The Orioles won 60% of their games last season after Buck Showalter came to town. People liked the moxie that immediately seemed to be breathed into the team. While the O's did look good early, that hasn't appeared to carry into 2011. Why? It's tough to say, however keep in mind that the period of time when Buck managed the team in 2010 didn't have any significant injuries. In fact, several key players such as Pie and Roberts returned just prior to Showalter coming on the scene. This year has seen more injuries, including Brian Roberts again. I think that's made a huge difference, and will continue to do so until the injured players are rehabilitated.
So was Showalter a good coach in 2010? Is he thus a poor coach in 2011? The bump the team received upon his taking of the reigns probably did have a thing or two to do with the novelty of different manager. Furthermore Showalter was a guy that commanded respect automatically, which made the team look up to him. So again, does that combined with the results thus far in 2010 make Showalter a poor or so-so coach? To follow that up, what would you call a good or great coach? To answer that, we can look at baseball as well as other sports. First off, any person who's coaching at this high of a level knows the game. We hear that term used frequently in that people say "he's a good coach because he know's the game very well." Again, if you're coaching at this level it's not a matter of knowing the game because that's a given. Dave Trembley "knew the game" by virtue of the fact that he had been involved in it his entire life, The same could be said for Sam Perlozzo and Lee Mazilli. (The only difference would be that Trembley never played at the major league level.) So what sets the Earl Weaver's aside from the Perlozzo's and the Mazilli's?
When you talk about great coaches in sports, the names Vince Lombardi, Mike Kryzewski, Bobby Knight, Joe Paterno, and Bill Belichek (among others) generally come up. All of those names have one thing in common: they're leaders of men. When I say that, I mean in the tradition of the great General George S. Patton, George Washington, and Collin Powell. Granted what those three and their contemporaries did trumps what coaches do, however my point is that they're all leaders of men. I suppose that it starts with not asking someone to do anything that you wouldn't do yourself. The above-mentioned coaches all expected a 200% effort out of their players. In return, they gave/are giving a 300% effort on their side. Most players are smart enough to recognize that, and they respect it.
Here's the other thing; we equate winning with great coaches. That's generally how it works, however just because you win a lot of titles doesnt necessarily make you a great coach. Phil Jackson is often thought of as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. That's probably the truth in many ways, however Jackson's also a guy that's had the option of choosing the teams he's coached. He was smart enough to see the talent and potential on the Chicago Bulls, and later the L.A. Lakers. To draw a parallel, Joe Girardi fell on his face as a manager in Florida. Once he got to the Yankees he started to thrive; incidentally he had a championship team in place. Again, this is not to say that Jackson and/or Girardi are bad coaches in the least, however they did have the best players in the league at the time they coached.
I would argue that Pat Riley was a better coach than Phil Jackson because he never had the star-studded teams that Jackson coached, yet he was in the playoffs consistently. That said, a good coach will also get the absolute most out of his players. To use an example close to home, former Maryland coach Gary Williams was the master at this. The Terps' national title team of 2002 wasn't packed full of superstars, but Williams got everything that he could out of them. The same can be said for his other teams over the years. In 2004 Maryland won the ACC title on the shooting arm of John Gilchrist, and the coaching of Williams who motivated that team to the level of winning an ACC title. That's leadership, and thus a good coach.
So in that spectrum of coaching, where does Buck Showalter lie? I wouldn't put him up there as the greatest coach ever in any sports (that would be Vince Lombardi in my opinion), however he's certainly no push-over. I think that this team might be lacking in motivation to a certain extent, and that's where Buck needs to step in and give that added incentive for them to perform. That is of course assuming that keeping your job isn't enough to get the most out of your players.