Former Revolution defender Jay Heaps has been named the sixth coach in the team’s history, according to multiple sources. Heaps, 35, replaces Steve Nicol, whose contract was not renewed after the Revolution finished tied for last place in the MLS overall standings with a 5-16-13 record.
The Revolution are expected to make an announcement today and have scheduled a news conference for tomorrow.
Heaps retired in 2009, following a 10-year MLS career in which he set a Revolution record for games played in all competitions (294). He started his professional career as the No. 2 pick in the 1999 draft with the Miami Fusion, totaling 344 appearances in playoffs and the MLS regular season.
The move by the Revolution follows a league trend of recently retired players being named coaches despite having little or no coaching experience, including Real Salt Lake (Jason Kreis), Sporting Kansas City (Peter Vermes), Chivas USA (Robin Fraser), Chicago (Frank Klopas), D.C. United (Ben Olsen), Portland (John Spencer), and Montreal (Jesse Marsch).
Heaps, born in Nashua, N.H., played basketball as a walk-on and soccer at Duke University, and was a member of Final Four teams in both sports. Heaps, who attended high school in Longmeadow, has since often returned to Duke to work with basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
After playing forward for most of his youth career and in college, Heaps was moved to right back by Ivo Wortmann, Miami’s Brazilian coach, who wanted Heaps to use his athleticism, speed, and attacking instincts to transcend the defensive nature of the position. Heaps soon established a reputation for competitiveness, consistency, and versatility, performing in the midfield (at center back), scoring 17 goals in MLS games, and being ejected 10 times in all competitions.
Since Heaps’s playing career ended, he has been working at Morgan Stanley’s private wealth division, and also has served as a color commentator for Revolution games.
Heaps said he pursued the commentator position partly to be in a position to study the Revolution and their opponents in preparation for a possible career in administration or coaching.
Heaps joined the Revolution from the Fusion in a trade for defender Brian Dunseth, making his debut in a 3-3 tie with Colorado June 20, 2001 at Foxboro Stadium. He played in 15 games for the Revolution that year, performing on the right wing in a 3-5-2 alignment as the team advanced to the 2001 US Open Cup final. In ’02, Heaps returned to right back as the Revolution qualified for the first of four MLS Cup final appearances, plus a US Open Cup victory, in a six-year span.
The Revolution acted quickly in dismissing Nicol days after the team’s final game, a 2-2 tie in Toronto Oct. 22, then interviewing “about a dozen’’ prospective coaches, according to team president Brian Bilello. Candidates included Columbus Crew general manager Brian Bliss and former Chicago Fire coach Denis Hamlett. Former Revolution assistant Paul Mariner, whose assistant coaching contract at Toronto FC was renewed last week, did not have a formal interview, according to multiple sources.
This was the first time the Revolution conducted a coaching search since 1999, when Fernando Clavijo got the job following the resignation of Walter Zenga. Nicol was named interim coach, replacing Zenga, with two games remaining in the ’99 season but turned down an offer to be head coach on a permanent basis. Early in the 2002 season, Clavijo was replaced by Nicol, who had joined the staff as an assistant.Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.