More details came out today of Toronto FC's offer to Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath, along with the news that he decided to turn the job down. According to what Heath told WFTV of Orlando the offer wasn't just for assistant coach and let's see what happens, but also gave the understanding he would eventually become head coach. Ives Galarcep gave further information that the offer was apparently a rich one, a 3 year deal at $300,000 a year, higher than some MLS head coaches currently make. He also got word from Paul Mariner that Heath was very much his idea, though he downplayed the next head coach part of it, saying there's no immediate plans for him to step down.
So, what does all that mean, does it clarify any of the questions about TFC's future plans and just who's in charge of them? Also, what does it say that Heath turned down the offer to remain in the D3 level USL with Orlando City?
I went over all the questions about what it all means really here yesterday for Sportsnet. There's still very little definitive that can be drawn from all this in that respect, but we do at least now know that Heath was Mariner's choice. Does that mean that he is now the de facto president, in charge of the general direction of the club. Hopefully not, hopefully it's just a case of allowing him to pick the coaches beneath him and nothing grander. Debate whether he's the right man for that job all you like, but head coach is a short term rewards based business, we really need someone secure enough to make long term decisions for the good of the club.
One aspect of the move that I do like, that I can respect Mariner for, is the fact he wasn't scared to go after a man who could end up taking his job, and seemingly actually set up that prospect. It betrays a certain self confidence that he's not trying to protect his job by ensuring there's no obvious candidates around to succeed him should things go pear shaped next season, and Tom Anselmi starts getting twitchy for another reactionary move. Instead he's going out there to try and protect his job by building a competent staff that can help him to succeed, with a clear succession plan when he moves on, either out of the club, or ideally upstairs to a management position to oversee continued success under Heath. It seems a little fanciful and implausible right now, but I'm glad that at least Mariner still has the confidence to back himself like that.
As for Heath's decision, well it doesn't look great on TFC, but hey, Orlando City are a big and rich fish within the USL, with ambitions to make it into MLS themselves, Heath gets to remain as head coach rather than be an assistant, and though I would in no way agree, some would say Orlando is a nicer place than Toronto. All those things are valid arguments, but it still doesn't look good that even when throwing large buckets of cash at him to move up to the MLS, Toronto still doesn't appeal.
Can you really blame Heath? I wouldn't. Maybe he is that happy in Orlando, maybe he's patient enough to wait for other opportunities that might come up with more stable teams. Another strong possibility is that he looked at TFC's history, the losing, the firings, the losing, the revolving door of players, the losing, the broken promises, did I mention the losing, and the current leadership vacuum, and poor quality level in the squad, and decided that no, not for all the money they could throw at him was he going to jump into that mess.
It's going to be a long long uphill climb back to respectability for Toronto FC, for them to be seen as a club worth signing for, that a coach with options would look at and think, yes, that's the right fit for me. Until that happens, MLSE might need to upgrade it's cash buckets to wheelbarrows.