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November 11, 2013 at 3:00 PM

GM Adrian Hanauer: Ownership will sit down with Sigi Schmid this week to discuss future

Sounders FC general manager and part owner Adrian Hanauer held a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon to discuss the end of the season and the future of head coach Sigi Schmid.

Hanauer said no decision has been made regarding Schmid and the two of them will sit down with majority owner Joe Roth, probably later this week, to talk it out.

Here was Hanauer’s opening statement: “Clearly, this was a very frustrating season for all of us in the organization, our fans. Probably the most frustrating of the five years that I’ve been with the club. Maybe the most frustrating in the 12 years I’ve been with the Sounders. There are obviously lots of different factors that play into those sorts of frustrations, and really on Friday morning after the Portland series we went to work trying to fix those deficiencies. Clearly there are going to be a bunch of questions about Sigi and the coaching status … but just like every year in the past, we’ve taken some time after the season ends to decompress a little bit, to catch our breath, to meet and talk through what went well and what didn’t go well, and what the solutions are to what didn’t go well. This year will be no different: We’re going to go through that process, we’re going through that process as of now, and there are a lot of big decisions that ownership has to make over this offseason, and we will take our time, be methodical, be rational, hopefully not make emotional decisions based on the pain and frustration of losing a playoff series like we did to Portland. That process will take place over the next couple-, three weeks. We’re not in any massive hurry to make quick decisions. We just want to make the right decisions and get things back on track and get our noses to the grindstone to build for next season.”

UPDATE 4:39 p.m. — A full transcript is posted below.

*     *     *

(Does this uncertainty at coach affect after personnel decisions as you look forward to next season?) “No, there is a lot of housekeeping that we need to do over the next couple of weeks, just things like exit physicals and having conversations with players, see where their heads are at. The option date on exercising players isn’t until Dec. 1, so we’ve got three weeks from now until that. I know this is sort of tangential to what you asked, but I probably should’ve said this in my opening remarks, but Sigi is a winner. To me, he’s done a fantastic job over these five years. That said, this isn’t his first rodeo and he wants to be somewhere where he’s fully appreciated and supported, and I want a coach in place who is fully appreciated and supported, and so we need to take this time to get there. Once we get there, then it’s full steam ahead.”

(What do you need to hear from Sigi in order to go forward and feel like he’s fully appreciated and wants to be here?) “Joe and I and Sigi will sit down. I think we’re going to sit down later this week and just go through the season, talk about the results, talk about the way we play soccer, talk about the chemistry, the culture, the character of the team — make sure we’re all on the same page, still, in terms of all those things. Again, answering questions you’re not necessarily asking, but being on the inside of this organization, obviously I have a lot of visibility on what happens on a day-to-day basis. I’ve told you guys before, I don’t always agree with everything Sigi does, he doesn’t agree with the way I do my job, but we’re a super-functional organization where we work collaboratively. If you call this season a failure, if you call this season underachieving, if you call this season adequate, no matter what you say about this season, I know that we’re an organization. We win together, we succeed together, and we struggle and fail together. Everybody is always looking for a hide and a scalp, and the head coach makes the big bucks, so the fingers are usually pointed at him, but I’m the general manager. Ultimately, it’s my organization. I don’t see that many fingers pointing at me, which to be honest, kind of frustrates me. I think to myself, ‘I have as much to do with this as Sigi, as Chris, as the rest of the coaches, as the support staff, as the players,’ and I know how complicated it is to have a successful organization and win championships. I guess to come full circle on your question, it’ll be a conversation about the entirety of the soccer organization and making sure that we all believe together that we know what it’s going to take to get it back to better than how we’ve been of late and help us get over the hump and finally get to a championship.”

