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Nashville finally taking next step as pro sports city

After 16 years as a major professional sports town, Nashville is on the verge of taking the next evolutionary step as a professional sports city in the United States.

The 2014-15 season for the Nashville Predators will mark the first season that Barry Trotz will not be behind the bench serving as head coach. Peter Laviolette was hired this past May after Trotz as let go, signaling a major change in culture not seen before in the history of the franchise.

Likewise, the Tennessee Titans are experiencing their first true change in philosophy at the head coaching position with the hiring of Ken Whisenhunt. Even though long-time Titans coach Jeff Fisher was replaced with Mike Munchak back in early 2011, there wasn’t a significant culture change. After all, Munchak had been serving as offensive line coach under Fisher for 14 seasons.

Now, for the first time, Nashville’s two major sports teams are undergoing a new, foreign way of operating. New ideas and new faces are running the show. For the Predators, Laviolette is well-known for his offensive style of coaching. He likes to push the pace play an up-tempo style of game. That’s a major change from the previous regime.

Similarly, Whisenhunt is known for being a quarterback guru of sorts. He was able to lead the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl during the 2008 NFL season and revitalized Philip Rivers’ career last season as offensive coordinator in San Diego. With just less than two weeks remaining until the 2014 NFL regular season begins, Whisenhunt’s way of doing things is about to be put to the test.

Head coaching runs like the ones seen in Nashville over the past 16 years simply don’t happen very often anymore.

To put things in perspective, Trotz was second only to Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs for longest tenured coaches in the four major sports when he was let go by the Predators. Popovich had won four NBA championships during that time period and has since won a fifth. Trotz won a grand total of two playoff rounds.

Before Fisher was let go by the Titans in 2011, he was the longest tenured coach in the NFL. He spent 16 full seasons as head coach of the franchise and was able to hold on to his job all the way to 2011 despite not winning a playoff game since the 2003 NFL season. There aren’t very many other cities where that would be possible.

Simply put, Nashville has finally started to grow up as a professional sports city. The attitude of just being happy to have pro sports in the town is gone. The fans, and more importantly, the respective front offices of each of the two teams, are no longer just happy to just be there. They expect results.

For the first time, both the Titans and the Predators have gotten to a place where true changes will be made if the results don’t come. Quite frankly, they’ve finally joined the rest of the major professional sporting world.

It may not seem like a significant shift in ideology from the teams on either side of the Cumberland River, but being willing to make changes when necessary and try new things is a big step in the right direction for both franchises. They expect results. And when results are expected instead of hoped for, it’s a lot more likely that those results come.


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