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October 22, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Q&A: GM Adrian Hanauer on the team skid, Dempsey’s form, Schmid’s status and more

hanauer mugSounders FC general manager and part owner Adrian Hanauer spoke for reporters for a while after Tuesday’s practice. The interview ran about 20 minutes long and covered topics from the team’s form, to the playoffs, to the production (or lack thereof of Clint Dempsey), to the job security of coach Sigi Schmid and more.

Here is a transcript:

*     *     *

(What were the emotions after this weekend? Celebratory after clinching a playoff berth?) “Look, celebratory? No. I don’t think we’ve ever really celebrated after… Well, maybe the first year making the playoffs. But after that first year, it became kind of an expectation just like in the community, with our fans, with the media, with everybody in the organization — we expect to make the playoffs. Not celebratory, but check mark for one of our goals for the year. Now we know we need to move on and perform in the playoffs.”

(Is it safe to say then that just making the playoffs does not a successful season make?) “For us, it’s kind of a minimum standard, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been a successful season. I think it means it hasn’t been a failure of a season, but we want to win trophies, and you don’t get a trophy for making the playoffs.”

(What do you make of setting another attendance record and can that record continue indefinitely?) “Can we keep it going indefinitely? I have my doubts. Can we keep it going for one more year? Two more years? Three more years? We hope. And I guess going back to the original question, our fans have been amazing. It’s been sort of humbling and just made me really proud to be part of this community to see the support that the team gets, see the support the players and coaches get in good times and in bad. Obviously, it’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster season, but our fans have stuck behind us. When we take a goal at home, and they’re as loud as ever, it means a lot. It keeps the guys motivated to continue to perform. It’s been a pretty amazing run, and we want to keep that going.”

(It seems one of the things that has hurt the team, but maybe been out of your control, is the amount of churn in the roster throughout the year. Is that something you look back on and say is unavoidable or something you look and say it was too many moves?) “Well, we will definitely do a deep dive at the end of the season, MLS Cup or first-round exit, and figure out what we think went well and what didn’t go well. Hopefully our conclusions won’t be any different if we win an MLS Cup or if we get eliminated in the first round, because we just want to get better in every area of our organization. That means every area of the organization. The scheduling, certainly. Again, I’m not going to suggest that our rollercoaster has to do with our business group and our scheduling … but it also then backs into a broader issue, which is scheduling overall with the league and just fixture congestion. With Open Cup and Champions League, there wasn’t another date to move that game to because our calendar is so congested. Again, that’s the just one very, very detailed example of the types of things we’ll look at in the offseason. But there is plenty of opportunity for soul-searching and analysis, whether it’s on the sports science and medial side, whether it’s coaching and areas there, my performance and Chris (Henderson) and timing and players that we bring in, Joe and my performance as owners, in terms of the messaging and leadership, and these answers are never simple. Right? You just can’t say, ‘Well, if we hadn’t solved this guy, everything would be OK,’ or, ‘If we had signed that other guy, everything would be OK.’ They are super, super complicated issues, and if it was easy, everybody would do it and everybody would have championships and we wouldn’t be going gray and being stressed out about our jobs and performing.”

(Have you picked up some extra gray hairs this year?) “For sure. I’ve aged like eight years this year I think. Aging in dog years.”

(What have you made of Clint Dempsey’s introduction to the team? Obviously the numbers aren’t there yet, but have you been happy with the effort and play?) “Yeah, I think you see it on the field. He’s a tremendous player. I think the integration is going to take time. It just is. I think he gets better each game. But it’s tough on him. Moving the family, getting settled and integrating into a new team. And teammates have to get used to him. Again, it’s never simple. He could’ve come in here and had great production and we could be in the same position in terms of wins/losses/points. He could’ve come in and had the same production he’s had — have no production in assists and goals — and we could be in a win streak. Then it’d be a different story about how he’s integrated. It can always go better, but it is what it is and it’s a team game. We have to put it together as a team and not look at microcosms of the aggregate to get us headed in the right direction.”

(How fun is it as the playoffs come around?) “I’m not sure ‘fun’ is the word I would use for it. Again, we’re very proud to be one of three teams to have made the playoffs the last five years. It’s a tremendous accomplishment. There are a lot of teams in the league that would like to be in our position right now this year. And we’re excited to be in the playoffs. Obviously we have a big game against L.A. on Sunday, which will determine a lot in seeding and when we come in the playoffs, but I think there was certainly a bit of tension and a bit of stress that was released by the L.A.-San Jose result getting us into the playoffs, and it is a new season. … There doesn’t seem to be really any correlation between where you finish in the standings and what happens in the playoffs. If we can get things right and get our guys on the field, we feel we have a good chance of doing some damage in the playoffs.”

(Taking the four-game losing streak out. Would 51 points and playing for the No. 2-3 series have been acceptable to you at this point?) “Yeah, I think that would’ve been acceptable. Again, we wanted to win a Supporters’ Shield. We’d like to have had 65 points. But in our league, as you can see by the standings and the number of points, it’s not a very realistic scenario. We have (one point less) than L.A. and it doesn’t seem to be a crisis in L.A. as in some ways in seems to have been portrayed here. Again, you get into the playoffs by getting a certain number of points, whether those wins come early in the season or late in the season, and then you play in the playoffs, which is a completely different. So are we satisfied? No. But we’re in and we’re excited about the postseason.”

(Does the club know yet what Dempsey’s doing in the offseason?) “No, and we’ll deal with that in the offseason.”

(Any follow-up to Joe Roth’s quote about Schmid not being the problem?) “I loved Mark Watson’s quote with San Jose; (his) title is interim head coach of San Jose. He said every coach is an interim head coach. It’s true, and Sigi’s been around enough to know that owners are emotional, things change — it’s reality. But I do agree with Joe. If we’re placing blame, there’s plenty to go around, from Joe and Adrian as owners — I gave you the list — to Adrian as general manager and his team of scouts and getting the players, coaching, medical, sports science, players, staff, business side. We can go down the list, and everybody can do a little bit better. And again, in the offseason, that’s our job — to figure out where we can optimize and tweak and get better and hopefully avoid some of the inconsistencies. That’s a word that I think is appropriate for this season, is it has been inconsistent.”

(How difficult is to evaluate when you really haven’t been able to see your team at full strength for any period of time?) “It’s a great point. That’s why it’s so complicated. I know that first and easiest trigger to pull is to fire the coach. That’s the easy solution. Let’s fire someone. But it’s just not always a good solution. My job is to sort through the complexity of the issues, including whether a coach has his players to actually put on the field, because it’s hard to blame a coach for not being able to play he’d like to play. The other one, again, if we’re talking about coaches, the thing that always sticks in my mind, I was a big Sonics fan growing up here. George Karl. Sixty-win season after 60-win season, didn’t win a championship, fans and media ran him out of town and 10 years of misery as a Sonics fan. And, again, Lou Pineilla. Great seasons, didn’t get him renewed, didn’t extend him — misery. I do believe history and a track record is meaningful, and we’ve had these conversations before in slumps, when everybody wants to put the headline up about the coach on the hot seat. I don’t think coaches go from being good coaches to bad coaches overnight or even over the course of a year. There comes a time when every coach, whether it’s through how he begins to act or the team, how the interaction works, every coach comes to the end of the line, and whether that means retiring or being fired, it happens. But I don’t want to be the owner that pulls the trigger because it’s the easy solution. If I get to the point where I think that’s the solution, then we won’t be afraid to make tough decisions like that, but they’re not going to be knee-jerk and emotional.”

| More in Sounders FC, Stop and chats

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