Wednesday, the Union announced a changing of the guard.
Union boss Peter Nowak was out, after two-plus seasons. John Hackworth, his top assistant, was in.
Here's what Hackworth and Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz said at PPL Park, concerning Nowak and saving the Union's season:
“Today, we’re announcing that Peter Nowak is stepping
down as our head coach and team manager. I made the decision to do that. Peter
is a terrific coach and has incredible sideline instincts. Probably one of the
best I’ve ever seen. But over a period of time we determined that we were no
longer on the same page between ownership and Peter’s philosophy of managing
the team. At this moment, I made the decision in consultation with our
investors that it was time to make a change. Unfortunately, these are never easy things to do. Peter
is a friend and it’s a very difficult decision, but in the best interest of our
club, I made that decision and we parted ways this morning. John Hackworth, who I’ve known for many, many years and
has been an integral part of building the Union brand from Day 1, will take
over responsibilities as interim team manager. He will oversee all soccer
operations. From our perspective, from my perspective, this is not about wins and
losses and this is not about how the team has been playing on the field
because, quite frankly, our team has performed well on the field and has
moments where we could’ve played better and scored goals. All and all, this
team has performed very well on the pitch. And as soccer is, it’s a very cruel
sport and we were on the losing end more times than we were on the winning
side. I want to make no mistake — this is not about wins and losses or
performance of the team. We have a very good team. We have very good players.
This is more about philosophical differences about how Jay (Sugarman) and I
envision this club and what our vision for this club is. Sometimes, that
happens that a coach and ownership aren’t on the same page. That’s why I felt it was very important to make that
change and give John the opportunity.
“Peter’s experience and contributions have been greatly
appreciated by me and our investor group. This has been an immeasurable
learning experience and I want to thank Peter for having afforded us this
learning experience. Coach Hackworth has always been part of this and I have an
immense amount of comfort with him leading our guys. This is a man of extreme
character and I can say that because I’ve known John for 100 years. Well, maybe
not 100. Maybe 50. But John is more than capable of leading this team. This is
a coach that has coached in two World Cups, a confederations tournament and has
managed young players and has coached at the very highest club level and
international level. He’s a former player, himself, so he knows the ropes. I
have no doubt we’re going to continue the momentum with our team on the field
and get better as the season goes. There’s a tremendous amount of soccer left
to be played. We’re close and we’ll make those changes accordingly.
“Now is really the time for us to take this season by the
neck and show the rest of this league what we’re made of. I’ve always said the
test of people is not when you’re on a 10-game winning streak, but when times
are tough. We’re in a tough spot right now. We have terrific momentum going
right now in U.S. Open Cup. … I still think the league is up for grabs. There
are a lot of teams in this league that people are saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t expect
that kind of start to the season,’ and we’re only a third of the way in with
two-thirds of the way left. I’ve been around this league from Day 1, and I know
this league is won after the all-star game. It’s after the all-star game where
teams are positioning themselves and have made significant runs. We’re putting ourselves in that position right now.
“It’s been a tough day because Peter is a friend. I
respect him highly for his coaching abilities and his instincts, but in the
best interest of this club, this badge will always come first. Our fans, our
sponsors, our broadcast partners, our dear Sons of Ben, I have to make tough
decisions. It’s all on the behalf of the club, the brand and all of those
people. At this point, I felt it was necessary to make this move so that we can
continue on the growth and development of the brand."
ON UNION’S PHILOSOPHY
“In terms of the player personnel moves, we’re all
involved in those discussions and those strategic moves. It’s just a matter of
certain styles and certain ways, and the purpose of who we are and what our
brand is that you, sometimes, go in different directions. I’m not going to get
into specific details about that. That’s a personal issue between Peter, me and
Jay and our ownership. I wanted you guys to know this wasn’t about wins and
losses or about how the team was playing."
ON NOWAK’S REACTION
“His reaction was my reaction. None of this is easy. None
of this makes us happy. None of this is enjoyable. It’s hard stuff. The
difficult part of it is we’ve known each other for a long time and competed
against each other for a long time, but what’s important is you’ve got to set
those feelings aside and make the decision that’s best for the club, the fans
and the brand. That’s why I’m the operating partner because, for our nine
investors, I have to make those decisions."
