Gallant leading the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Finals in Year 1, even if they blew a 2-0 lead to the Lightning. And the Blueshirts have bounced back from a slow start this current season and are now back in a playoff spot.
4-Aaron Boone, Yankees. One of the toughest to rank. Boone seemingly enjoys tremendous job security and he is coming off a 99-win season and ALCS appearance. But he has yet to win a pennant, much less the World Series, and most of the fanbase is done with him. If he cannot take care of business in 2023 after the Bombers re-signed Aaron Judge and added Carlos Rodon, he could be in trouble.
5-Jacque Vaughn, Nets. Vaughn has been exactly what the Nets needed since replacing the fired Steve Nash. Brooklyn has won nine straight and is near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Nets are playing defense and Vaughn is getting more out of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. This is a team that was in complete shambles not too long ago. Now they finally look like championship contenders.
6-Robert Saleh, Jets. Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas have built a championship-caliber defense. And they have a solid offensive line and good skill players. But the quarterback. Zach Wilson has almost single-handedly ruined this Jets season. Mike White still has a chance to save it, but the odds are against it. And the NFL’s longest playoff drought may grow. Saleh has done a solid job. But if he can’t get good quarterback play, it won’t matter in the long run.
7-Tom Thibodeau, Knicks. It has been a roller-coaster ride. Thibodeau’s first Knicks season was a smashing success with a playoff berth and an MVP-caliber campaign by Julius Randle. Everything regressed in Year 2. And now the Knicks are in a swoon after a hot streak in Year 3. Thibodeau has helped develop several young players (RJ Barrett, Quinten Grimes, and Immanuel Quickley) and has a true point guard in Jalen Brunson. The rest of this season will say a great deal about where Thibodeau’s tenure is headed.
8-Lindy Ruff, Devils. When the season started, fans were chanting for Ruff to be fired. Then they began apologizing as the Devils ripped off a 13-game win streak. That said, the initial instinct may still prove correct. New Jersey has lost seven of its last eight games and is slipping in the standings. This team may be closer to the abysmal units of recent seasons than initially believed. If a second surge does not occur, Ruff could again be on the hot seat.
9-Nick Cushing, NYCFC. Cushing took over as interim coach midway through the season. He then earned the job permanently after the reigning MLS champions returned to the Eastern Conference final. Cushing went 10-5-9 as an interim coach.
10-Sandy Brondello, Liberty. Brondello, who won the WNBA title in 2014 with the Mercury, eked into the playoffs with the Liberty in Year 1. They put a scare into the powerhouse Sky in the first round despite finishing the year with a losing record. And star guard Sabrina Ionescu had her best season yet, being named to her first all-star game and recording the WNBA’s first 30-point triple-double.
11-Gerhard Struber, Red Bulls. The Red Bulls entered the 2022 MLS playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed, but were one-and-done for the fourth straight season. But they did make the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
12-Lane Lambert, Islanders. The Isles went all-in on Lambert being the new voice they needed after Barry Trotz’s surprise sacking. So far, relatively OK. Lambert has his team a point out of the playoffs currently after being promoted from assistant coach to the head job. But he needs to get to the playoffs, and win there, to satisfy critics of the Trotz move.
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