Halfway through the 1997 season, the Quakes held a disappointing 5-10 record on the year and were sitting in fourth place under head coach Laurie Calloway. San Jose Clash President Peter Bridgwater decided that the organization needed to take a new approach to try to help the team improve, and thus relieved Calloway of his coaching position on June 23, 1997.
"Laurie has done his best under difficult circumstances this year," said Bridwater at the time. "The team's performance has been affected by injuries, national team call-ups and other factors beyond the coach's control. However, I've given the situation careful consideration and have decided to make a change."
Bridgwater found that change for the Clash in Brian Quinn, a former U.S. national team star and one of the country's best young coaching prospects.
"Everyone I talked with about our coaching vacancy told me Brian is the kind of coach who can turn the team around in a hurry. He's a player's coach, having been so successful as a player himself."
The then-37-year old Quinn was excited to jump right in as the Clash's new head coach. "I'm looking forward to the challenge and I'm eager to get started," the Northern Ireland native said. "The Clash has had some tough luck this season, and I think playing so many games without Eric Wynalda and Ronald Cerritos has had an effect on the record. Hopefully, we can get everyone together and see how good we can be."
Quinn's abilities were put to the test right off the bat when the Clash took on the Dallas Burn at Spartan Stadium on June 28, 1997, just three days after taking over his new coaching position. San Jose had only won one of their last seven games, and was without top players Wynalda (groin injury), Ramiro Corrales (sprained ankle), and Cerritos (playing with El Salvador National Team). The Clash had a lot of turning around to do before the crowd of 11,941 at Quinn's debut.
It wasn't looking good by halftime as the Burn already had a 1-0 advantage over the struggling San Jose Clash on a Damian goal from a Ted Eck free kick in the 18th minute. But Quinn must have inspired his players at halftime, because the Clash came storming out of the locker room when they took the field to kick-off the second half.
Just three minutes after the whistle blew, the San Jose Clash managed to get on the board off of a Shawn Medved shot. In the 48th minute, the Clash found themselves in the midst of a flurry of chances to score in front of the Dallas goal. Jeff Baicher took the first shot that was deflected by Dallas defender Tom Soehn. Baicher followed through on the rebound and slipped the ball to Medved waiting in front of the net. The midfielder slammed the ball past the Burn goalkeeper to tie up the game at 1-1.
Quinn made his first intervention in the game when he took forward Christopher Sullivan out of the match and replaced him with the fresh legs of Lawrence Lozzano. Lozzano rewarded his new coach by scoring just two minutes after he entered the match to give the Clash a 2-1 lead at the 71-minute mark. Medved was looking for his second goal of the night off of an Eddie Lewis free kick, but the ball fell to his teammate instead.
"I think Shawn was trying to score with his header, but the ball deflected off someone and came right to me," Lozzano said on the night of the game. "I kind of volleyed it sideways a little bit. [Dallas goalkeeper Mark] Dodd was coming right at me, and the ball went the other way."
The Clash desperately fought to keep their lead for the remainder of the match. Dallas forward Damian had a great chance to potentially tie the game 2-2 for his second goal of the night, but Clash defender Troy Dayak cleared the ball off the line in the 85th minute. This gave Quinn yet another opportunity to make, what turned out to be, a great substitution.
The Clash coach subbed Dominic Kinnear into the game in place of forward Jeff Baicher with just four minutes left in the match. In the 90th and final minute, Lewis took another free kick near the Dallas penalty area to try to solidify San Jose's 2-1 lead once and for all. Kinnear connected with the ball in the middle of the box and headed it past Dodd to seal the deal for the Clash with a 3-1 final over the Burn.
Quinn was ecstatic at the end of his Clash coaching debut. "All of the credit goes to the players," said the San Jose coach on June 28, 1997. "They came out tonight and did what I asked them to do. They played hard from start to finish, and that's what it takes to beat a good team like Dallas. You could see their confidence growing as the game went on."
Clash captain and defender John Doyle agreed with his new coach. "I think we showed tonight that we can be a good team, a very good team," he commented after the game. "We've just had some bad luck so far this season, but maybe it's time we've turned it around."
The victory on June 28 was Quinn's first of seven during the remainder of the 1997 season. Though the Clash lost 10 games in the second half of the season, Quinn led the team to a winning percentage of .412, a significant improvement over the .333 record under Calloway earlier that year.
Brian Quinn continued to coach the San Jose Clash for the complete 1998 season and the majority of the 1999 MLS year, finishing his Clash coaching career with 35 wins and 41 losses for a .461 record over three seasons. Quinn was responsible for leading the Clash to their first season with a record over .500 in 1999, leaving just before the end of the year with 15 wins and 12 losses.