ON WHEN PHILOSOPHIES CAME APART
“I don’t know. It develops over time. At some point, you
wake up in the morning and you realize, ‘Oh, this isn’t quite the way we want
the Union brand represented.’ I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that
question because I don’t know if it’s a particular start time or a particular
end time. I’m not a wine connoisseur, but I know what good wine tastes like. I
sipped the wine recently and it didn’t taste so good. I don’t want to make
light of it using that analogy, but I don’t know when it started. But I do know
we’re not on the same page and that’s why I decided to make that change."
ON HAVING TO SIGN OFF ON PERSONNEL CHANGES
were Peter’s decisions. I’m not the type of manager or owner that whispers in
players’ ears or makes decisions. Those are 100-percent the team manager’s
decisions. We support him. We provide input. We provide consultation. When I
say ‘we,’ I mean a number of us including our board of directors. I hadn’t
vetoed anything. I fully supported his decisions, but those were Peter’s
decisions as they are now John’s."
ON EROSION OF FAN SUPPORT FACTORING IN
“No. I’m not sure what you’re talking about (with) ‘fan
confidence eroded.’ We’ve had amazing crowds. Saturday night was a
standing-room only crowd. I have not detected any erosion of fan confidence, to
be honest. Again, the technical staff makes player decisions based solely on
one thing, and that is to make our team better. Hopefully all of our players
are fan favorites in some form or way. It’s something that, you know, we look at
one thing and that is, ‘Will a player make our team better and can they help us
play the style of soccer we want to play and ultimately win games and put the
product on the field here that fans like?’ I have not detected fan erosion."
ON WINNING WITH WHO’S HERE
“Absolutely. We have a balance of young players and some
veteran players. I mean, even some of our veteran players are relatively young
players. We’re the youngest team in the league — from Ray Gaddis to the Farfans
to Freddy Adu to Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams. Sheanon seems like a seasoned
veteran, but he’s still a young, under-23 player. That’s our philosophy. That
hasn’t changed. There’s a lot of people who kind of seem to think we’ve gotten
away from that philosophy. I don’t know where that’s coming from because when
you look at our starting lineup, we’re very committed to younger players.
We’re proving it every game that we feel our starting 11,
with our newcomers like Pajoy and Perlaza and Josue Martinez, who we have not
seen enough of and when we’ve seen him, we like what we’ve seen. Those guys are
great adds to this team. Now the key for John and his technical staff is
pulling them all together and making them a team, instead of just individual
talented players. That’s what we’re looking for John to do."
ON NOWAK APPLYING TO HEARTS AS BREAKING POINT
timing. No employer, no manager likes to read that his most important guy or
most important asset is out looking for employment. It was a rumor and I don’t react to rumors. I believe
80-percent of what I hear and 100-percent of what I see. At that point it’s
just a rumor. I don’t really react. If you’re asking me if that was the reason
for the change, it’s absolutely not."
ON WHETHER HE ASKED NOWAK ABOUT IT
“It was discussed. That discussion was a private
discussion, so I’m not going to comment on it."
ON TRADE OF DANNY MWANGA FACTORING IN
“No. None of the player moves were reasons for this. None
of those. Danny had a great time with us and, hopefully, he grows
and have a different environment. You read all those comments and press
releases about Danny when he was moved. He had nothing to do with this move."
ON WHETHER NOWAK DIDN’T HAVE PRIORITIES IN PLACE
Peter did the best that he can while he was here. He’s a very good coach and
his instincts on the sideline were the best I’ve seen and I’ve been around some
pretty incredible coaches in the world and his instincts are almost
second-to-none, I would say. And he brought a lot to the club. I made the
decision because I felt, philosophically, we were not on the same page anymore."
ON HACKWORTH HAVING A CHANCE TO SHED THE TAG ‘INTERIM’
ON HACKWORTH’S SPECIFIC TITLE
“John is the team manager who reports directly to me."
ON NOWAK STEPPING DOWN AS OPPOSED TO BEING FIRED
informed Peter we were moving in a different direction with our team manager.
