Quote Sheet: Sunil Gulati Names Bob Bradley Interim Head Coach
U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati comments on his decision to name Bob Bradley interim head coach and Under-13 Men's National Team head coach.
Dec. 8, 2006
On the Fox Sports story that Juergen Klinsmann walked away from a signed contract and whether there was ever a point where he thought that it was definitely going to happen:
“The first part is absolutely inaccurate. There has never been a signed contract. And I think it’s safe to say that, during the process, without getting into specifics, yes. There were times in the process where I did feel that it would happen. There were certainly ups and downs in the process in any number of discussions and it’s something we collectively tried to make happen. The other thing I should say is, the number of people that were involved in this process was very small. On the Federation side, people with an intimate knowledge of the discussions were two, and they’re the two people that were on this call. So when I see quotes attributed to “Federation officials,” and “an anonymous face says that it was about x, y or z,” it’s nonsense. It was Dan Flynn and myself that were involved in these discussions and so people are making things up. At least on our side of it it’s just not possible because we haven’t talked to anybody and those things are just not accurate. And I know the people on Juergen’s side, and Juergen, and have known them for the better part of 20 years, so there certainly hasn’t been a signed agreement. As I’ve said, we had a really terrific conversation yesterday and it wasn’t a question about burning bridges. It was a question about there is a lot of respect in how this discussion went and an open door about working here, that doesn’t mean coaching a team, necessarily. There certainly was never a signed agreement on either side.”
On how the job description of U.S. National Team coach might be different for the Latin American or European model for a national team coach:
“I’m not sure that the definition is the same in two countries in Latin America or Europe, or frankly, that it’s the same in the United States, the description that Bruce had or that Bora (Milutinovic) had, or what it would be for Bob or what another coach might have. I think there are two broad responsibilities. One is the preparation and development of the senior men’s national team. That happens everywhere. The role that, for example, Gus Hiddink had in Australia and Korea was the preparation of that team for the World Cup. That’s more similar to what Bora had for our Men’s National Team for the World Cup in ’94. The second role is the rest, the coaching programs, preparation of the other teams, the technical director role influencing the rest of the programs, whether it’s just the men’s side and the boy’s side or the overall development of the game. That, one can only do if you’re there for a long period of time involved in the youth programs and so on. That’s certainly, when I talk about some knowledge of the American game, where it’s more important that that’s present, rather than the short term basis of preparing one team. In some of the South American cases, people are hired to do just the former, and in some of the European cases, it’s the same. I don’t think there’s a parallel in either case. In the English case, what the job description that Sven Goran-Eriksson had is rather different than the job description that Gerard Houlier had in preparing the French team 10 years ago, when he was also essentially running the technical director side.”
On whether that is the American model:
“In a number of places, it’s the model. It’s not just here. In different countries it’s based on the skill set of the person. Clearly, in a place where the coach is coming in for a year or two, the coach is not going to be doing the technical director part of it when they’re taking a job for one or two years in preparing a team. Certainly they’re not going to be doing it while they’re coaching a team in Holland on a club basis at the same time that they’re coaching on a national team based in the Far East.”
On how much of the coaching decision is due to the time crunch and how much is due to the perceived differences between himself and Klinsmann:
“Time crunch is certainly a part of the issue because we’ve got camp in less than a month and at some point you have to make a decision about whether you think everything will get resolved. Time does matter when it’s December and we have camp in a month. I don’t think the perception issue was an issue, frankly. I don’t think Juergen and I perceived things differently at all. I think we were very much on the same page on all the things that mattered.”
On whether there is less pressure to find a technical director with Bob Bradley on staff:
“My view on this is that a lot has happened in the last two days. We don’t want to be making too many decisions on the last two days. The answer, in one part, and this is a discussion that we had with Bob, with Juergen and with the other people we talked to, about those two roles, the candidates and their skill set and what they wanted to do. In some cases, they said, ‘Look, we’ll take on that role,’ or ‘We need to have some influence in that but you should really get another person. Give them the title because they’ll need that in order to have the credibility.’ Or, in other cases, saying it’s simply too big of a job in a country like the United States. So I think we’ll take our time and see how these pieces fit. Once we get into this program and, in Bob’s case with the Olympic responsibility under his wing as well, and with two programs in the next six months, I think we need to look at the functionality of that before we start making decisions about the technical director side of things.”
On whether he’s concerned that Gold Cup and Copa America preparations will be compromised:
“The answer is: maybe, maybe not. The important thing for us is to be prepared, not just for those tournaments but, obviously, this is a long program of three and a half years. The real judgments on the program come in November 2009 and as long as that’s gone well, in our case it’s actually come a month or two earlier in the last couple of World Cup cycles, and then in the summer of 2010. It’s certainly my hope that we’ll have some consistency throughout next summer, and whether that’s Bob or Bob working side-by-side with someone else, however that works out. Like I’ve said, we have talked to some of the other people in the last 24 hours that are part of this process, told them exactly what we were doing and told them what the timetables were. It’s not a question of whether they were comfortable with that or not, it’s our decision. I think they were, without saying it, probably pleased, since they were interested in the position, that we hadn’t made a decision which would preclude them. They know what the competition schedule is like over the summer. Is it ideal because they wouldn’t have seen games? But on the other hand, since they’re involved in club coaching rather than national team coaching, currently, which means their clubs don’t generally play on international fixture dates, who knows? There are ways to see what’s going on in the U.S. in the interim. Is it perfect? No. But we have ways of dealing with that in the short term and it’s a great way to see the players that you’re trying to test in those two competitions. The competitions are important, and obviously the Gold Cup in particular since it’s our confederation championship, and Copa America is a high-level competition, but those are proving grounds, as well, for World Cup qualifying, which obviously is the critical component for us before the World Cup itself.”
