AUSTIN, Texas – Though Josh Wolff wasn't the only coaching candidate Austin FC looked at, CEO Anthony Precourt asserted on Tuesday that the current US men's national team assistant coach was who they ultimately wanted.
"We've obviously had a high opinion of Josh for a long time," said Precourt, who is reuniting with Wolff from their days together at Columbus Crew SC.
"And he's always been at the top of our list," he said, adding simply, "We got our guy today."
Precourt noted that he consulted with current USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter along the way to the decision. Wolff was Berhalter's assistant between 2013 and 2018 for the perennially playoff-bound Crew, as well as when the USMNT reached the final of the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
"Gregg's opinion matters a great deal to me," Precourt said. "And Gregg gave him a full strong endorsement, and in fact encouraged me to sit down with Josh."
While Wolff will be a first-time head coach, his history with the front office went a long way in this important building block for Austin FC.
"I know his soccer IQ, I know his work ethic, I know his character," Precourt said. "I mean, he's just a collaborative, team-oriented guy, he's great with the players. And he's going to be a players-first coach, having been such a high caliber player himself."
Recruitment will be key to building the club, and both Precourt and Austin FC president Andy Loughnane noted that Wolff's role with U.S. Soccer will be helpful in assembling a team.
"In his current role with the US men's national team, he's chiefly scouting Concacaf," Loughnane stated in the introductory press conference. "So, as it relates to our stated mission of exploring talent inside of Latin America, he's focused on the region right now full time."
Wolff will continue his duties as part of Berhalter's staff through the team's November matches, but will be in contact with the front office as they look to hire a general manager and then set upon player acquisition. Precourt expects to announce initial player signings by the middle of 2020, with a ramp-up continuing into the team's first training camp in January 2021.
Precourt acknowledged there's some risk in hiring someone without head coaching experience, but points to Wolff's impressive resume, talent and character as assuaging factors.
"You have to be optimistic when there's an opportunity to hire a real talent," Precourt said. "You've got to jump on it. And Josh was in demand by other teams, and we decided it was time to make our move."
Precourt also noted that they were eager to start building the team now, the magnitude of which is certainly not lost on Wolff.
"It is a project," Wolff reflected following his introduction to Austin media. "Building a team from the start is no easy feat. It takes time, it takes hiring the right people, it's understanding the league's dynamic and how to utilize all the mechanisms, then it's about understanding the players, understanding what it looks like domestically, in our league, certainly in Central and South America and Mexico. Those are areas that have (produced) strong, strong players in recent years.
" ... It's having an understanding of what this is going to look like from the beginning. But we have an opportunity to do something unique. And that's also what was really appealing about this job, the ability to build a team from the ground up."