That’s about all I can comment on right now, because it’s fluid. All I can tell
you is, right now, I informed Peter this morning that he is not the team
manager because of philosophical reasons."
“I want to start by mentioning I wouldn’t be here if it
weren’t for Peter Nowak. He and I had discussions about what it would be like
to work together and start a new franchise. Peter’s a dear friend of mine and a
lot of things we did together, I’ll remember forever. I’m very thankful to him
for those opportunities.
“At the same time, I’m very excited about this one. I’m
humbled and honored to be in charge of this organization. I take that
responsibility very greatly. There’s tons of potential in our locker room and
I’m very excited to get to work."
ON KEEPING REST OF STAFF INTACT
“We have a great staff before today and we’re going to
continue to do so. Things won’t change in that regard at all."
ON ADDING A COACH
“Nick and I will talk about some possibilities. Certainly
there’s a lot that’s going to change. This is happening rather quickly. We have
a lot of work to do and we’re in a good spot to do some very good things."
ON CHANGES ON THE FIELD
“I can’t give you that answer right now, but I can tell
you that I’m not Peter Nowak. I’m John Hackworth. I’m going to do things the
way I’ve done it as a head coach and work with my staff and my players. I
believe in the players we have right now. We have a young locker room, one of
the youngest teams in the league. We have guys in there who are fighting,
scrapping every day who want a chance. From ownership and the support I’ve been
given, there will be some changes. There will be some new faces out there, but
at the same time, as Nick said earlier, we’ve played some really good soccer
this year. Our record does not reflect how good we are. It’s not like you’re
going to see a whole new team or lineup out there on Saturday, that’s for sure."
ON MEETING WITH PLAYERS
“Their reaction is probably the same that Nick and I had.
The feeling in there is that it’s a big change. It’s an adjustment time. With
any change that takes place, guys are hopefully going to take it the best way
possible. I’ve got to give Nick congratulations because he went into that
locker room and said a lot of things to those guys that put them back in a
place that is the foundation of this club, this organization. He announced me
to those guys and, for us, meaning me, the players and our staff, we’ve worked
together for a long time now.
I think that’s a little bit of relief to those guys and I
think we all know we’re much better than our record reflects. Now it’s time to
go prove that on a consistent basis."
ON CHANGES HE MIGHT MAKE AT WINDOW
“It’s a great opportunity for us to potentially make some
moves. For right now, we do want to concentrate on the guys in our locker room
and make sure they know we believe in them, have faith in them, that they were
brought here for a reason. Any decision we make going for will have that in
mind, that those guys are who we have to take care of first."
ON FAIRNESS OF PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HACKWORTH
“You’re not going to be able to tell on Saturday. You’re not going to
be able to tell in July. You don’t change things overnight. We have a lot of
work to do. Saturday, what we hope is we put our best foot forward and compete
the way every player and coach wants to happen. Peter, again, is a great soccer person. Our philosophies
as far as playing is very similar. I don’t think we’re going to change
stylistically from what Peter believed in. Will we do some things different?
For sure. But we always want to play attacking soccer. We want to be a team
that presses high up the field, that gets numbers forward, that creates
numerical advantages, be an attractive team to watch, have a good style, be
very hard. One thing I love about this city and this club is how tough
everybody is. We as coaches and as players want to make sure that every day we
compete to the highest of our ability. I think you’re going to see those
things. At least that’s our hope. It’s not going to be an overnight thing."
ON SATURDAY BEING EMOTIONAL
“I’m going to steal one of (Sakiewicz’s) lines. It’s not
my first rodeo. I was a college coach for nine years. I was a head coach in
college for four. I was a head coach with the national team for over four
years. Even here, I’ve been the head coach numerous times. I don’t think any of
that is going to be different. For me, just so you guys know, I don’t think this
should be about John Hackworth as the focal point of this team and this
organization. I’m very honored to be in this position, but at the same time it
should be about this team, our players, our fans and this organization, putting
all these things first."
ON WHETHER HE SPOKE WITH NOWAK
“I have not had the opportunity to talk to Peter. As soon
as I learned, I tried to get a hold of him, but we have not spoken yet."
Labels: firing, John Hackworth, Nick Sakiewicz, Peter Nowak