(Do you support and appreciate Sigi?) “I do. Again, like I’ve said, not all the time. I talk to a lot of my colleagues around the league, and they have disagreements with their coaches, just like I do and we do. The coaches have disagreements with the rest of their staff and their bosses. So I don’t think that’s dysfunctional. We still operate super-cohesively and as an organization. To me, I think the issue is sort of sitting down, making sure philosophically we’re on the same page and that there’s mutual belief. Sigi has to believe in me and the rest of the organization and know that we support him, as well. If I told you, ‘Yeah, I believe in him,’ and he doesn’t believe in me or us, then I don’t think that’s a very good situation either. The other thing I’ll just say is there are some very obvious decisions that coaches make that get the spotlight, right? You guys have been around it. Like who is in the starting lineup — that’s like the No. 1 issue for fans — and does that starting lineup translate into wins? I’m in that room. The assistant coaches are in that room. We make those decisions… That’s not true. I don’t make those decisions, but I’m there when the coaches are making those decisions. If I had a violent opposition to some of those choices, I would stand up. And so it’s always easy in hindsight to say something didn’t work with a lineup. It’s hard to get it right on the frontend. In addition to that, again, most people don’t see the myriad of things that the coaching staff does to get everything prepared for that moment, whether it’s the culture building, the chemistry, the scouting, the evaluation on players, the motivation, getting guys fit. So again, this is way more than you asked for, but I have to look at the totality of what happens in our coaching room and not try to react to the latest starting lineup that may not have worked.”

(What is Joe Roth’s view of all this?) “I think Joe and I are generally on the same page. The fantastic thing about Joe is he and I both had the same reaction Friday morning, which was, ‘You know what? Let’s take our time. Let’s get away for a day or two. Let’s catch our breath. Let’s figure out how we’re feeling as we communicate over the next few weeks, because we’re not in a rush.’ Again, the body of work generally has been good, albeit, I’m as frustrated as anyone that we haven’t won an MLS Cup. When you look at the body of work, it’s not distasteful. So he’s been super supportive, and again we’ll get together later this week and have more communication and over a little bit of time, we’ll come to a good spot. That said, we talked in the coach’s office for about three hours this morning and we’re going through the issues full steam ahead. Credit to Sigi, who I’ve spoken with and said we want to take some time. Speaking to Sigi’s character, his reaction is, ‘OK, I’m going to go to work to try to win us a championship. Let’s communicate as we communicate, but in the meantime, I’m going to try and win a championship.'”

(What was your assessment of how the locker room functioned?) “I’d be lying if I said it was the best locker room we’ve had in the five years I’ve been here. There were some tensions at times. I think the way our season went lends itself a little bit to that tension. Starting the season losing, then we go through a great stretch, then we really struggle at the end. We had players coming and going with national team duty. We had Clint, obviously, being signed late in the season, adding a new dynamic to the locker room, because Clint is a strong personality. He’s going to be an absolutely fantastic personality into this team, but when you inject a strong personality in the middle of the season, it changes the dynamic a little bit. Again, coming full circle to some of the other questions that have come up, those are the kinds of things I need to take into consideration and we need to keep taking into consideration as we think about whether we’re going to point the finger at the head coach or whether we’re going to point the finger at the general manager and the sporting director and the head coach can have some of the finger pointed at him, as well, and the medical staff and everybody else — and the players.”

(What were the major sources of your frustrations? Probably not just results…) “No, I think it was probably a combination of factors, some of which I’ve mentioned already. Certainly starting the season as we did puts you in a giant whole in the league, gets everybody on edge a month into the season. You add in maybe a little bit of a tense locker room. Again, whether you call it bad luck or bad results, just feeling like the results weren’t falling for us. Players coming and going with national team duty. You know what? I’m going to back up even further, finger pointed at me, our team wasn’t settled when the season began. We were unfortunately still doing transactions and trying to get the cap managed and in order. Then obviously once we went on the bad run at the end of the season, you could cut the tension with a knife. I think everybody was on edge. So it was kind of just this combination of issues and increased expectations from year to year. Certainly this is a town in this country — maybe you guys agree or disagree — but it feels like there’s more pressure in this town to win a championship than any other town. And I feel that pressure as a general manager, as an owner, as a fan.”

