Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Revs coach Jay Heaps diving in
By Brian O'Connell
Special to ESPNBoston.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Two years ago, Jay Heaps stepped up to the microphone at Gillette Stadium to announce his retirement from professional soccer.
On Wednesday, the former Revolution defender and Longmeadow, Mass., native was up there again, only to be introduced as the new coach of his home club.
"I am so excited for this opportunity," Heaps said during Wednesday's news conference. "I want to thank the entire Kraft family for believing that I'll be the right leader for this position and to deliver a new culture and implement a new and exciting vision."
That is something that is desperately needed after the Revolution slid to the bottom of the Eastern Conference this past season.
Even though previous coach Steve Nicol had led the club to four MLS Cup finals (2002, 2005, 2006, 20007), it was clear that changes were needed.
After the conclusion of the season, the Revolution and Nicol parted ways.
"When Michael and I were putting our list together, we knew that Jay was going to be one of the candidates," Revolution president Brian Bilello said. "We were confident that he had the makeup to be a great coach."
Even though Heaps' résumé lacks any MLS coaching experience, Bilello and general manager Michael Burns knew what to expect from him.
As a player, Heaps was known for his tenacity, leadership, and cerebral approach to the game during his 11-year career. But even without the vast coaching experience that so many clubs crave when making a managerial change, Heaps was the one to steer the team in the right direction, the Revolution braintrust believed.
"In our discussions with Jay, it became clear to us that he was ready to step in immediately and take the role," Bilello said. "Not only was he ready, but he was our top choice."
It would have been easy to go with a candidate who had a proven track record. But that's not the path Bilello and Burns wanted to pursue.
Instead, they were looking for someone to challenge the attitude of a club that needed a jolt of fresh energy,
"He is a tremendous leader and motivator," Bilello said. "He has a keen knowledge of what we need to do and what we need to excel at."
That, perhaps more than anything else, is what appealed to the Revolution -- Heaps' ability to diagnose a problem and offer solutions.
One of those problems, in Heaps' view, is that the Revolution suffered from inadequate game-day preparation.
"We're going to implement a game plan (every week)," Heaps said. "To see what advantages we can take from video (analysis) and impose our will on other teams. We will not be outworked and we will not be outsmarted."
From here, Heaps hits the ground running in searching for ways to improve the squad. With the expansion draft and re-entry draft on the horizon, Heaps will have a number of decisions to make about the roster.
"We're not thinking three to four years (into the future)," Heaps said. "We're thinking now. We're thinking how of we add the right players and right chemistry to build this team from day one."
Brian O'Connell covers the New England Revolution for ESPNBoston.com.