Sitting for his first (virtual) press conference no longer part of the Toronto FC organization he had been with since 2013, Greg Vanney warned he might not get through his long list of thank-yous without getting emotional.
He almost made it.
Around the eighth minute of what would be 10 minutes of heartfelt thank-yous, Vanney got to thanking his players and people at the club. There was a palpable silence— you could feel the lump in his throat as he tried to gather himself to continue. He took a few seconds.
Then Vanney leaned back, one last push to collect himself, which revealed he was wearing a Toronto FC warm-up jacket, the club crest over his heart, including the star above the logo to signify their MLS Cup triumph in 2017.
“I’ll never forget this journey," Vanney said. "There’s so many people who have meant so much to me, are so important to me. Much will be written about the successes and failures, but what means most to me are people at the club I’ve meant and the experiences we’ve had together. That’s what you never forget.”
The successes outweigh the failures.
Toronto have been one of the best teams in MLS under Vanney after enduring a very difficult start to life in MLS, failing to make the playoffs in each of their first eight seasons. Vanney leaves a club that won a historic treble in 2017 with MLS Cup, the Supporters' Shield and Canadian Championship. TFC have been to a further two MLS Cup finals as well as a Concacaf Champions League final, falling in penalties to Chivas, nearly becoming the first MLS club to win that trophy. Vanney lists failing to win the CCL as his biggest regret.
"One of the most important decisions I made of my career is that I believed in Greg Vanney and Tim Bezbatchenko at the time as general manager that they had what it took to bring this team to new heights," club president Bill Manning said. "He more than paid back that decision with a number of trophies."
Greg Vanney departs Toronto FC as the most successful coach in club history. | USA Today Sports
The news came as a big jolt to the MLS community when Toronto announced Vanney would be stepping away. His reign in Toronto was the third-longest active tenure in the league and reports had suggested as recently as October that a contract extension was essentially done, just needing signatures.
Those signatures never came. Why?
“This was a difficult decision, one that I processed for an entire difficult year and came to a conclusion that it’s the right time for myself and my family to move forward and take a different step," Vanney said. "This profession is about a journey, and in this journey, we have different experiences. I’ve taken every ounce of what I can from this experience and I think it’s time for myself and my family to move on.”
The decision had nothing to do with finances or other contract details.
“We tried to show Greg how much we valued him and wanted him to continue as head coach. … As the season wound down to a close, we did ask Greg for a decision," Manning said. "We felt we couldn’t go further into the offseason without knowing what position we’d be in with our head coach.”
“Along the way, we had a lot of incredible memories and did a lot of incredible things," Vanney added. "The club is destined to keep doing that. It’s time for somebody else to take that.”
For the first time in close to a decade, Vanney and Toronto will go their separate ways for the future. The club are beginning their search for a head coach while Vanney ponders what's next.
“I’m a builder, I like to build things," Vanney said. "I like projects. This club is in a really good place, there’s not a lot of building to do. This club is positioned to be great.”
Vanney doesn't have a timeline for when he'll put his hardhat on and get back to building. A lot of speculation has linked him with the vacant LA Galaxy job, considering he spent seven seasons with the club during his playing career and also went to nearby UCLA for college.
“I do need to catch my breath and regroup a bit, but anyone who knows me, knows I don’t sit still very well," Vanney said. "It won’t be a long thing.”