SmorgasBorg: DC's move seldom seen in pro sports
NEW YORK – Many who look at D.C. United's hiring of Ben Olsen may think it was the easy way out for the club. After all, Olsen is a fan
favorite, he was incumbent and he was already under contract.
But give D.C. United management a lot more credit than that.
The move was a lot tougher than it may seem on the surface.
It’s been well-documented that time and again during Olsen’s
interim tenure, club management was sure of one thing: Olsen was not going to
be the head coach in 2011.
For a proud club like D.C. United, with executives that
have been entrenched in the game before MLS was ever around, going back on
their public stance could not have been easy.
During Monday’s press conference club officials claimed that
ruling Olsen out of the permanent job was merely a way to shield the
33-year-old coach and the club from pressure and controversy.
“I don’t regret having said it at all,” team president Kevin
Payne said about his comments. “It would have been a mistake to have had that speculation out
there throughout the remaining portion of the season. … The intention was to
protect the club and protect Ben for the future and forestall controversy.”
[inline_node:317944]But given the team was already in last place when Olsen took
over, the argument could also be made that there would have been very little
added pressure to simply postpone evaluations to the end of the season as is
commonly done in soccer circles.
There may have actually been more damage done to Olsen and
the club by leaving the rookie manager out there as a lame duck coach who the
players had no reason to play for. Regardless of the private conversations that
were had, there was little to be gained by publicly stating that Olsen was too
inexperienced to be an immediate candidate for the full-time job.
Nonetheless, faced with a crucial hire after one of the
worst seasons in MLS history, pride and ego were sacrificed in the name of making the right decision. You just don't see that happen in professional sports these days.
Olsen’s inexperience has not suddenly
disappeared, but club officials were still prepared to face the music, no matter
how they were going to look in the process. United should be lauded for not letting a few public
comments get in the way of their decision.
It’s hard enough to name the right coach at a critical juncture for your soccer club. It’s harder when you have to go back on your word.