On how Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley are different as coaches:
“I think there are lots of people that are perceived as being in other people’s shadows and maybe Bob has that reputation because he was Bruce’s assistant. But I think anybody who has played for them and anybody that knows them knows that they are very different in many ways. Really, the players that have played for them are probably in the best position to tell you that. Where they coached, or that Bob was Bruce’s assistant or that they may have been to similar schools, I don’t think defines people. Though Bill Belichick may have worked with Bill Parcells, they are rather different people, and different coaches, differently styles and everything else and they have both been successful. That’s their commonality. That’s also Bruce’s and Bob’s commonality. I think you’ll see when Bob is coaching our team, whether it’s the Olympic team or the National Team, that they are very different. I think you’ll see some of that when they are on the field or in the public domain.
“What I also said, and I want to go back to that, about the change in direction, and I said that back in July, was that the direction we have had for eight years is a positive one. So what I said was that maybe it was a newness we needed. We didn’t become a bad team and Bruce didn’t become a bad coach in five minutes because of a Jan Koller headball. We had a great eight years. We had a tough couple of games but that didn’t undo a very successful period with Bruce. Bruce’s track record speaks for itself: the summer of 2002, the Gold Cup successes and the progress of the team. That’s the success that Bob has to match, frankly. It’s pretty damn good and I don’t think he’d shy away from saying, ‘That’s a pretty damn good track record.’ That didn’t all get undone in 10 minutes in the Czech Republic game or in the stripped ball off maybe the best player in the history of U.S. Soccer with the ball in our half when Claudio (Reyna) got dispossessed and injured on the same play. I don’t want to re-live that anymore. I think the people who know Bruce and Bob know they’re different. By that, I don’t want to say, ‘Bruce was unsuccessful, Bob will be successful,’ because I don’t view it that way. Bruce was extraordinarily successful and I think Bob has been and will continue to be.”
On whether U.S. Soccer constituency deserves an explanation for his decision:
“Talking about individual reasons in the few minutes, I talked about timing being a key reason. The main reason that I wasn’t going to talk about it is the comment that Juergen made about his privacy. No, I’m not going to give specific reasons. Juergen, yesterday (Dec. 7) announced that he was withdrawing from the process. We’ve spent a lot of time going through this and haven’t been able to come to an agreement, so I’m not going to get into any specifics about that. But what I can tell you is that it’s not any of the specifics that have been talked about. There are a lot of hurdles in trying to get an agreement and trying to get a working relationship done. We cleared many of them and weren’t able to clear all of them, and at some point you run out of time and that’s where we ended up.”
On whether Klinsmann’s withdrawal means that he has been completely eliminated from contention for the Men’s National Team job:
“Juergen and I haven’t talked about May, June, 2008, 2009, 2011 or anything else. He has withdrawn himself from the process and the conversation yesterday, which was a very general one, was that this was a very interesting process and very positive and it would be great to work together in the future. But there is no thought that, ‘Hey, it didn’t work out so now we have six months and lets talk again in May,’ or, ‘I really want to take a year off and do it in ’08,’ or anything like that. That’s not the notion at all. There’s a reason for the parallel structure. Bob has two sets of responsibilities, it’s not just an interim basis for the National Team. We’ve got an important program in our Olympic team, which isn’t an amateur team anymore. It’s the Under-23 team, it’s got overage players, and that’s a program that, in and of itself, is a two-year job with China in August 2008.”
On the role of the manager:
“I think it depends greatly on the skill set of the person you hire. Bruce had a certain skill set, Bob has a skill set that’s different. Bora had a really unique skill set. It really depends on the skill set of the people that you’ve got and the needs at the given time. And that is time in two different contexts: one is historically, where we are in the development process, but probably more importantly, where you are in the short term cycle of a four-year cycle. In the first year, for someone in Bob’s shoes, that knows the land in the United States, he probably has a little bit more time, ordinarily, to do the player development type things, the technical director role. I say ordinarily but in this case, where he was two teams, maybe a little bit less so. Once you start getting into World Cup qualifying, there’s virtually no time to do any of that stuff. Obviously, when you’re in the last year of the cycle, as long as you’re in the qualifying period and preparing for the World Cup, there’s virtually no time. The split between those two roles changes pretty dramatically during the course of the cycle. It did for Bruce and it certainly will for Bob, as for all of our coaches. In a different case, as I had mentioned about Bora, he had a very different focus and a very different charge, which was similar in a sense in Germany for Juergen, which was much focused on one team and the similarity was pretty straightforward. We were hosting the World Cup in ’94 and Germany was hosting the World Cup (in 2006) and everything was focused on getting the team ready for the competition.”
