Yesterday, it was announced Steve Nicol would no longer be the head coach of the New England Revolution. The decision was made after a meeting between the inimitable Scot and the Revolution's investor/operators (read: owners), Jonathan and Robert Kraft, and was described as a "mutual parting of ways." Nicol leaves as the longest-tenured coach in MLS history, with ten straight seasons at the helm in Foxboro.
Mike Burns will be heading up the search for a coaching replacement. Before everyone starts showering the hate on Burns and whining that nothing will get solved, I ask you to understand something: our perception of how things work, or have worked, in New England may be a bit skewed. That isn't surprising, considering the organization's grave lack of transparency in their business operations, but while some of the over-arching issues that go to the very top of the pyramid won't change, the idea that Burns himself is responsible for some of the things we (myself included) have been lambasting him for might be a misconception. I'll have more on that later.
For now, though, I want to focus on Stevie and all the great moments and memories he brought us during his time in New England. More musings on our favorite red-faced and unintelligible coach after the jump.
He's one of a very exclusive group of coaches to have reached 100 wins in his MLS career, and he's the only coach to have done it all with one franchise (Houston does not retain the history of the San Jose Clash, and thus Dom Kinnear has technically done it with two different teams). Stevie won Coach of the Year in his first official season as head coach (his two games as interim coach in 1999 don't count) and led New England to four MLS Cup Finals. The Revs made the playoffs in eight straight seasons, making six conference finals appearances in the process. In fact, even though the Revs never won a national title, it could be convincingly argued that they were still the MLS "Team of the 00's," at the very least in the Eastern Conference.
Stevie nurtured through such incredible talents as Taylor Twellman, Shalrie Joseph, Steve Ralston, Jay Heaps, Clint Dempsey, Andy Dorman, Jeff Larentowicz, Michael Parkhurst, Matt Reis, Pat Noonan, and countless others, many of whom have gone on to feature successfully for teams overseas, or retire from their MLS careers as legends. His partnership with former assistant coach Paul Mariner set the blueprint for a successful one-two touchline combination in this league. Nicol also helped deliver the only two pieces of silverware this snake-bitten club has ever earned: the 2007 U.S. Open Cup and the 2008 SuperLiga, becoming the only MLS club to win the latter in its entire existence.
Most of all, Stevie can be said to have done the very best anyone could with what he was given. That's something that can never be taken away from him, no matter what. He's received his fair share of criticism in the last two seasons, not the least of which from this blog, but the bottom line is this: Stevie is one of the greatest coaches in MLS history, and is certainly the greatest in Revolution history, and I have a feeling it will be a long, long time before we see his like again.
Happy trails, Stevie.
Share your favorite Steve Nicol memories in the comments section. Again, I'd like this to be a happy remembrance of Stevie - we can start dissecting the coaching search and any possible mistakes of recent seasons later. For now, let's honor him.