The Jim Curtin era is officially underway as the new Union boss took questions today. Curtin first thanked Jay Sugarman and Nick Sakiewicz for "giving me this opportunity." He also thanked John Hackworth and Rob Vartughian for their time with the club but then went on to say he would not be talking about them any further. Curtin then started in and didn't mince words. He addressed the team and said that they've had a bunch of good players who have had poor first halves of the season, but that there were 18 games left for them to "right the ship". He then went on to say that the club would be taking the US Open Cup competition "very seriously" and then added one of the best quotes of the day:
"This club needs a trophy." - Jim Curtin
This represents (to me at least) a fundamental change in the attitude between the old regime and new. Where John Hackworth liked to bandy about "Philly tough", the man from suburban Tampa wouldn't have ever come out and said something as direct and powerful as "This club needs a trophy." Curtin then went on to say that the "results haven't been here, but the resources are." This is an important onus to put on the players and establishes accountability - something that seemed to be lacking under previous management.
Curtin went on to say that he was "confident in staff. Mike Sorber is Assistant Coach." and that "Chris Albright is Technical Director". Additonally, he talked about the staff working with the youth program at YSC Sports and the scouting team, praising the team at all levels.
In talking about what the team needed to do to improve, Curtin mentioned Designated Players. He commented that the Union is known as a serious team, and that attracts big players to the team. He also made sure to comment that he likes the players we currently have on the roster.
When Nick Sakiewicz was asked about the decision to fire Assistant Coach Rob Vartughian, he said the move was done to "clear the air for Jim" and that it was a "collective decision - mostly mine" but then went on to say they don't operate in a vacuum and decisions are made collaboratively.
Curtin talked about the possibility of another coach being brought in. Says he understands that "I'm a 34 year-old coach" but "I know what it takes to win in this league. Curtin said he understands that there "is a search that has to happen" but that he would "make it as difficult as I can by winning."
Sakiewicz was next to comment on the manager search, saying he was "shocked at the quantity and quality of resumes and CV's that are coming into my phone and into the Front Office." He neglected to name anyone specifically but said there have been "serious" European and South American coaches expressing interest, including one who he feels "will be the next national team coach of a team in the World Cup".
Sakiewicz also went on to say that "It's no coincidence that foreign coaches have not done well in this league... and I know the reasons." This is a interesting comment from Sakiewicz, given that Piotr Nowak, the club's first manager, is Polish. It would seem, from that statement, that the Union will be looking for an American coach, whether it is Curtin or someone else, to fill the manager role.
Curtin commented that when there is new management for a team "every guy has a new crack." He said he wants to open up all the spots on the team for competition. He went on to say that "a little bit of fear a little bit of motivation for the guys that have been consistently in the lineup is a good thing."
Curtin said that he'd be making changes "as soon as Harrisburg." He also commented that Union players like Jimmy McLaughlin and Cristian Hernández would not be playing against the Union in the upcoming US Open Cup matchup.
Curtin is clearly wants to drop the interim title, but is realistic about the fact that it might not happen. One relieving thing to draw from this press conference is that there will be a search for a new manager. When Nowak was fired, Sakiewicz announced that they weren't searching too hard for a new manager and Hackworth was eventually promoted.
We're all looking forward to the change in management and hoping that Jim Curtin can be the man to lead our Philadelphia Union to its first title.