The only head coach in Utah Blaze history resigned Monday in what was slightly less than, well, a blaze of glory. Danny White said it himself, two days earlier: "6-and-11 isn't acceptable at all."
And it wasn't.
He left, he said, to take a break.
It could be he was also told to resign. Or maybe he simply didn't see things improving. The reasons really aren't all that important. He's gone, the victim of his own expectations, which were precariously high.
White said in his first year that the Blaze could be a contender. Same the second year. At the start of this season, he said there was no reason whatsoever they couldn't win a championship.
Clearly, this was a man in a hurry.
"We're to the point with the core of players we have, the leadership and everything else that a reasonable goal now becomes a championship," said White in February. "The last two years, that probably wasn't a reasonable goal, but this year anything less than a championship is not going to be acceptable."
Instead, the Blaze lost 11 games and were defeated in the first round of the playoffs.
That's what he gets for being so doggone candid.
Couldn't he have gone with the old "that's-what-I-said-but-not-what-I-meant" excuse?
In harsh reality, White failed at least by his standards. In 13 AFL seasons in Arizona, his teams went to the ArenaBowl five times, winning two titles. He won 68 percent of his games, second-best in AFL history. He's in the league hall of fame.
A former Arizona State and Dallas Cowboys quarterback, he still holds eight Dallas records.
As a coach, he has been as plain spoken as a parole officer. Which may have been his downfall. He said there weren't any excuses, and darned if there weren't. So he recused himself from the bench, so to speak. A three-year, 21-30 record wasn't good enough.
The highest-paid coach/GM in the league fired himself for not following through on his promises.
If only politicians had such principles.
"I am grateful for everyone in the organization," said White of his time with the Blaze. "I couldn't have asked for anything better."
While the Blaze didn't exactly blossom under White, he did some nice things. He gave the new franchise instant credibility and represented it superbly. He saw the team through the difficult 2007 season, when receiver Justin Skaggs died of a brain tumor. This year he steadied the team after its 0-9 start, guiding it to the playoffs.
It's not like he had become complacent. Insiders say he worked harder than ever after firing defensive coordinator Hunkie Cooper and taking on added responsibilities.
Beyond that, he set a standard of accountability. From the day he arrived, he refused to lapse into the sort of self- serving, five-year-plan mantra many coaches espouse. He said he was hired to win. Now, not in five years.
He was composed, professional, candid and responsible in a Harry Truman sort of way.
The buck stopped at the logo on his shirt that said "Utah Blaze."
Not that he has never had adversity. When playing in Dallas, he followed Roger Staubach, which is a lot like renting an apartment after Martha Stewart: It's hard not to mess things up.
Though the Cowboys went to the playoffs five times, he never made the Super Bowl as a starter. Those are grounds for jail time in Dallas.
A few years after retiring, White got in a minor traffic accident with a 17-year-old kid, who referred to him as a "choking dog."
White only laughs when that is brought up today.
He could have pointed out Monday that his team won six of its last eight games. Coaches have argued on weaker grounds. He could have accused players of being quitters or blamed the shortage of coaches, but he didn't.
He might even have bought himself an extra year by setting more modest goals in the first place.
In the end, he left a far better legacy, setting an example of how to do any job: aim high, avoid excuses, answer the questions honestly and shoulder the responsibility.There are far worse ways to leave.
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