Patrick Roy’s reclamation project isn’t quite complete yet. But after his team nudged itself ever closer to a playoff berth by losing Saturday’s 3-2 shootout showdown with the Rangers at the Garden, he’s already done what looked, on Jan. 20, to be a most-difficult trick. He had the Islanders in pole position to make the playoffs either as the third team out of the Metro or the second wild card.

On the day he took over, the Islanders were a mess, 19-15-11, out of the playoff projections and playing terribly, losers of four in a row and six out of seven. He debuted with a stunning 3-2 overtime win against Dallas, neck-and-neck with the Rangers for the Presidents’ Trophy now, and he’s kept it up, 18-12-5, including a six-game winning streak that died in the shootout Saturday.

It doesn’t happen like this a lot, a coach taking over in the middle of the season and having that kind of real impact. Often when a coach is fired, the move means either playing out the string of a season or it’s a fruitlessly desperate ploy to save it. It’ll have to wait until season’s end before we put Roy safely in among these New York managers and coaches who were hired midseason and really did fulfill the dreams of every GM with an itchy trigger finger.

1. Bob Lemon, Yankees, 1978

The Yankees had already won the last five games Billy Martin would manage that year and had shaved four games off the Red Sox’s 14-game lead. But when Bob Lemon arrived in Kansas City, a lot of the noise around that team quieted. He went out of his way to say his lone job was to get out of his players’ way, and they blossomed, going 48-20 in the 68 games Lemon managed, beating the Sox in the epic one-game playoff, then dismissing the Royals and Dodgers on the way to World Series No. 22.

2. Larry Robinson, Devils, 2000

This, like Roy replacing Lane Lambert, was the inspiration of Lou Lamoriello and it seemed crazy: the Devils were in first place when Robbie Ftorek was axed on March 24, 2000, and they immediately blew that by going 4-4 under Robinson. But the Devils were an entirely different team in the playoffs under the fiery Robinson, winning 16 of 23 games, and when Jason Arnott scored a double-OT goal against the Stars in Game 6 of the Cup finals, they had their second title.

3. Red Holzman, Knicks, 1967

The Knicks were 15-23 and careening toward a ninth straight losing year when Holzman reluctantly replaced Dick McGuire on Dec. 28, 1967. The Knicks lost their first two games under Holzman, but by the time they rattled off a six-game winning streak, Holzman had inserted struggling Walt Frazier into the starting lineup and … well, that was a smart decision, for then and for always. The Knicks finished 28-14 and gave a credible showing against the 68-win 76ers in the playoffs.

4. Emile Francis, Rangers, 1969 & 1974

Francis twice surrendered his coaching duties to focus on being a GM and twice the GM in him thought the team would be better with him returning behind the bench. It worked both times. Francis replaced Bernie Geoffrion after a sluggish 22-18-3 start in ’69 and the Rangers went 19-8-6 down the stretch, losing to eventual-champ Montreal in the playoffs. In ’74, the Rangers were 18-14-9 when he took over for Larry Popein, finished 22-10-5, then took the eventual-champ Flyers to seven bloody games in the Cup semis.

5. Lawrence Frank, Nets 2004

The Nets’ veterans, led by Jason Kidd, mutinied under Byron Scott — then promptly won their first 13 games under Frank. They finished 25-15 on Frank’s watch and swept the Knicks in the playoffs before losing to eventual-champ Detroit in the conference finals.

6. Mike Woodson, Knicks, 2012

Linsanity’s fever had worn off and the Knicks sat at 18-24 when Mike D’Antoni resigned March 14. The Knicks won five straight under Woodson, eight out of nine, and snuck into the playoffs.

7. Buddy Harrelson, Mets, 1990

The ’80s Mets were on their last breath when Davey Johnson was fired May 28. The Mets quickly took to BuddyBall, at one point winning 11 in a row, going 28-9 and spending 14 days in first place in July and August before the Pirates passed them for good.

Honorable mention: In 1947, after acclimating Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers, Leo Durocher got suspended by Commissioner Happy Chandler for “associating with known gamblers.” Burt Shotten replaced him on an interim basis, went 92-60 and the Dodgers took the Yankees to Game 7 of the World Series. Durocher got his job back in 1948, but in July, jumped to the Giants.

Vac’s Whacks

Davey Johnson won’t be able to make it to Doc Gooden’s jersey number retirement Sunday because of recent hip surgery, but he clearly recalls the instant he knew he had something special in his hands: “I was roving in our minors [in 1982], and I saw Dwight pitch for the first time when he was 17 at Kingsport. I never saw anyone pop the ball like that. I told him that if I ever manage the Mets, you will be on my staff.”


Julius Randle has battled a shoulder injury most of the year, but a sharpshooting city kid, Ayden Khalid from Dalton, picked up Randle in his absence in his 30-for-3 campaign, in which Julius donates $500 per made trifecta to the literacy enhancement program at the Earl Monroe Charter High School in The Bronx. Ayden sank 88 3s of his own. His classmates and friends matched it, donating more than $21,000 to other youngsters in need. The Pearl himself said: “This is what makes New York special.”


The Red Bulls hosted the 10th-annual Autism Acceptance Night at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. That holds a special place for Team President Marc de Grandpre as his 16-year old daughter Julia is on the autism spectrum. The team has been one of the most proactive organizations in professional sports in bringing autism to the forefront in a real, meaningful way. A portion of ticket sales went to Hackensack Meridian Health’s Autism CAN.


Queen Elizabeth reigned for 70 years. Sean Marks has just 62 to go.

Whack Back at Vac

Rob Schwartz: It is ironic that the college basketball and football coaches bemoan NILs and the transfer portal when the coaches themselves move from school to school for millions of dollars. More jumping than in a game of checkers!

Vac: Of all the people I have sympathy for in the brave new world of college sports — fans and alums at the top of the list — coaches are down about 874 or so.


Matt Deakin: The Yankees are hitting, Aaron Boone is managing well, they are playing defense, they are getting on base and striking out less, they are more fun to watch, and they are winning. What is a good Yankees fan like me supposed to complain about now? It’s early, but I’m confused.

Vac: No need to be confused. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy it all.


@MichaelHal59591: Jalen Brunson should be first-team NBA, not second or third. Take off Luka or Tatum or Giannis. No one has played better than Brunson — and Brunson is better to watch than any player in the league, more inspirational, as well.

@MikeVacc: I felt similarly when Jason Kidd finished second to Tim Duncan for MVP in ’02. Then, as now, I thought I might be skewed because I watch every game. Now, as then, I think I was right.


Louie Rey: A friend texted me yesterday about J.D. Martinez’s injury. With the Mets’ history of medical issues, I texted back to him, “When is the funeral?”

Vac: Come on, Mets fans. You chuckled at that one.

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