David J. Neal

Top 10 South Florida sports stories of 2015

Head coach Dan Campbell stands on the sidelines as the Miami Dolphins host the Baltimore Ravens at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, December 6, 2015.
Head coach Dan Campbell stands on the sidelines as the Miami Dolphins host the Baltimore Ravens at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, December 6, 2015. adiaz@miamiherald.com

1. Optimism about quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a shiny new free agent centerpiece (see Ndamukong Suh below) bred playoff predictions. Instead, a 1-3 start got coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle fired; testosterone-gushing tight end coach Dan Campbell’s promotion to coach resulted, ultimately, only in four wins. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor got sacked. And, once again, the Dolphins direction remained unclear.

2. The worst loss in Hurricanes football history, 58-0 to Clemson at home, left UM at 4-3 and brought on the firing of Al Golden. A 4-2 finish and the sixth consecutive bowl loss, this time to Washington State in the snowy Hyundai Sun Bowl, didn’t put smiles on UM supporters faces. What did: UM getting former Hurricanes player and assistant coach Mark Richt as coach after Richt and Georgia parted ways.

3. Like Isaac Hayes performing the “Theme from Shaft” at the Oscars, center Hassan Whiteside rose from the floor of street free agency to startle the NBA while electrifying Heat fans. The 7-0 2010 Sacramento draft pick averaged 11.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in the last 48 games of 2014-15 and improved to 12.6, 11.0 and 4.0, respectively, in 2015-16.

4. There’s no question defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was the most prized NFL free agent last summer. And the Dolphins got the perennial Pro Bowler for $114 million, $60 million guaranteed. Suh missed the Pro Bowl in 2015.

5. The Heat pulled off a three-team trade that brought in one of the NBA’s best point guards, Goran Dragic. Later that day, the team sent ailing forward Chris Bosh to doctors. Blood clots in his lungs, a potentially life-threatening ailment, hospitalized Bosh for a week. He missed the rest of the season.

6. Perhaps underscoring the importance of Chris Bosh and the way pieces fit together, the four-time defending Eastern Conference champion Heat didn’t just fail to make a fifth consecutive NBA Finals — it missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08.

7. The MLS ownership group headed by former international soccer star David Beckham bought land in Overtown where it will build a soccer stadium for an MLS franchise. This ended two years of being NIMBYed when they sought to build downtown then, earlier this year, next to Marlins Park.

8. The Marlins believed their lineup was better than a 16-22. So, they fired manager Mike Redmond and made general manager Dan Jennings the interim skipper. Under Jennings, the Marlins went 55-69 (.444). Jennings would be fired as general manager after 13 years with the Marlins organization. The Marlins hired Don Mattingly as manager.

9. Panthers owners Doug Cifu and Vinny Viola brought in former longtime Philadelphia Flyers executive Peter Luukko as executive chairman; beefed up the radio and TV broadcasts; and reached an agreement with Broward County, bringing the franchise financial relief while tethering it to South Florida. Meanwhile, on the ice, the Panthers hit the turn of the 2015-16 calendar at the top of the Atlantic Division as the NHL’s best young talent flowered.

10. The Marlins once again proved team failure doesn’t preclude individual excellence. Dee Gordon’s bat rarely cooled while leading the National League in hitting (.333), hits (205) and stolen bases (58). The last player to lead a league in hits and steals? Jackie Robinson in 1949.

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