After an absolutely dreadful and MLB-worst 7-18 start to the season, the Milwaukee Brewers gave manager Ron Roenicke his walking papers Sunday. The following day, Craig Counsell was signed to a three-year deal to replace the fired skipper. In addition to serving as assistant to general manager Doug Melvin since 2012, the 44-year-old first time manager (at any level) also suited up for the Brew Crew in 2004 and from 2007 to 2011. Since taking control of the hapless team with nothing to lose, Counsell won a game, he lost a game, and he’s worn a hoodie in the dugout twice. So far so good, right?
Perhaps Counsell’s path to management was shortened due to his longtime connection to the team. Maybe it was done to move some extra shirt jerseys from a fanbase that largely overvalues intangibles like “scrap” and “grit”…and having any semblance of local connection regardless of ability. Who knows for sure? What we do know is that familiarity-based leadership moves such as Counsell’s overnight hiring aren’t unfamiliar, especially in Wisconsin sports. So as we prepare for the ex-player and new skipper’s tenure on the Brewers bench, Milwaukee Record found 10 more instances of Wisconsin professional athletes taking over their former team.
Curly Lambeau — Green Bay Packers (1921-49)
Technically, Green Bay Packers legend and eventual stadium namesake Curly Lambeau didn’t take over his former team. Rather, the halfback and kicker started as the player-coach of team he founded. He put away his pads after the 1929 season, but stayed on the sidelines until 1949, having amassed six championships and a 209-104-21 record over his historic tenure.
Roy McMillan — Milwaukee Brewers (1972)
While he didn’t play for the Brewers, shortstop Roy McMillan did play parts of four less-than-astounding seasons in Milwaukee as a member of the Braves. After Dave Bristol had an abysmal 10-20 start in 1972, McMillian kept the manager’s spot on the bench warm for two games as a true interim replacement was sought. He won one games and lost one, just like Counsell has to this point.
Del Crandall — Milwaukee Brewers (1972-75)
The third (!) skipper of the tragic ’72 campaign was beloved former Braves backstop Del Crandall. After the two-game stint, McMillan handed over the keys to the ramshackle three-year-old franchise. He finished 54-70, but was kept on staff until his unceremonious firing with one game left in the 1975 season. Crandall’s entire managerial found the former Brave racking up a 271-338 record. Not exactly Roy McMillan-esque.
Bart Starr — Green Bay Packers (1975-83)
Anyone who claims Bart Starr can do no wrong has obviously been able to block out the Hall Of Fame quarterback’s downright shitty run as Green Bay’s head coach between 1975 and 1983. Apparently being a great player used to give ineffective coaches a much longer leash, as the Packers legend went 52-76-3 in 131 games—which is more games than Vince Lombardi, Mike Holmgren, and (until last season) Mike McCarthy coached for Green Bay. In 1983, the Packers finally had enough of the lengthy experiment of letting a team icon coach and fired Starr for Forrest Gregg. Oh, never mind.
Forrest Gregg — Green Bay Packers (1984-87)
Hall Of Fame lineman Forrest Gregg fucked up what could have been a storied playing career spent entirely in a green and gold uniform by ditching the Packers to help hated rival Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl in the 1972 season (his final season). The next season, Gregg parlayed his on-field success to the world of coaching, and he quickly ascended to the position of head coach by 1975. After stints with the Browns, Toronto Argonauts (CFL), and Bengals, Gregg returned to Titletown and somewhat smeared his good name in Green Bay with a 25-37-1 record in four seasons at the helm.
Mike Dunleavy — Milwaukee Bucks (1992-96)
Dunleavy finished his playing career in Milwaukee. Then he un-retired in 1988 and re-finished it in Milwaukee in 1990. He quickly got into coaching, and after two seasons with the Lakers, he came to Milwaukee once again, where he went 107-221 in four abysmal seasons. In 2011, his son Mike Dunleavy Jr. signed to play in the city where he spent much of his youth, before opting out of his deal to sign with the Bulls and incite opposing player ejections with his annoying brand of play.
Ned Yost — Milwaukee Brewers (2003-08)
In a somewhat similar situation to Gregg, a player from a Wisconsin team’s glory years was called upon to try and return his team to the promise land by being given a leadership position he, honestly, probably wasn’t qualified to have. As Milwaukee’s manager, Yost went 457-502. He is perhaps remembered most for his boneheaded decisions and his fiery post game interviews when he was asked to explain his boneheaded decisions. With a dozen games left in his sixth season managing the Crew, he was fired and replaced by Dale Sveum, another former Brewers player who returned to town. Yost cashed in on his last remaining year under contract in 2009, then cut into his hunting time when he accepted the Kansas City Royals manager position in 2010. Last season, Yost led the Royals (and the shocking number of former Brewers on their roster) to the American League pennant.
Larry Krystkowiak — Milwaukee Bucks (2007-08)
After the prolonged wet fart that was the Terry Stotts era Bucks finally concluded with 18 games left in the 2006-07 season, assistant Larry Krystkowiak (who was brought in to fine-tune unpolished young center Andrew Bogut) took the reins. Those who watched the Bucks between 1986 and 1992 might faintly recall the reserve power forward. While he was a decent option off the bench, his coaching style (or lack thereof) was more of the same for the beleaguered mid-’00s Bucks franchise. He “led” the team to a 5-13 record to finish out the 2006-07 season, and was dismissed after a dreadful 26-56 performance the following year.
Dale Sveum — Milwaukee Brewers (2008)
As noted above, one former Brewer-turned-manager was relieved by another in 2008 when Yost (who had an 83-67 record to that point, but struggled mightily in August and September) was ousted in favor of bench coach and former Brewer Dale Sveum for the team’s final 12 regular season games. Suddenly, the infielder who clubbed 25 home runs and 95 RBI for the Crew in 1987, was given the keys to a team on the cusp of the playoffs. After a 7-5 finish…and an even larger late-season collapse by the Mets, Sveum captained the Brewers in the Wild Card winner’s brief NLDS series, which the Phillies quickly won in four games. However, it was enough to eventually land the interim skipper a full-time job managing the Chicago Cubs. He was fired two years into a three-year contract and has since reunited with Yost, serving as the hitting coach of the Royals.
Scott Skiles — Milwaukee Bucks (2008-13)
If you don’t remember Scott Skiles as a Bucks player, we don’t blame you. The guard, who did his best work as a member of the Orlando Magic and Washington Bullets (at least if NBA Jam and NBA Jam TE are to be believed), but actually played his first professional minutes in a Bucks uniform. Milwaukee selected the Michigan State guard 22nd overall in 1986. After one season in which Skiles played scored a mere 49 points in 205 total minutes that spanned 13 games, he was traded to the Pacers. Following his impressive playing career and coaching stints with the Suns and Bulls, a hardened Skiles returned to lead the Bucks to a 162-182 record (and 3-4 in the playoffs) from 2008 until he walked off the job early in the 2013-14 season.