In a move that surprised many around the league, the Washington Galaxy this week announced that they had fired coach Rodney Reagle. In making the move, the Galaxy part ways with the league’s most colorful coach and a man who led the team to a 129-105-10 record and two Finals appearances – but also a coach whose comic act was reportedly wearing thin with an aging roster that seemed to be heading in the wrong direction.
There was a good deal of discontent in the capital city after the Galaxy finished with their first-ever sub-.500 record, going 31-32-1. Washington was widely expected to take a step back this season after losing several key players in free agency, including LW Walt Camernitz, RW Sindri Pentti, and backup netminder Ron Mason. Throughout the first half of the season, the Galaxy surprised with a strong performance, contending for a playoff spot for much of the season. However, the team struggled to get production beyond their top line and collapsed after the trade deadline, going 7-19-1 over the last six weeks of the season – a stretch that sealed Reagle’s fate.
“Rodney Reagle is a good man and a good coach, and a guy I’m proud to call my friend,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams. “We’ve achieved a lot together, and I thank him for all the good times. But we’ve made the difficult decision to go in a new direction.”
Reagle had a well-earned reputation as the clown prince of the SHL; he was famous around the league for dressing up in costumes on the bench and for giving post-game interviews laced with movie quotes and strange accents. The coach’s public goofiness made him a controversial figure around the league, and even reportedly within the Galaxy front office. As long as the team was winning, Reagle was generally viewed as charmingly eccentric. Once the team started to slide, however, it was easy to paint the coach as insufficiently serious.
“I’ve always known that my sense of humor was a high-wire act,” said Reagle. “As long as you win, you can be totally coo-coo bananas and everything thinks it’s a sign of a quirky genius. When you stop winning, suddenly you’re not funny anymore. I thought two trips to the Finals would have bought me a little more rope, but turns out there was just enough to hang me with.”
There are conflicting reports about whether the coach had lost the clubhouse. Some sources said that many players found Reagle’s antics silly and embarrassing. Others claimed that the players were actually quite loyal to Reagle, and that the decision was driven by owner Perry Dodge, who reportedly felt the coach was too loose with the team.
Several players spoke out in support of Reagle after word of the firing broke. “Coach Reagle is a great guy to play for,” said C Eddie Costello. “He treats you like a grown man and he keeps things light and fun. I feel bad that we let him down.”
Adams declined to comment on who Reagle’s replacement might be, other than to confirm that assistant coach Herman Chambers would be “strongly considered.” According to team sources, other possible candidates include Michigan assistant Morris Thompson, Anchorage assistant Kyle Barrow, and minor-league coach Peter James.