CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz is thrilled with the job interim manager Jim Curtin has done since taking the reins from John Hackworth on June 12.
But Sakiewicz is still unsure if he will take the interim tag off of Curtin's title and of how long the process will take to hire a permanent manager.
“I’m taking my time,” Sakiewicz told MLSsoccer.com. “Jim’s doing a great job with what he’s been given. I’m very proud of the job he’s done. There’s no rush to do anything. We’re playing in our first championship final in three weeks, so I would say our efforts and focus is more on that than it is on the coaching search.”
Sakiewicz, of course, is referring, to the US Open Cup title game on Sept. 16 against Seattle at PPL Park. Curtin guided the Union there – their first final in franchise history – by advancing four times in the historic tournament, twice in overtime and once in a shootout, all while leading the team to a 4-2-3 record in league play to get Philly back into the MLS playoff race.
Still, when asked if Curtin was a frontrunner for the job, Sakiewicz said, “Jim is on the short short list, for sure.”
The Union CEO also said that winning the Open Cup or making the playoffs would not necessarily be decisive factors as to whether or not he hires Curtin for the permanent position.
“Jim has a front-row seat on this one,” Sakiewicz said. “He’s doing everything he needs to do. He’s been with us since he was the U-18 coach at our academy. I would say there’s nothing Jim can do differently that would be in his favor. He’s already got a huge advantage because he’s been in our club for four years.”
In the end, the decision will come down to whether or not Sakiewicz wants to go outside the club. The Union CEO said, “It doesn’t matter to me whether the coach is American or foreign,” adding that he continues to have many great options to choose from.
He also confirmed that former Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch and former US national-team players Tony Meola and John Harkes – three candidates on the short list that were first reported by Michael Lewis of Big Apple Soccer – are “still in the conversation.”
“I’m still getting to know them and talking to them,” Sakiewicz said. “Listen, this process has been a great learning process for me. I’ve had the opportunity for two months to talk to a lot of smart soccer guys that have an opinion about our team, and that has been very helpful to me. I would say I’m kind of sad to see the process end some day, because that means I’m going to stop talking to all of these smart soccer guys that I’m learning stuff from.”
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Sakiewicz also said he would be open to changing the structure of the technical staff, which in the past has given former managers Peter Nowak and John Hackworth almost complete autonomy overseeing the technical side of the club, including personnel decisions.
When asked if he would consider hiring a new technical director – a job currently held by Chris Albright – instead of a new manager, Sakiewicz said he is “evaluating the entire setup,” while also praising the job Albright has done in his first year in the front office.
“The structure that we had when we launched the club five years ago, I don’t believe that structure can continue to compete in the modern MLS,” Sakiewicz said. “I’m looking into a different kind of structure. I don’t want you to read into the fact that Jimmy’s and Chris’ role may change or they might not be here. One thing I will say for sure is they will be here and they will be part of this technical staff long-term, regardless of whether or not Jimmy’s the team manager and Chris is the technical director beyond the interim phase. I have decided for sure those guys aren’t going anywhere.
“But how our structure looks like in 2015 and beyond, I’m evaluating that to really come up with the best technical structure to compete in the modern MLS.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.