Monday, January 2, 2012

Coaching Search - AKA The 2011/12 KSE Debacle

Now that we're through the holidays its time to get back to business. Hopefully KSE will make a coaching choice this week, as this debacle of an off-season can't go on much longer. More on that in a moment. First, the current rumored list of candidates. The general belief is that the Rapids have pared the list down to 4 names (in order pictured), Denis Hamlett, Oscar Pareja, Tom Soehn, and Richie Williams. A brief bio of each:

Denis Hamlett - Denis was an original Rapid, being taken by Colorado in the 2nd round of the inaugural 1996 draft. He won the BIC Tough Defender of the Year award that year and was expected to be a cornerstone of the Rapids defense. In the off-season though he suffered a stroke from a blood protein deficiency. Hamlett then went into coaching as an assistant to Bob Bradley in Chicago, where he also served under Dave Sarachan and Juan Carlos Osorio. In 2008 he got the top job and led the Fire to two straight second place finishes in the East and two losses in the Eastern conference Championship. He spent 2011 as an assistant in Vancouver, and was fired after the season.

Oscar Pareja - Oscar had a long MLS career in Dallas after playing a season in NE, making 170 appearances for the Burn/FC Dallas. he was part of the Dallas team that lost their first-round playoff series in PK's to the Rapids in 2005, after which he retired. After retiring form playing he moved into an assistant coach role in Dallas, where he's been ever since. Pareja is the only rumored candidate with no head coaching experience.

Tom Soehn - Tom is another MLS original, playing the first 2.5 years of MLS in Dallas, and the next 2.5 in Chicago before retiring. Prior to MLS he played for the indoor Denver Thunder team and the Colorado Foxes. After retiring from playing he joined Denis Hamlett as an assistant with the Chicago Fire for 3 seasons before moving to DC United as an assistant, eventually taking over the head coaching role in 2007. In his first year as DC head coach he won the Supporters Shield but lost int he first round of the playoffs. The next two years DC finished 10th overall and failed to make the playoffs, but they did get to the USOC final each year, winning one. After stepping down as DC's head coach after the 2009 season he was named the Director of Soccer Operations by the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps. Vancouver's head coach was fired in May and Soehn took over for the rest of the 2011 season, with Hamlett as his assistant, leading the Whitecaps to the worst record in the league as an expansion team. After the season he stepped down from the head coaching role and returned to his Director of Soccer Operations role.

Richie Williams - Well known to long-time U.S. soccer fans as the Ankle-Biting Munchkin Of Death (ABMOD), Williams has the mot impressive resume as a player of the candidates. Williams was also an original MLS player, part of the dynasty of DC United teams in the 90's. After 5 seasons in DC he bounced back and forth between NY and DC for the next 3 years before finishing his playing career with 2 years in the USL. He also had 20 caps for the U.S. national team. After retirement he was an assistant coach at his alma mater, Virginia, for two years before taking the same role in NY for 5 years. Twice in his time in NY he was named interim head coach, first when Mo Johnston was fired and the second when Juan Carlos Osario resigned. Shortly before the 2011 season Williams was surprisingly fired for unknown reasons. In October he was named the coach of the U.S. U-18 team.

So, that's the run down. If it were up to me I'd probably go with Williams. Everyone that worked with or for him in NY has nothing but good things to say about him and its a bit surprising that he hasn't had a head coaching job yet. Hamlett is the safe pick for the Rapids, and that's where I expect them to go. A former Rapids player and a guy without much of a track record who wants another shot at a head coaching job. The only question mark around him is the rumors of problems between him and some players when he was in charge in Chicago. Pareja is the wild card. He seems to be a hot pick for somebody to give him a chance but I can't see the Rapids going out on that ledge. Though, with a lack of experience, he may be the cheapest option which is always appealing to our front office. The less said about the idea of hiring Soehn the better. In almost 4 years of coaching he's made the playoffs once. That's not an upgrade from what we've had.


That's what will (hopefully) happen. Now let's talk about what should have happened. I've made it clear that I had no issue with not giving Gary Smith a new contract. I expected the Rapids and KSE to have a better plan to handle the coaching search though. The season starts in less than 10 weeks. The MLS Combine, where college and youth players get scouted for the draft, starts on Friday. The draft is a week from Thursday, 10 days from now. Its kind of important to have a coach for these events! Even if the Rapids name a coach tomorrow that give the coach a day to do the press, a day to get settled at the Dick, and a day to travel to Ft. Lauderdale for the start of the combine. That's not much time to confer with Bravo and Hinchey to figure out what the team needs and what he needs to be looking for.

So far this off-season the Rapids have lost Nyassi in the expansion draft, cut 4 players, re-signed Mullan to a new contract, and claimed the rights to Husidic (who decided to go to Sweden) and Freeman. That's 5 players out and, if Freeman signs, 1 player in. Meanwhile we've seen MLS teams making trades and foreign signings and generally bolstering their roster. Obviously there's always going to be a delay on these type of things when you change coaches, but we've burned almost a third of the off-season trying to find a coach. Unacceptable.

KSE clearly had no plan for this off-season. They were either unaware or unconcerned that Plush was not going to re-sign Smith. That's fine, except as Plush was interviewing candidates and getting rid to make a decision, then KSE decided to get interested and Plush left. Its still unclear as to if Plush was fired, chose to resign, or it was a mutual decision but signs are pointing to it being a firing. If KSE wanted Plush gone they needed to make that decision before Plush made his decision on Smith. Its stupid to let Plush make that decision, interview replacements, and reportedly be close to making a replacement decision before KSE made their move. By doing that KSE set the coaching search back weeks, putting us in the position of , if we're lucky, barely getting a coach hired before the combine.

This whole off-season is in disarray now because of the lack of leadership from KSE. Since we've gotten 10 of our 11 starters under contract hopefully it won't affect the play in 2012 too much but I have my doubts. KSE needs to hire a coach now and give him extra resources to make up for KSe putting him behind the 8-ball. Of course, this being KSE, I don't expect that to happen.

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