DAN BICKLEY

Torey Lovullo has become the Diamondbacks’ Braveheart through the ups and downs

Feb 14, 2024, 4:25 PM | Updated: 4:43 pm

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo NLDS Game 3 October 11, 2023 (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Spo...

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo NLDS Game 3 October 11, 2023 (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

Most head coaches and managers share the same career trajectory. They get one honeymoon, one mulligan, two pints of adversity and one shot at glory.

Then they get fired.

Torey Lovullo is a different breed. The Arizona Diamondbacks manager is affable, communicable, and respectful. He has conviction and real toughness, perennially unbowed by his lame-duck status and a series of one-year contracts. He has a softness and a vulnerability you rarely see in professional sports, treating the media with pleasantries and compassion because he has nothing to hide.

I hope he’s the rare Valley leader who comes without an expiration date.

Lovullo is coming off his second breakout season in Arizona. In 2017, he guided his first Diamondbacks team to the playoffs. In 2023, he guided an 84-win team to the World Series, including a thrashing of the pricey Dodgers in the divisional playoffs, and a dramatic last stand to win a pennant in the grit-and-spit of Philadelphia. He became the emotional touchstone of the clubhouse, frequently imploring a young team to have fun and let loose.

We all responded when he said it was time to freaking party. He was our baseball Braveheart.

With very minor quibbles, Lovullo rolled hot until the bitter end. The three-game home losing streak that ended the postseason mostly landed on the shoulders of Mike Hazen, the general manager who failed to deliver an impact starter at the trade deadline, forcing the team to stage an embarrassing bullpen game in the World Series.

As a result, Lovullo is now enjoying his second honeymoon in Arizona. He was one of the most popular faces at the rain-shorted WM Phoenix Open Pro-Am, and the energy surrounding his team is real.

Our market can be fickle and bandwagon unpredictable. But you always know when a real connection has been made. The 2024 Diamondbacks enter a new season with rare tailwind and momentum, and Lovullo is the ringleader.

They are also the reigning National League champions, which means the upcoming season will be loaded with desires and expectations. The Diamondbacks have improved their win total by 32 wins in the past two seasons, a quantum leap in the standings. And the higher you get, the steeper the climb, the more precipitous the fall.

Only one of our beloved managers/head coaches has come down from the mountain unscathed. That was Bob Brenly, who came down from the broadcast booth to win a World Series in 2001, liberating a team from tyranny. Lute Olson did the same for the University of Arizona and the city of Tucson, creating a legacy that will never be matched.

Others weren’t so lucky. The personable and relatable Mike D’Antoni unveiled a high-flying offense that ignited an NBA revolution. Bruce Arians was the most candid, compelling, and cussing head coach the NFL had seen since Mike Ditka. There was Ken Whisenhunt’s Super Bowl run (“In Whiz We Trust”); Kirk Gibson’s glorious rookie season; and the guiding hand of Monty Williams, who restored culture, competency, and trust to the sunken Suns.

They all learned that unexpected success puts a target on your back and complacency in your gut. And in the end, most of our beloved coaches and managers with critics howling and tempers flaring.

Baseball season is here. Lovullo has already been through his own purgatory in Arizona. Here’s hoping that he’s the guy who breaks the mold. The guy that leaves on his terms.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

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Torey Lovullo has become the Diamondbacks’ Braveheart through the ups and downs