By IVES GALARCEP
After months of searching for the right man to lead the New York Red Bulls, the final decision on a new head coach saw the team turn the very man who has been holding the position since the departure of Hans Backe last fall.
The Red Bulls have named Mike Petke as the team’s new head coach, ending weeks of speculation and searching by turning to a candidate with strong ties to the club. A candidate who has effectively been running the team this off-season.
Mike is very passionate about our club and has shown us that he has the leadership and organizational qualities to be our head coach,” said Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh. “He is a terrific servant for this club, from being a top player to most recently heading our reserve squad. Mike has earned this opportunity and he will have the full support of our staff to help ensure the team’s success. We believe that his experience both as a player and coach in American soccer will be a significant asset as we head into the 2013 season.”
Petke is one of the most respected players in the club’s history, playing 307 matches for the team, and has held a role on the staff since retiring as a player after the 2010 season. He now becomes the team’s 13th head coach and will try to help lead the team to its first title.
“Ever since I joined New York in 1998, this is the club that has always been closest to my heart. I am thrilled to have earned this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is truly a dream come true,” Petke said in a team-issued statement. “I know there is a lot of work ahead and our challenge is not easy. However, I am excited to take hold of my new responsibility and hopeful that I can help build a hard-working team that our club’s loyal supporters can all be proud of.”
The Red Bulls’ appointment of Petke comes after a failed attempt to land Portuguese head coach Paulo Sousa, who sources tell SBI had originally agreed to take the position before choosing to back away from the job. The Red Bulls had also been linked to Scottish manager Gary McAllister, though reports suggest New York never offered him the job.
There is no word yet on who will make up Petke’s coaching staff.
Ultimately the decision to hire Petke came down to the team running out of time to find a viable candidate with more experience who met all of the team’s seeming requirements. The club had been actively searching for a foreign head coach, and seemed content to hire an American assistant coach, but after Sousa turned down the job the Red Bulls were left with little choice but to turn to Petke with the MLS season less than six weeks away from kicking off.
Petke is well respected among the players and the front office staff in New York, but he also takes the position without any head coaching experience. There has long been a feeling that Petke was better suited to be an assistant coach than a head coach, but he has apparently shown the club enough during his recent stint as interim head coach to lead the club to believe he is capable of handling the team’s head coaching duties for the 2013 season.
It wasn’t difficult to see this coming as the process winded closer toward the start of the season. I addressed this very scenario in the latest episode of The SBI Podcast (at the 33:40 mark).
Is it a good hire? I think it could wind up being a better hire than some of the candidates the team was considering. No, Petke doesn’t have the experience of a Paulo Sousa, but he knows the league and knows the team well. He will have his growing pains as a coach, but he will also be given an opportunity to learn on the job and will be given more of a benefit of the doubt by the team and its fans than any other candidate the team could have chosen.
The biggest issue for Petke will be managing a locker room with some big egos in it, led by Thierry Henry. Petke and Henry played together on the Red Bulls and have a good relationship, and it will be up to Petke to be able to manage Henry if he is going to be able to control the locker room and truly lead the team.
What do you think of the hiring? Think the Red Bulls botched the hiring process or do you think they ultimately wound up making a good hire?
Share your thoughts below.