VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC have completed the first set of interviews in its search for a new head coach, club president Bob Lenarduzzi told whitecapsfc.com on Thursday.
“Our hope is that we will be able to find our next coach from that group, but there are obviously circumstances that dictate whether that can or can’t happen,” Lenarduzzi told whitecapsfc.com. “There’s certainly interest from our end as it relates to that group.”
Although Lenarduzzi said the club will extend the process if deemed necessary, the preference is to have a new head coach in place sooner rather than later. The club needs to make a decision on players whose contracts have options for renewal by the end of the month and the 2014 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, scheduled for January 16 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is approaching.
“All of those things could be done without a coach, but we’d prefer if that wasn’t the case because he’s the guy that’s responsible for the technical side,” Lenarduzzi said.
Jay DeMerit comments after October 29 Rennie announcement
Since it was announced that Martin Rennie would not have his contract renewed on October 29, the club has conducted an “extensive” and “thorough” search for a new head coach – something that wasn’t necessarily the case when they hired Rennie and Teitur Thordarson before him.
Before he was hired as head coach of Whitecaps FC’s inaugural MLS side, Thordarson had been with the second-division ‘Caps since 2008 and enjoyed an impressive 44W-27L-37D record. At the time, the club felt he was deserving of an opportunity to take the reins in MLS. With Rennie, meanwhile, there was widespread interest from other teams so the decision was made to step in and make him their man.
This time around, the club has taken a different approach.
“What we’d like to do is give ourselves the best chance of success by giving ourselves whatever amount of time that we actually need – without getting to the point where we don’t have a coach by the end of this year,” Lenarduzzi said. “I don’t think that would be required … and at the same time it would start to impact plans and preparation for next year.”
There has been no shortage of candidates who have applied for Whitecaps FC’s vacant head coaching position, according to Lenarduzzi. Most of them have expressed excitement about living in Vancouver and the club’s young core, which includes players like Camilo, Russell Teibert, and Kekuta Manneh, but there has also been an understanding about the club’s decision-making structure.
“They understand that they have autonomy within the cap and on player-related decisions,” Lenarduzzi said. “They also understand that if it goes beyond that there’s a group that will vet that, and if it makes sense, provide direction.”
As expected, there has been a lot of interest from coaches within North America, but Lenarduzzi said there has also been a significant amount from abroad. That said, it’s still a priority for the new head coach to have some sort of MLS experience, which will likely result in the exclusion of some “very, very good coaches,” Lenarduzzi said.
“The experience needn’t be as a head coach. It could be as an assistant or as a player, but we would like him to have knowledge of the league,” he continued. “Having said that … we may open that up if we feel that we’re not getting what we need at this stage.”
"If they're good enough, they're old enough."
As Lenarduzzi has spoken about from the outset, the new head coach also needs to embrace the development of Whitecaps FC’s younger players – particularly those coming through the Residency program like Marco Bustos, Jackson Farmer and Kianz Froese.
“I’m not suggesting for a minute that we play them if they’re not proving that they’re capable,” he said, “but if they have shown well enough let’s give them a chance and see how they can do.”
Finally, Lenarduzzi said the new coach should embrace the club’s long-standing identity of playing with passion, urgency, and an entertaining flair.
“Going back to our NASL days, that’s always been our identity,” he said. “The game has changed a lot since then … but any team that comes in to BC Place should realize that we’re not going to let them breathe, we’re going to pressure them from the outset and dictate the pace of the game.”