Commentary

Under new ownership

After a year in which more was lost than gained, L.A. looks to its new leaders

Updated: December 30, 2010, 1:49 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Pete Carroll left first, and looking back I suppose we should've realized something was up.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll
AP Photo/Damian DovarganesPete Carroll's goodbye started the year off on a sour note.

With the exception of another title for Los Angeles' only exceptional team, much more would be lost in 2010 than gained.

Within the first two weeks of the new year, Carroll was shockingly gone from the USC Trojans -- ahead of NCAA sanctions, behind a cloud of uncertainty, leaving little trace of the unprecedented success we'd all started to take for granted.

His departure came out of nowhere and left the Trojans next to it.

It was only the beginning.

Over the next 12 months, Los Angeles said farewell to other titans -- Manny Ramirez, Joe Torre -- and said goodbye to an icon -- John Wooden. We suffered through a divorce that ripped apart the seams of one of our favored franchises. We accepted the fall of Troy and swallowed hard as the UCLA Bruins basketball team limped through a rebuilding season.

Our baseball teams floundered and fell out of contention for the playoffs and, later, for key free agents.

Our best women's basketball player (Lisa Leslie) stayed retired and her anointed successor (Candace Parker) was lost for the year with a shoulder injury.

Our best high school football teams didn't measure up, getting swept by their Northern California rivals in the three major state championship bowl games.

Phil Jackson, the best coach we have left, said this would be his "last stand" and seems to mean it this time. Even our champion Los Angeles Lakers were embarrassed by the Miami Heat on Christmas Day.

It's enough to make you want to cross out the last few days of your calendar and move on to 2011.

A new year has a way of making everything feel new. In years' past that simply meant starting fresh. This year I hope it means more.

[+] EnlargeJoe Torre, Don Mattingly
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesWe can expect a much different managerial style from Joe Torre's successor, Don Mattingly.

From loss, new growth can flourish. New leaders can begin reshaping the landscape with their vision and fill the enormous voids left by the year gone by.

With that in mind, here are some hopes for 2011:

• We'll never know if Joe Torre would've stayed on as the Los Angeles Dodgers manager if the McCourts' divorce hadn't turned so ugly. We'll also never know whether Torre's decision was affected by the regression of the Dodgers' young core -- Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton and James Loney.

Either way, he is gone and a very different personality will be taking his place.

Though Don Mattingly was Torre's chosen successor, the men are quite different. Where Torre was cool, Mattingly will be fiery. Where Torre gave his players space to work through issues, Mattingly will be hands-on and intensely proactive.

The question for the Dodgers is whether the regression can be corrected by a change in style, or if substantive problems will remain. Here's hoping Mattingly is able to be the manager Torre thinks he can be. Here's guessing he will.

• Pat Haden has spent his first few months as USC's athletic director detoxifying the Trojans' program. In the new year, I hope he gets a chance to put down his mop and bucket and pick up his hammer and nails. USC is too proud a university to simply be cleaned up. It must be rebuilt.

• There aren't many people who get to script the end to their own story. Here's hoping Phil Jackson is one of them. Say what you want about his motives for returning to chase a fourth three-peat, it took guts to do it. Sports are better when risk is rewarded.

• There are times when I wish the Los Angeles Clippers score wouldn't be displayed during telecasts. The team is still too young and thin to compete in the NBA nightly, but Blake Griffin is worth two hours of your time any time he puts on his jersey.

It's probably too much to wish for a playoff run, or even a five-game winning streak, but here's hoping for a year of good health and unbelievable dunks from Griffin.

• UCLA's best moment of 2010 came in June, when the softball team rallied in John Wooden's honor to win its 11th NCAA title. Here's hoping the men's basketball team can rally, too.

• Rick Neuheisel has always been at his best when it took his absolute best effort to succeed. Remember what he did as a walk-on quarterback with food poisoning in the 1984 Rose Bowl? He's reached the point heading into his fourth year as UCLA's coach. Here's hoping he can summon his best effort again. This should be a two-team town.

David Beckham may not have given the Los Angeles Galaxy everything they wanted the past four years, but he did give them more than you'd think. Here's hoping the Galaxy haven't alienated future foreign stars from coming to the MLS by refusing his request to play in Europe on loan during the offseason.

• Tim Leiweke and AEG have gotten everyone excited about the NFL returning to Los Angeles again. Here's hoping this doesn't turn out just like every other time when everyone has gotten excited about the NFL returning to Los Angeles.

Brandon Wood has the ability to be a great major league third baseman. He got his chance last year with the Los Angeles Angels and blew it. Here's hoping a good kid gets a second chance and makes the most of it this time.

• For two years, labor unrest has hovered over the NBA and NFL. Lockouts seem inevitable. Here's hoping everyone comes to their senses and realizes the damage a work stoppage will do to the two most popular professional sports league's in the country. I'm looking forward to spending Christmas in Miami next year.

It is amazing how little we know and can expect from so many of the people with an opportunity to shape this next year. After a year of loss, that's how it must be.

It's impossible to predict who will succeed and who will fall flat. But there is opportunity waiting for those with the character to grab it.

It should be fun to watch who has the guts to seize it.

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.