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Nov
15

Heaps at the helm

To know Jay Heaps is to trust him.

Understandably, there will be those who are skeptical of the decision to bring in the former defender as the New England Revolution’s new head coach – a move which was officially announced on Tuesday morning – primarily because Heaps has no prior coaching experience. Point taken.

But Heaps will turn many of the doubters into believers when they hear the 35-year-old Revolution legend talk about his vision for this club. Of that I’m confident. In listening to Heaps speak about the monumental challenge he’s undertaken – and he’s well aware it’ll be a massive test – it’s impossible not to be moved by his passion and dedication. This is a man who doesn’t just love soccer. He loves the New England Revolution.

Granted, there’s more to coaching than simply wanting to succeed. Otherwise it would be a pretty straightforward gig. But behind the grind-it-out, tough-as-nails, hard-working defender Revs fans saw on the field for nine years is a student of the game whose meticulous preparation is only matched by his desire to win. If someone told Jay Heaps he could increase his team’s chances of winning by one percent if he showed up at 5 a.m. to get in some extra prep work, he’d be there at 4 a.m. The Revs will never take the field unprepared.

I’d also challenge the notion that this move represents the status quo. Yes, Heaps is a familiar face. Yes, he spent the past two years as the club’s color commentator on Comcast SportsNet New England, so he was already part of the organization. Yes, he played under former head coach Steve Nicol. Yes, like Nicol he was a defender during his playing days.

But Heaps is a different breed. After watching this team – his team – struggle for the past two seasons, he knows things need to change. Now he has the chance to implement that change. I honestly believe this will not be the same team moving forward.

There’s plenty to be done in the immediate future, so Heaps won’t exactly have a chance to ease his way into the position, but he does have a head start. Unlike any of the other head coaching candidates, Heaps has seen every game this team has played in recent years. He knows the players, including the ones he played alongside, and you can be sure he already has a plan.

I know more questions linger, including how Heaps will manage the relationship with former teammates as their new head coach. It’s a unique situation, to be sure, but one which both Jason Kreis (at Real Salt Lake) and Ben Olsen (at D.C. United) seem to have figured out. This move doesn’t so much break the mold as it follows what’s steadily becoming a proven model.

In the end, no one wants to answer those lingering questions more than Jay Heaps. No one wants to prove the doubters wrong more than Jay Heaps. No one wants to raise that MLS Cup trophy more than Jay Heaps.

That’s an approach I can get behind.

19 comments

  1. Scott says:

    Well written Jeff. I look forward to hear Jay’s vision tomorrow.

  2. Chris B says:

    Thank You SO much for writing this!

  3. rkupp says:

    I think Heaps can make a good first impression with the fanbase if he’s willing to be more open about the team’s plans and activities than his predecessor.

  4. Karen says:

    I don’t doubt Jay Heaps determination or drive. I doubt Revs management’s decision making process. I wish him all the best and certainly hope he’s more like Kries than Olsen, but I am very unhappy with this move.

  5. Nick says:

    This blog post was really well written. When I saw the tweet that announced Heaps as the head coach, I was immediately excited. I cannot think of a better way to turn the organization around (OK, maybe Steve Ralston, but I’m excited nonetheless). Thanks for your thoughts, Jeff

  6. whybother says:

    No experience, floundering team, no financial support, no overseas contacts….recipe for failure. Heaps will be handcuffed by Brian and Mike. Since they were hired this team has gotten worse. If Kraft had any clue as to what was going on, they would have lost their jobs just like Nicol. Instead he promotes them making Nicol the scapegoat. No wonder nobody wants to play for this ownership, They wanted to hire a company yes man and they got their guy. Good luck Jay, you will need it

  7. Tim says:

    “But Heaps will turn many of the doubters into believers when they hear the 35-year-old Revolution legend talk about his vision for this club. Of that I’m confident.”

    Being a 12 year season ticket holder I would LOVE to have the opportunity to hear Jay discuss his vision for the team. It might also be a good idea to invite Mike and Brian.

    I have thought for a while that the Revs should hold a discussion with the coach/front office before AND after each season. Before the season the event could be something to get all the STHs extra excited, meet the new faces, go over policy and gameday changes, etc. After the season the event could look back on the season and look ahead to the off season highlighting what went well, what did not go so well, and how what did not go so well will be addressed. The after the season event might also be a way to drive season ticket renewals.

  8. js says:

    I like Jay a lot too. I don’t doubt his drive and sincerity, as well as his soccer brain. But, he’s got two huge strikes against him already. No experience and ownership who are only passionate about the Patriots. He will have no budget to get players with caliber for the new MLS. The owners are still not ready to soul search. Keeping the bumblers of Biello and Burns only proves it out. Good luck, Jay. I know you care…. I care too about the Revs…. The shocking reality is that to the Kraft they are merely a sports venture. They don’t care and they have taken my money, year after year. How insulting.