On whether there is a template for the development he would like to see:
“Certainly in the next three, four, five, six months, two teams: a senior team getting ready for those two competitions, starting to develop the group of players that is going to be important for us as we get into qualifying, and starting to develop the group of players that’s going to be on the Under-23. That’s the charge. The rest of what would normally be associated with the Technical Director role is not at the top of the list of what Bob has on his plate.”
On how many of the candidates were American and how many were foreign:
“Most of them were international.”
On whether he feels that, within this country, there is more pressure to stay with an American coach:
“No. It’s a big country so you have different constituent groups. I think from the coaching community there is probably greater pressure. I think from the fan community there is probably a pressure to get an international coach or just the best coach, period, whatever that means. Just a win. I think that’s where we are at this point. Our mission is to go out and get the best coach, whether that’s an American coach, whether that’s a foreign coach, whether that’s a U.S.-based foreign coach, whatever that means. That has not been our guiding principle. We want to go out and be successful at the international level. So, get the best coach at the best time to lead the program.”
On the role of the U.S. MNT head coach in regards to the Olympic team:
"A number of South American countries have had just the model where in some cases the senior team coach has coached the Olympic Team. In other cases, it's been the first assistant and the third model is where they've been essentially independent. If that were the case, it might just be the first assistant or it might be that during the competition the senior team coach has a hands-on approach. I think that would be flushed out over time.”
On what he and Juergen were and were not able to agree on:
"We agreed on many, many things. He and I agreed on just about everything, but in the end you have to agree on everything, and we ran out of time to try to agree on anything. I really don't want to get into specifics. I want to respect (Juergen's) wishes of not getting into specifics on it."
On the discussions with candidates for the head coach position:
"We kept in touch with them. We mentioned that Bob is one of them, and he obviously had a pretty good idea of what was going on. In two of the other cases, we said we're ready to sit down and offer you a contract and they were not in position to say yes. They weren't in a position drop out because they are in jobs and so they weren't in a position to proceed further on a time bases. From their perspective, the best scenario would be something that took another five months to reach a conclusion. They didn't drop out, and including Bob, I've talked to four of the five candidates in the last 24 hours; Juergen, but obviously that was a different conversation, Bob, and two others in the last 24 hours and they remain interested. At this stage, we're not burdened with a need to do anything really quickly, and as far as things change between now and May or June or don't, we need to get a situation where we can start a training camp for two teams. It's a wide open landscape. I don't think we need to limit ourselves in any way."
On if the continued search will follow a similar pattern:
"For this one guy I was willing to go a long way. Could we go that deep again? Just by definition you can't because we are in a different time period. Are we feeling super pressure that we have to do it by May, the answer is no because the team is in good hands. We were under a different sort of pressure in December than we would be in May because on January 2 we want to start a training camp, we have to. January is a very important month for the U.S. National Team. It's a month off for domestic players. Every year we have a number of teams that get together in warm weather climates. It's not a period we can lose and obviously we have games scheduled. We were able to turn this around very, very quickly from a final conclusion with one coach, Juergen, and Bob. I'm not feeling super pressure. The national team is in good hands. The Olympic team is in good hands. We'll bring some people in around him to help manage those two programs."
On why Bob Bradley was given the Interim title:
"With everything that has happened in the last couple of days, we've got two teams that are important to us - the Olympic team and the Men's National Team. I guess I am not ready to (name the MNT head coach). It's not being disrespectful to Bob, we wouldn't have made this decision if we didn't think very, very highly of him and the company that he is in that very small group (of finalists). We said all along that we wanted someone who was highly experienced and capable of leading our national team through the next four years, and Bob's in that group. We've also talked to some internationally experienced coaches and we have engaged in a dialog that wouldn't have allowed them to start on January 1. We haven't followed up with them in the last 30-45 days the way we had with one particular candidate, and I think we need a chance to be able to do that."
If Bob Bradley will be given the same powers that Bruce Arena had:
"I am not at all concerned that Bruce had his fingers in too many areas, and I don't think anyone at U.S. Soccer is. It's extremely important that the person is most responsible for the success of our national team controlled the environment of our national team. In terms of the selection of staff and players, the sorts of games we play, and the environment, and where we train and play and stay, and who travels are in the purview of the coach. Bruce had control of those things; Bob will have control of those things. Bill Belichick has control of those things. That's only normal."
On waiting five months after the World Cup to make the decision:
"Let's be very clear what we sacrificed in terms of international dates. In the last two cycles we have played generally one game in the six months after the World Cup. Generally the U.S. team doesn't play in the six month basis for a pretty simple reason: European-based players are generally just starting their season, and MLS is in the middle of playoffs and the end of their season. We don't sacrifice very much. It's one game, and we're not going to miss a beat in terms of starting in January. We'll start January 2 or 3 with a coach in place. Was it worth it? The answer is yes. We tried to get Juergen Klinsmann and it didn't work out. We won't miss a date of training, we'll have a game on January 20 and we won't miss another international date."