Jim Curtin split screen
Shaun Kreider

My time with Jim: An insider's look at the evolution of Union head coach Jim Curtin

Look, who knows what the future holds.

But I do know looking back from past experience; the Union selected the right man to lead them into it.

I first met Jim Curtin on a Greyhound bus trip to State College. I was going up to see a friend for Arts Fest and he just a college senior was heading up to see his then girlfriend and now wife and mother of his three kids, Jen. While many years has passed since that meeting, I remember the conversation was mostly about soccer, he already an All-Big East and All-America selection at Villanova and me feeling grateful to have him impart some knowledge on me from what’s it’s like to be well on your way to MLS stardom.

Stardom wasn’t immediate.

Curtin as a member of the Chicago Fire in 2001 was lower on then head coach Bob Bradley’s depth chart, so much that he spent a brief stint with a minor league affiliate in Milwaukee. But when his name was finally called, Curtin never relinquished a spot that found him as an MLS All-Star in 2004, a U.S. Open Cup champion and a player that ultimately became revered across the league as not only tough on attackers, but a pretty good guy too.

Fast forward and in a return to Philadelphia, Curtin labored as the head director of the Union’s then upstart youth academy, leading the U17s to the Generation adidas title in 2012, capturing the first of any hardware for the organization. Curtin then moved in to assist former Union manager John Hackworth, ran Hack’s training sessions on a daily basis, working with Hack and the rest of the technical staff on periodization planning, but ultimately setting up drills and getting in the spine of players who weren’t doing it to the exact specifications.

It's an interesting thing to now work alongside a guy I respected long before he kicked his first ball in MLS.

Especially knowing that I’ve seen – albeit externally – his career become what it is today as the head coach of the hometown soccer franchise. I couldn’t tell you in great detail the conversation I had with Curtin on that bus ride up to State College, but it was one that once it was over I knew he was destined for great things.

I thought about whether or not writing this over the weekend, I could already hear the curmudgeons on social media with the “company man” lines, but if I let that steer my decisions my life would be a disaster. But what made me know that given my role and freedom to write that this piece would be fine was another quick moment with Curtin that solidified any doubt.

Fresh off his announcement last Friday, the newly minted head coach of the Union was scheduled to do an appearance on Comcast SportsNet’s Philly Sports Talk. Making the media rounds is usually the norm and Curtin knew that and in fact dutifully went and did the taping. But with his head coach hat already squarely fastened, Curtin let me know that this was crowding a planned scouting trip he had later in the day at his alma mater between Villanova and Georgetown.

The heck with the Union colleague angle. I'm writing this as a Philly fan and someone that wants to see this team excel, so that was all I needed to hear.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com