In a dizzying 48-hour-span, Jim Curtin went from being an assistant coach to the interim team manager for the Philadelphia Union.
Quite a jump.
And it’s a challenge Curtin is embracing, even though he’s fully aware that the Union will be conducting a global search for a full time manager to take over for John Hackworth, who was relieved of his duties on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Curtin will immediately be auditioning with a U.S. Open match against the Harrisburg City Islanders Tuesday night at PPL Park (7 p.m., purchase tickets).
Suddenly, Curtin finds himself in charge.
“We have talked about that and we had a very good discussion,” Curtin said, referring to CEO & operating partner Nick Sakiewicz. “I know I’m a 34year old coach, that’s the reality of this situation. I have things to learn, but I think I do know what it takes to win in this league. We joked about it, but I know there is going to be a search for a coach to come in here. The one thing I asked is that Nick keep me informed and I gave him the green light if it’s Alex Ferguson leaving his Harvard class to come back and do it, I’ll oblige to that. Obviously I’m joking, but I’m going to work as hard as I can and make it as difficult as I can by winning.
“That’s what I talked about, that’s my goal and I know that there’s a search – that’s pro sports. A lot of the guys that are going to be interviewed are my friends and who I’ve played with in the league. I know them personally and that’s just the way it is. I don’t care if I’m first command, second command, third command or fourth command. I care about winning in this city.”
Curtin will be the third team manager in franchise history and he hopes it will soon be on a permanent basis.
In the meantime, Sakiewicz continues to receive a plethora of interest in the position. He’ll do his due diligence while Curtin concentrates on his coaching duties.
“Quickly is not a word I would use to describe this search,” Sakiewicz said. “I would say that we’re going to be very careful and very deliberate. Jim is one of the candidates in that search. I’m not much into titles and the title interim. When Jim and I first met we joked and I kind of asked him about that and his answer was awesome, ‘Isn’t every coach kind of an interim coach,’ which I thought was a great response from him. But, he will have a very serious kick at the can. I will tell you that I’ve been shocked over the last 48 hours over the quantity and, not so much the quantity, but the quality of resumes and CV’s that have been flying into my e-mail and text and our front office.
“Some really important people want to coach in this league and I think that’s just another indicator where this league is at. It’s a top 10, top 15 league in the world no question about it. I think that’s an indicator of it. When you have big European coaches with serious resumes and South Americans –- there’s one coach who walked through the door yesterday who I’ve known for a while who’s probably going to be the next National team head coach of a team competing in the World Cup. Having said that, I like my guys in the locker room now. They will have a real shot and very serious shot at carrying this team forward.”
Curtin played more than 200 games for the Chicago Fire and was named an MLS All-Star and the Fire’s Defender of the Year in 2004. He helped lead the club to two U.S. Open Cup titles in 2003 and ’06 along with the MLS Supporters Shield in ’03. Curtin played his last two seasons in MLS with Chivas USA before retiring in ’09.
Curtin hails from nearby Oreland and he understands the sports landscape in this market.
“We have the most passionate fans in the league, I believe,” Curtin said. “I’m a Philly fan as well. My wedding revolved around fourth and 26th with Freddie Mitchell, so I know what goes on there. I was at the Matt Stairs home run game in LA. I was there for that game, I barely got out of Dodger Stadium alive. I know the ups and the downs, the tough moments. Eric Lindros getting knocked out in Game 7 by Scott Stevens, I was at that game. I know the passion that the fans have. I know the emotions that they have and I know that the thing that they want is winning.
“That’s what this is about – we need to win. And, we’re going to do that with accountability. Accountability on and off the field. That sounds like a simple message and I can sit up here and talk tactics and formations and all that stuff, but at the end of the day what matters in this town is winning.”
At 3-7-6, wins have been scare thus far in 2014.
Like any new team manager, Curtin has some ideas in mind to help transform the club.
“There will be some changes, I’d be silly to sit here and say what our lineup may be against Harrisburg because we have a big game coming up,” Curtin said. “There will be some tweaks here and there, we’re not going to bring in 24 new players, we’re not changing the personnel. Yeah, we can change some positions you can have some hard conversations with some guys about where I think they are the best suited to help this team win games, maybe that’s playing out of position for a game and putting them in the best possible position to have success on the field. Again, I’m not going to get into formations and changes or anything like that because that would just reveal to much but there are some ideas moving forward and some tweaks, and I’ll tell you that as soon as I decide.”
Curtin has already put in some long hours preparing for the U.S. Open Cup and the second half of the MLS season following the World Cup.
“I’ve talked to every player so far on the team, they’re excited, every time you get a coaching change everybody feels like they get a new chance which is true,” Curtin said. “I’m going to open up this up and say every guy has a new track. Obviously I’ve seen every guy and I’m familiar with them, but at the same time I’m going to try and put that behind me and really open up things up for competition, a little bit of fear, a little bit of motivation for the guys that have been consistent is a good a thing. I think it’s a great motivator, again we have good young players and old players, I don’t care if you’re young or old whatever age you are it doesn’t matter to me I just want to put the best thing on the field. The team picks itself. I’m a big believer in that, during the week of training they decide.”
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Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org