The demise of Scott MacPherson as coach of the Augusta Lynx seems to venture beyond the realm of wins and losses.
When the plug was pulled on MacPherson on New Year's Eve, just 33 games into the season, the team's record by no means was an abomination. At 14-16-3, the Lynx found themselves just four points out of second place and seemingly on an upswing, having won five of MacPherson's final eight games.
But something led owners and general manager Paul Gamsby to dismiss the first-year coach who arrived on the scene in late June in a blaze of glory promising a championship.
When the question of why a move was made was posed to players, key Lynx staff members and the club's owners, the answers ran the gamut.
But for a tight-knit group of players that spent the past week discussing MacPherson's downfall, the one answer many returned to was a general lack of respect for their leader.
"The guys didn't respect him," Lynx player/assistant coach Louis Dumont said. "He was a coach who wanted to be one of the boys and never lowered the boom until it was close to the end. Then he tried to come in and yell a little bit and stuff, and at that point, the guys were like, `What the hell are you doing?"'
Lynx assistant captain Dean Tiltgen agreed discipline was one of the most glaring problems.
"Did we do the little things that make teams winners? I don't think we do. Guys showed up late for practices with no penalty to pay. I can't read into the owners minds what they thought was the problem. But is South Carolina's talent that much better than ours? I don't believe it is, so there must be some other variable keeping us from being a better hockey team. And I think a good majority of us are looking forward to new leadership."
Dumont added, "There was no discipline in here. For example, I felt like if you showed up late for practice, nothing was going to be done or said about it. And a lot of times, you didn't even know when practices were going to be. We'd be on the road, and you get to the hotel and have no idea what time practice was going to be the next day. He never made things clear to us. He was not very prepared. Things like that, you just knew that no way he really belonged here coaching."
Players say MacPherson's lack of experience also hurt the team. Dumont pointed to an unusual timeout call with five seconds remaining in the Lynx's 2-1 win at home over Pee Dee on Dec. 30 - MacPherson's final game. The timeout allowed Pee Dee coach Davis Payne to draw up a play and give the players a chance to catch their breaths.
"He calls a timeout when we're up by one and the faceoff isn't even in our zone," Dumont said. "Guys on the bench couldn't believe it. You just don't do that. That's only one example."
A handful of players weren't nearly as critical, at least not publicly.
"It's hard for me because he stuck his neck out for me," said center Russ Guzior, whom MacPherson acquired from Mobile in the trade for Sam Ftorek. "But at the same time, it's a team game, and when the team's not winning and you've got 20 players playing pretty solid, it's hard to pinpoint certain (players) as the problem. If you're not given every opportunity to win because of coaching, I guess you've got to make a change."
Since his dismissal, owners George and Peter Gillespie and Gamsby cited a variety of reasons, the lack of respect issue with the players notwithstanding.
"I know the players didn't respect him," Gamsby said. "There's not much you can do when the players lose respect for the coach."
Rumors of incidents such as MacPherson's table-throwing tirade following a 4-3 overtime loss at home to first-place South Carolina, or his ongoing feud with popular trainer Brian Patafie also have been mentioned.
Patafie, who left the NHL's Calgary Flames to join the Lynx for their inaugural season, said MacPherson tried to get him fired in October, causing friction in the dressing room and throughout the organization.
"He didn't like me and wanted me out of here, but I'm not going to say that had anything to do with he owners decision to fire him," said Patafie, who turned down an offer to return to the NHL last summer to remain with the Lynx. "I do really feel I'm an integral part of the team, but (MacPherson) didn't want me to feel that way.
"He wanted me to feel that I'm here to wait on the players. I know I'm in here to wait on these guys, and the players know it, but (MacPherson) made it look like that's what's expected. Well, at this level, that's not always what's expected. I came here to do more than just be a trainer, but he tried to take that away from me.
"He had this perception when he came in here that he was going to fix something," Patafie added. "Well, there was nothing broken. We knocked off the No. 1 team (Florida) in the playoffs last year. (Coach) Dan Wiebe and (assistant coach) Ron Filion did an unbelievable job. There was nothing broken. ... but (MacPherson) was going to dismantle everything and build it in his mold. Well, he has no mold. He's a freaking Napoleon, and you know what happened to Napoleon."
The Augusta Chronicle attempted to contact MacPherson, but phone messages were not returned.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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