  9. cammiev says:

    I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about how this is just another example of cheapness, ineptness, etc. I admit I was hoping for some “name” coach, but I’m just going to sit back and watch and not judge. That’s how much I like and respect Jay Heaps.
    The only problem is, I’m not sure I trust management. I’m tired of the cheapness (both real and imagined), the perception of being the tax loss for the Patriots, and the inability to pick/get the kind of players that other, newer teams are getting…and keeping.
    I renewed my season tickets for next year, but I don’t think I could take another season like this last. It’s too painful. That doesn’t mean Jay has a deadline of one year to turn this thing around, but we have to see real change. So…Good Luck, Jay. Here’s to a good season!

  10. Pwykes says:

    I hope you’re right.

  11. Jim says:

    Everyone respects Jay Heaps. The negative reactions to this have nothing to do with Jay Heaps. They have to do with what looks like another low-budget move from an organization that needs radical change, not more promotions from the inside.

    This, unfortunately, has “status quo” written all over it. Jay’s going to change things? He’s going to get management to pay attention to the soccer team and get him some real players and market it professionally? I have a hard time believing that. With player decisions going through Mike Burns, who’s proven his inability over the last few years (Domi, Dabo, Niouky, Janks, et al) and the money decisions coming from Bilello and the Krafts (who never saw a soccer player they wanted to drop serious money on) I am less than confident, let’s say that.

    Good luck Jay, you’re going to need it.

  12. Mike says:

    My concern, like many, is whether or the gritty, tough, passionate player will translate to being an effective coach. Having 10,000 frequent flyer miles as a passenger does not make you a pilot.

    Good luck Jay.

  13. The New Data-driven Revs Need to Better Forecast the Impact of Injury on Performance | Revopinion: unfiltered New England Revolution Blog says:

    [...] as odd as this decision may seem, Jeff Lemieux on the Revs’ blog pointed out the Revs are embracing a recent MLS coaching trend of teams hiring “new [...]

  14. Summer says:

    Jay Heaps is a terrific spokesperson for the team because of his passion and love for the team. He would be great in PR or the FO. However, pipe dreams aside, this team NEEDS a manager who has tactical experience, and coaching prowess. Someone from the outside of the Revs would have a fresh approach and instil new ideas to this team, as well as discipline.

    I plead with the Krafts to GET OUT OF SOCCER. PLEASE !!!!
    Sell this team to someone who knows about the game and cares to see it succeed.

  15. annie says:

    At first I was “oh no, the Rev’s don’t need an inexperienced coach”, but Jay does have a lot of plusses an outside coach might not

    1) No question he’ll instill passion and drive in the players and coaching staff. I remember many games that weren’t going well where it seemed like he was the only player on the field who still wanted to win

    2) Being a “company man” might not be a bad thing. A coach from the outside might be hamstrung by the ownership concerns other fans keep mentioning. But Jay knows his way around the organization already, and can probably find a way to make it work for both the Patirots focused Krafts, and the Rev’s. He already has their respect, so they’re more likely to hand him the keys, or give his ideas for change a shot. They know he’s capability of understanding the financial and business realities of running a sports team, so he’ll do what what works for the club in ways that are important to them too, not just the on-the-field stuff. That may not be what fans care about or want to hear, but it’s necessary for making the franchise succeed

    3) He’ll be an excellent face to the media. Don’t underestimate the value of that for builidng local support, media attention and yes, attendance.

    Think about it: post-game interview quotes you can understand, passion that’s un-missable and gets people engaged, charismatic, experienced in broadcasting and explaiining his ideas about soccer (think Klinsman — got his job as much for his “marketability” and media plusses over Bob Bradley, not just field stuff, because US soccer needs that public face, and so do the Rev’s).

    4) I’m pretty sure the guy’s going to say what he thinks, even if it’s not what ownership wants to hear

    5) His charisma and passion will enable him to will make him to bring in good people around him, who will want to work for him. Hopefully that will help make up for ways in which his lack of coaching experience will be a liability

    6) He has proven he can take on new challenges, and move up a steep learning curve fast (moved straight into a finance career, outstandingly prepared as a broadcaster while balancing that second career)

    Sure there are tons of pitfalls too. He could tick people off by being too outspoken. His passion could create blind spots. There are realities about coaching that only experience can bring.

    But if anyone’s in the mold of Kreis and Olsen, he is (great article, Jeff, by the way)

  16. Steven says:

    According to your analogy Mike, no former player can coach.

  17. Andy says:

    If Heaps can pressure the FO and Kraft to losen their pursestrings, that’s half the battle.

  18. robert cuddy says:

    So what really swung the decision to hire Heaps was a recommendation from a college basketball coach. Why is this not a surprise?…laughable…
    What a Mickey Mouse outfit the Revs are. The krafts could not give a toss about footy..don’t quit your day job Jay.

  19. Tom Byer says:

    Very good article, makes a great case on “why not Jay Heaps”?

    Better than bringing in some big name from across the Pond that knows nothing about both MLS and NE Revs! Good luck Jay, we’ll be rooting for you from back in Tokyo!

    TB

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