FOXBOROUGH - The Revolution might be taking a gamble on making Jay Heaps, a man with no previous coaching experience, the team’s new coach.
But Revolution president Brian Bilello doesn’t think so.
“The one thing that we were all on the same page about was that we were all looking for a great coach for the Revolution,’’ Bilello said yesterday at Heaps’s introductory press conference. “And in talking with the candidates, and especially in talking with Jay, it became clear to us that he has what it takes to be a great coach.’’
Heaps, the sixth coach in Revolution history, made a strong case for himself yesterday.
“I think that with risk comes reward,’’ Heaps said. “And I think that what I may lack in MLS experience, I think some of the intangibles I have completely make up for that. I don’t think it’s a risk because I know what I’m going to bring to the table.
“I think that if I’m sitting where you are, yeah, I could absolutely say it’s a risk. But I know what I bring every day. I know what kind of people I’m going to get around me to help succeed. That, to me, is so important.’’
Heaps, 35, made it clear he would be working hard to reverse the downward spiral the Revolution have taken since he retired as a player two years ago.
After playing for the Revolution for nine seasons, Heaps became the team’s television color commentator while also participating in an MBA program with Morgan Stanley in New York. Instead of continuing with Morgan Stanley, though, Heaps decided to apply for the Revolution position after Steve Nicol’s contract was not renewed.
“Make no mistake about it, we’ve already started to work,’’ Heaps said. “I thought I worked hard when I took the train from Franklin [to New York] at 5 in the morning and got home at 7 at night. But this doesn’t feel like work.’’
Heaps made a convincing presentation to Bilello, general manager Michael Burns, and investor/operators Robert and Jonathan Kraft. But the deal-clincher may have been a phone call from Mike Krzyzewski, who coached Heaps on the Duke University basketball team.
“He gave the highest recommendation,’’ said Robert Kraft. “We feel there is a new energy and culture here, and it’s something we’re excited about.’’
Said Jonathan Kraft, “There is clearly an intangible, when you meet with Jay and see him. But when Coach K called Robert and basically said, ‘Of all the kids I’ve seen come through my facility, this kid, to me, has all the makeup of a winning coach,’ that’s coming from the winningest coach in college basketball history and a guy who is still going strong and passionate.
“That meant an awful lot. We assumed he doesn’t throw those terms around lightly. Even the fact he would have let Jay be there as a two-sport athlete, I don’t think there’s too many ACC basketball programs where you’re allowing a player to play a fall sport. That said a lot about how he views Jay as a human being.’’
Heaps used his broadcasting position as a platform to study the league and the team, investigating the methods of administrators and coaches who have eclipsed the Revolution in recent seasons.
“I think what gets lost,’’ Heaps said, “I was a fiery player and I was a defender, and I think that was my role - to go out there and motivate and kind of lead from that fiery, passionate position.
“But, my whole life, I was an attacking player - that was how I played the game. So tactically, I want to have talented, attack-minded players that have a vision for getting forward, for having the ability to - if you’re in the back, I want you to help out the attack.’’
The Revolution have restructured the front office, reducing the role of former Kraft Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who has been named a special adviser.
“Our structure, I think, was the right structure and was very successful for a long time,’’ Jonathan Kraft said. “And then the league changed quickly, and with the expansion and some of the new rules, we were probably a little too comfortable, because of the success we had had, in thinking our structure was right.
“Jay is somebody who, I think, understands the structure of MLS, has a great relationship with Mike, and will do much more of the personnel at the local level. And I think Jay is prepared to put in whatever time and energy is needed to incorporate modern match preparation into what we are doing.’’Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.