Lombardi Accuses Night of “Going Home Early”

Biff Lombardi is likely to be a footnote in the history of the New York Night.  He was the assistant coach for three-plus seasons under Nick Foster, and he became the interim head coach when Foster was fired three weeks ago.  The Night have made it clear that they don’t plan to consider him for the permanent job.  Perhaps because he knows he’s a short-timer, Lombardi has felt free to speak his mind.  And this week, he criticized his team in no uncertain terms, calling their competitiveness and work ethic into question.

Biff Lombardi

Lombardi spoke to the press on Tuesday after a game at Neon Sky Center against New York’s rival, the Hamilton Pistols.  In that game, the Night blew a 3-1 lead and lost to the Pistols 4-3.  A reporter asked Lombardi why New York lost the game.  The interim coach replied, “That’s easy: we went home early.  We thought we had the game in the bag, so we let our foot off the gas, and we blew it.”

After a pause, Lombardi went on: “Of course, that shouldn’t be a surprise, since we’ve been going home early all season.  When times are good and the spotlight is on, this team knows how to shine.  But give ’em half a chance to sleepwalk, and they’ll take it every time.”

Pressed to elaborate, Lombardi referenced Foster’s firing.  “You know why Nick got the ax?” he said.  “Because he couldn’t make this team care enough to work hard.  I know you all thought the feuds Nick picked were ego, or to get his name in the paper.  But that wasn’t it; it was the only way he could get this team fired up.  You’d think that a team of well-paid professionals could find their own motivation, but you’d be wrong with this group.”

A reporter asked Lombardi if he was concerned his remarks would cause friction with the players.  The coach replied, “Who cares?  In a week and a half, I’ll be gone.  This might be my only chance to get them to take a hard look in the mirror.  I can tell you this: teams that win championships work harder than anyone else.  They work hard in practice and play hard as a team for the full 60, because that’s what it takes to win at this level.  This team might pile up stats and get endorsement deals, but they don’t know how to win a championship.  And until they get that, really get it, they never will.”

Unsurprisingly, most of the New York players didn’t take kindly to Lombardi’s critique.  “What has he ever won?” said RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson.  “I’m a legend in this league, one of the best scorers of all time.  What does he know?  He’s just bitter because he’s going to get fired.”

“It’s hard to put a lot of stock in that kind of talk from a guy with one foot out the door,” agreed C Brock Manning.  “Yeah, we’ve got some work to do.  But I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about what our soon-to-be-ex-interim coach thinks of us.”

Not everyone was so dismissive of Lombardi’s comments, however.  “Honestly, I think there was some truth in what he said,” noted D Dave Frederick.  “If we want to get serious about winning the Vandy, we ought to take some of that to heart.  And I think we will, once we’ve gotten past the disappointment of this year.”

As Lombardi said, he’ll likely be gone in a couple of weeks.  Will the Night dismiss his criticism as well?  They’ll have a long offseason to think about it.

Night Name New Coaches

The New York Night announced this week that they hired Nick Foster as their new coach for the 2017 season.  Foster replaces Preston Rivers, who was fired after two seasons of disappointing results on-ice and tremendous dysfunction off of it.

“It’s no secret that we have high aspirations as an organization,” said New York GM Royce McCormick.  “We want to be a championship organization, and we think Nick is the guy to get us there.  He’s got the qualities that we were looking for: he’s smart, tough, and he knows the game inside out.  There’s no limit to how far he can take us.”

Nick Foster

Sources close to the organization say that the Night strongly preferred a veteran coach, and Foster definitely fits the bill, with over 15 years of experience coaching at a variety of levels, from college to junior to the minor leagues.  “This isn’t my first rodeo,” said Foster.  “I know we’ve got some work to do, but that doesn’t scare me.”

Foster has a reputation as a turnaround artist; at several stops, he’s taken poor and struggling teams and turned them into contenders.  “He’s a guy who knows how to get results, and quickly,” said McCormick.  “That’s exactly what I want to see.”

Foster was coy about setting expectations at the press conference.  When asked if he thought the Night would make the Finals this season, the new coach replied with a grin, “I’m not going to make any guarantees.  That’s a good way to get run out of town in a hurry.  But we’re going to be competitive, and we’re going to win sooner than later.  That’s why I love New York; it’s a winner’s town.”

The Night certainly expected to be competitive under Rivers, and the coach never shied away from boasting about his team’s prowess.  But New York’s grand ambitions crumbled into a wreck of poor defense, inconsistent effort, and internal dissension.  Several players took public shots at their teammates and Rivers, with star RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson even bolting the team in the final week of the season.

Foster acknowledged that repairing the Night’s toxic clubhouse is a priority.  “Obviously, things got out of control here last year, and that can’t happen again,” said Foster.  “I want to get us focused on winning and working together.  I’ve always found that it’s a lot easier to keep everybody happy when you win.”

Asked if he planned to seek trades for any noted troublemakers, Foster said, “Nah.  Not right away.  As far as I’m concerned, they’ve all got a clean slate with me.  Everybody’s got a chance to get on board with what we’re doing.”

Biff Lombardi

Along with Foster, the Night introduced new assistant coach Biff Lombardi, replacing Cam Prince.  Lombardi was reportedly a finalist for the head job as well.  Lombardi has been an assistant for almost 20 seasons, primarily in the minor leagues.  He is known for his defensive instruction, and he hopes to address the team’s defensive issues.

“Look, let’s be honest: this team is never going to be Michigan in terms of defense,” Lombardi said.  “That’s not our identity.  But if we can make more of an effort, police our own end better, that goes a long way.  We don’t have to turn into a bunch of grinders and trappers, but we need to make that effort.  I’m OK with winning 5-4, but we can’t give up 5 or 6 goals a game and expect to win.”

New York players responded positively to the hirings of Foster and Lombardi.  “Nick Foster seems like a good guy and a serious, professional guy,” said Nelson.  “He’s not going to be out glossing himself all the time.  He’s into winning, and that’s what we’re into too.  Let’s do this.”