Assistant coaching jobs on Jamie Franks’ staff at the University of Denver have opened up on a number of occasions since he was promoted to head coach in 2015 but it wasn’t until the unexpected decision to axe the men’s program at Appalachian State that Brad Franks even considered applying to join his brother’s staff.
“This is maybe the fourth or fifth time the job has opened,” said Brad Franks, who was hired as an assistant in March. “I think the biggest thing is we were both a little too emotional when we were younger and we needed to kind of hone our craft apart from each other.”
Brad and Jamie played one season together in high school but they are embarking on their first season together as coaches this week.
Brad’s journey to joining his brother’s staff was in so many ways an unexpected one.
He was promoted to associate head coach at Appalachian State in January 2020 only to lose his job a few months later when the university cut the program, citing the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He found out the news while celebrating his first wedding anniversary with his wife.
“It was definitely a hard pill to swallow after what we’ve been building and the season that we had,” Brad Franks said. “It was our first recruiting class of all of our own guys.”
The unexpected time off gave Brad a chance to spend more time following his older brother Ryan Franks as he led their alma mater to a South Jersey title last fall. Unfortunately for Shawnee High School, there was no state title to play for after that but it deserves mention alongside some of the great teams of the school’s past.
All four Franks boys — Ryan, Jamie, Brad and Kyle — played soccer at Shawnee and are part of a soccer legacy that traces to today’s exploits in Europe by “Medford Messi” Brenden Aaronson. Though Aaronson didn’t play high school ball, he attended Shawnee his freshman year before finishing his studies at YSC Academy and quickly rising through the ranks at the Philadelphia Union.
One could argue that Jamie Franks was the original “Medford Messi.” He was a U.S. youth international and starred at Wake Forest but after Chivas USA declined to sign him as a draft pick he played just two seasons in the USL with the Wilmington Hammerheads and Rochester Rhinos. He turned his attention to coaching and after serving as an assistant under Bobby Muuss at Denver was promoted to head coach in 2015 when Muuss took the job at Wake Forest.
It didn’t take long for Jamie Franks, still in his 20s, to capture national attention for his exploits at Denver, leading the Pioneers to their first ever College Cup in his second season and winning national coach of the year.
That track record was one of the big things that drew Brad to the program.
“It’s an incredible program, an incredible university and a great opportunity professionally,” Brad Franks said of Denver. “And then the opportunity to work alongside Jamie, who I think is one of the top coaches in the country. It’s a really unique situation to work with your brother.”
It helps that both Brad and Jamie and their wives get along so well. They were the best man in each other’s weddings and they have so much shared history together growing up as the middle children in their family of six.
Jamie does quip that he thought working with Brad would be a little “more annoying” than it’s been so far though.
“I thought I’d have to put him in more headlocks,” Jamie said. “But overall it’s just been awesome and it’s definitely a highlight of my career.”
Brad also joined their younger brother Kyle Franks in Denver. Kyle is also coaching soccer though on more of a part-time basis with a local youth club. Their parents, meanwhile, have retired to North Carolina, leaving Ryan Franks as the lone immediate family member still back in Medford.
Ryan is entering his 10th season as the Shawnee head coach this fall.
“We’re from an old school Irish Catholic family so we’ve got a lot of cousins still back there too,” Brad Franks said.
While some families might take a time out from the family business when they get together, the dialogue about coaching is ongoing for the Franks. Though Jack Franks primarily coached baseball, he can hold his own in conversations about soccer and is considered the source for many of the values his sons bring to their coaching.
“I think above anything else we’re teachers and we’re using the game to teach life skills,” Jamie said. “We’re trying to teach these kids how to be autonomous, how to navigate life and part of that is dealing with hard emotions and having hard conversations. For me and my brothers and what we learned from my dad it’s just a microcosm to teach life.”
Denver kicks off their season Friday night at Oregon State. It will be the seventh as head coach for Jamie Franks but the first fall season with Brad Franks joining him on the sideline.
“Life has a weird way of working out,” Brad Franks said.