(Can you reflect on the transition this franchise made this season from where you were to bringing into talent like Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins?) “It does certainly like as a club, and to some degree as a league, we’re kind of taking the training wheels off a little bit. We did go out and obviously bring in some pretty big players in Oba and Clint. Again, not to make excuses, but the league is riddled with examples of making big changes and bringing big players in during the middle of the season, and questionable results at best. I think for whatever reason, you can kind of look at our season in a similar light. That said, with Clint, I think everybody can see the quality on the field. You don’t know what’s going on in the locker room, but he’s going to be a great leader on this team for hopefully many years. Oba, I feel bad. I know he got some crap for not being on the field at the end of the season and for us not being able to keep him healthy. When I went back and looked, in the year, sort of October (2012) to September, basically in the 12 months leading up to when we had some troubles on the field, he had played 50 games, which is a lot of games. It’s, to some degree, no wonder his body was breaking down a little bit. I suppose if I have any regret as far as Oba goes, we probably should’ve figured out a way to shut him down for three-, four-, five weeks and let him rest his body. But when he came to us, he flew from Europe to arrive that day, went in a played a few minutes in a game, went to the national team, came back and I think the team was struggling at that point. We jammed him in that game in Salt Lake. He reinjured himself. Again, another example of a guy not coming in, not getting a full preseason and having played so many games that he just needed a rest. Anyway, not 100 percent on your question, but I guess the long story short, I am looking forward to those two guys being able to put in a full year for us, because I think those two guys can do a lot of damage in MLS.”

(What letter grade would you give the season?) “B-minus? Anybody think it’s an F or an A? I don’t know.”

(When it comes to yourself, as you disappointed more with the timing of how the roster was built or certain position groups and how those were structured?) “Probably across the board. The timing sucked. I don’t want to make excuses, but in some cases transactions happen at a certain sequence and at a certain pace, and sometimes you can’t do much about that. The mix of players that we put in the locker room; obviously we would’ve liked Shalrie to have been able to give us more and stay healthy. That was frustrating. Again, that’s on me to go back and think through what I could’ve done differently throughout the year. Did I make the right transactions? Did we make too many transactions? Did we not make enough transactions? Were there opportunities that we missed?”

(Looking toward next year, is there a portion of the roster you think you need to focus your efforts on the most?) “Look, I know this is sort of a cop-out answer, but we want to get better everywhere. For sure there are certain positions that internally we know we need to focus on more than others. Before we start meeting the players and making some of those player-personnel decisions, I’m not comfortable sort of announcing it for the world to hear. But yeah, we certainly have our priorities at this point.”

(We know you do these postseason assessments every year, but the decision regarding a coach, this is different, right?) “Look, every year we go through the whole thing, starting from me. Like, am I still capable of this? Should I still be in this position? Is there someone better? So we go through the whole cast of characters. That said, obviously after certain years there is more focus put on certain positions, certain areas within the organization. I suppose that you could say maybe there is a little more thought going into it this year, but for sure something that we go through every year.”

(Given Schmid’s résumé, is there still a scenario where you still believe he’s the coach you expected him to be but you still end up parting ways based on other factors, like maybe needing a new voice?) “Absolutely. Yes is the short answer. Yes. I don’t know if I can add anything. You asked the question in a great way. To me, the crux of the issue when you’re assessing a coach, because I’ll say it again, if we’re laying blame, there is plenty to go around. Ultimately, I’m the general manager, so ultimately it comes back to me. That said, to your point, there is no questioning Sigi’s résumé. He is a winner. Again, I don’t agree with everything he does, but he does 100 things well for the few that I may not agree with. You start switching coaches, you can get caught in a revolving door pretty quickly of changing coaches. I understand the emotional catharsis some people have over being able to blame someone — Kathleen Sebelius. My job is to weed through what really rationally is the best decision.”

(How different will the cap be for next season?) “Yeah, it’s going to be big. It always is, and I’m sure every team feels the same way. But we do feel like we need to make some changes on the team to win a championship. We are going to create some cap space. It’ll take time and obviously I’m not going to talk about how we will get there exactly, but there could be some decent turnover on our roster.”

(How did signing Dempsey change your approach to this coming offseason?) “I’m not sure it really changed the approach to this coming offseason dramatically. We know we’ve got a fantastic player in the spine of our team, whether he’s playing forward or in the midfield position. Also, you didn’t really ask and no one has, but I guess I will say that there have been some rumors about players, and without going into detail, I think that it’s highly likely that Clint along with Ozzie along with Brad Evans form a triumvirate of leaders on the team going forward. Along with a number of other guys on the team, we feel we have a very good core going into the offseason. But that doesn’t change the fact that we feel we need to make some other changes to get back on track.”


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