Former NFL head coach Mike Holmgren inquired about the 49ers’ vacancy earlier this year, but according to the 67-year-old San Francisco native, management said he wasn’t young enough for the position.
Whether the highly accomplished Holmgren would have been a better choice than untested Jim Tomsula is another matter. What makes the story significant is that it’s consistent with the way 49ers CEO Jed York runs his organization. That is, like a start-up tech company and not an NFL franchise.
In January, an age discrimination lawsuit was filed against the 49ers that alleged two former longtime managers had been fired so York could bring in younger tech workers because they “made a lot of money, they did a lot of cool things before they were 40 years old, and they don’t want to go play golf six days a week.” It mentions former team president Gideon Yu having referred to older workers as “legacy” employees, which is a discriminatory term in Silicon Valley.
Last week a California judge ordered plaintiffs Anthony Lozano and Keith Yanagi and the 49ers to participate in an “early settlement conference,” it was reported.
Seven years after he last coached in the league, Holmgren briefly considered a comeback last off season. He was beaten out by Tomsula, who had no previous experience as a head man but was 20 years younger.
“You know, I’d be traveling across the country and my grandkids are all in Seattle, and my life is really good but I had the bug still, and then I told my agent, ‘You know, the one I’d really kind of like to do is San Francisco,’ and so they reached out to the 49ers, and essentially, I got the call back saying, ‘Nah, we’re going with a younger guy,’” Holmgren recalled.
“I probably needed to hear that because you get your ego stroked and you’re flattered when people call you and you kind of get into a place where I’m not sure you’re making great decisions. But when I heard that, I said, ‘OK, I needed to hear that and now I’m going onto other things.’”
Then again, why would York hire someone with a 161-111 career record and one Super Bowl victory who might want to impose his savvy on the football operation?
THESE KIDS NOWADAYS: Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will have to change the culture of the program to be successful, which became apparent when he required fifth-year seniors to try out for the team last month. The message was that players would start with a clean slate and be judged on their merits, not reputations.
But rather than seize the opportunity to impress the new coach, defensive end Keith Heitzman got his feelings hurt. So the back-up completed his degree in Ann Arbor, Mich., then took his football to Ohio University, where he had one year of eligibility as a graduate student. A few other entitled ones followed him out the door for whatever
“Obviously, Harbaugh coming in was going to change things at Michigan — do things his way,” Heitzman told the Columbus Dispatch. “But I didn’t know if I wanted to try out. That definitely took me off-guard. I was bummed out.”
That lack of determination and commitment pretty much explains why Michigan has zero Big Ten championships and one major bowl victory to show for the last 10 years.
ON THE CLOCK: Harbaugh refers to his team as “a work in progress,” and the Big Ten writers agree with him. In a preseason poll that was released on Monday, they picked the Wolverines to finish behind Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State in the West Division.
But now that the university has invested a minimum of $40.1 million in their coach, one wonders how soon it will expect tangible results.
When Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett hired Harbaugh, he bought maize-colored watches to commemorate the event. The AD wore one of the watches when the coach was introduced, but now he wears it for a different reason.
“I wear this to remind [Harbaugh] he hasn’t won a game yet,” Hackett said. “I’ll take it off when he wins his first game.”
Harbaugh U. faces a difficult road test at Utah on Sept. 3, the start of what looks to be one more difficult schedules in the country.
DELLY COMES UP SHORT: Matthew Dellavedova re-signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a one-year and $1.2 million on Monday, well short of the multiyear deal that he had hoped for as a restricted free agent. The St. Mary’s product could cash in next summer, when the salary cap will jump to $90 million or more.
If Dellavedova is smart, he’ll lock himself inside a gym and shoot a few hundred jump shots every day before then. Because no matter how hard they play at both ends of the court, guards with career .386 field goal percentages are a nickel a dozen in the NBA these days.
SUMMER IN THE CITY?: Now that Boston has bowed out of contention, the Bay Area may have a full-court shot to host the 2024 Olympic Games. But unless Stephen Curry has the ball in his hands, it’s hard to like its chances. The Games would have to be a group effort here, and politics what they are, when as the last time Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco came together on anything of substance? (Good luck, Super Bowl 50.)
That leaves Los Angeles as the the safe bet to serve as the host city. L.A. is hardly the perfect venue, but it did all right for itself in 1984, when the Games turned a profit and none of the competitors died of smog inhalation as far as we know.
YOUR TURN: “Jed York’s comparison of Steve Kerr to Jim Tomsula is ludicrous. Told you he was an imbecile, delusional owner. And, no, it wasn’t time for Jim Harbaugh to leave.” — Art Alcantar, San Francisco