Over the past five seasons, there isn’t a coach that has more fully captured the hearts of sports fans in the Windy City than Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.
It isn’t just his gruff demeanor, icy stare or the famous “Q-Stache” either. It’s the fact that under his guidance, the Hawks have won 222 games in five seasons, racked up two Central Division championships, a President’s Trophy and, most importantly, two Stanley Cup championships in four seasons.
It has been far from an easy ride for the Hawks coach, however. After two consecutive first-round playoff exits in 2011 and 2012, there were some that speculated that his head might be on the chopping block. The calls for his ouster also came during the 2011-12 season, when the Hawks dropped nine consecutive games while their power play went an anemic 1-24 and their penalty killing unit allowed seven goals over the same stretch.
Despite coming into this season with that kind of pressure on his shoulders, and with a shortened season staring his team in the face, Quenneville thrived. He hit all the right buttons for the Hawks as they jumped out to a 24-game point streak to begin the year, and through all the trials and adversity his team experienced along the way, he always managed to make the right move at the right time as they won the championship.
With that in mind, the question arises as to where Quenneville fits among the all-time great coaches in Chicago sports history. A popular trend nowadays is to ask whether someone belongs on the “Mount Rushmore” of this or that category, so that’s what we’ll do. Does Quenneville belong on the Mount Rushmore of Chicago coaches?
To decide that, we will break down the candidates from each of Chicago’s five teams, starting with the Blackhawks.
For an organization with as storied a history as the Hawks, there are only two coaches besides Quenneville who could be reasonably considered contenders. The first is Billy Reay, who has, by a large margin, the most games coached in Hawks history with 1012. He won 516 games over that span and led his team to three Cup Final appearances. Unfortunately for him, he did not win any of those, which diminishes his candidacy a bit.
The other coach that comes to mind is Mike Keenan, who led the Hawks to their last Cup Final appearance in 1992. He has one of the best winning percentages of any coach in Hawks history at .542, but he was mostly known for his polarizing attitude and for getting under the skin of Hawks players like Jeremy Roenick.
The Chicago Bears also have two coaches who would qualify for Rushmore status. The first and most obvious choice would be “Papa Bear” George Halas. He led the Bears to six NFL championships during his reign, and his initials are still emblazoned on the sleeve of Bears players to this day. His career record of 318-148-31 was a remarkable achievement.
The other coach is, of course, Da Coach Mike Ditka. His 10-year run with the Bears netted him a 106-62 record and the organization’s only Super Bowl championship. He also became a huge pop culture icon during his time in the Windy City and remains to this day arguably the most popular coach to ever call Chicago home.
For the Chicago Bulls, there is only one real option, and it’s a doozy. Phil Jackson coached the team from 1989-98, and all he did in that time was lead the squad to an incredible six championships and an amazing 545-193 record. He also won 111 playoff games over that stretch and cemented his legacy as not only one of the great coaches in Chicago history, but sports history as well.
The Chicago Cubs have had a lot of managers over the years, but they still only produced two viable candidates for Mount Rushmore. The first is Cap Anson, who won 1263 games at the helm of the Cubs before the turn of the 20th Century, and led them to five National League championships.
The other is Frank Chance, who won 768 games as a player-manager and helped the Cubs to their only two World Series championships in 1907 and 1908.
The Chicago White Sox are also a bit sparse on legitimate candidates despite their lengthy history, but two do come to the fore when examining the team. The first is Al Lopez, who managed the team during the “Go Go White Sox” era in the 50’s and 60’s, leading them to the 1959 pennant and racking up 811 wins in the process.
The other is, of course, the Wizard of Oz Ozzie Guillen, who helped the team capture its first World Series title in 88 years when they won the 2005 championship. His tenure with the team did come to an acrimonious end in 2011, but despite that, he still holds a spot in the hearts of many Sox fans.
So out of all of the above candidates, who should be on the Chicago Mount Rushmore for coaches? In our eyes, the four who are most deserving are George Halas, Mike Ditka, Phil Jackson, and yes, Joel Quenneville. Obviously recent history has the effect of amplifying accomplishments, but in the span of only five years, Quenneville has won over a fan base that could have easily turned on him for replacing a Hawks legend behind the bench, and has proven that there is still a place for hard-nosed head coaches in a sports world that is quickly turning away from them.
What’s your take, Hawks fans? Do you think Quenneville deserves this spot?