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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Friday, June 9, 2017

Keeping it 100: Jim Curtin on the century-mark in games managed

Hitting 100 regular-season games managed in MLS
isn't the biggest thrill in the world for Jim Curtin. (AP)
Jim Curtin’s initial reaction Thursday to news of his 100th MLS game in charge of the Union was a joking “who cares?” muttered under his breath. So monumental was the achievement attained Saturday at New York City FC that Curtin didn’t hear much about it until questioned by the media five days later.

To put it lightly, milestones aren’t what drives Curtin to work every day. They also illustrate something important about his aptitude for the job: For all his early-season pugnacity and occasional prickliness in the face of criticism, he was more than willing to stand in the line of fire and take criticism for his team’s struggles. When it comes to accepting plaudits for his team's accomplishments, he’s far more deferential.

Which brings us back to the answer Thursday:
“It means I’ve been here for 100 games, which is something I guess. At the same time, I believe in the work that we’re doing. I think we are moving things in the right direction and it’s a milestone, but at the same time, the individual stuff isn’t anything I get too excited about, for sure. Wish we could’ve gotten a result on the road against New York City FC for our fans.”
With respect to Curtin’s position, from a historical perspective, it is significant. Jim Curtin is the 31st manager in MLS history to helm 100 MLS regular-season games with a club in one continuous stint. His next game will send him past Ron Newman, who coached exactly 100 contests with Kansas City from 1996-99. (Curtin is also the longest tenured manager in Union history, a less distinguished benchmark.)

An intriguing pattern within the numbers is the proportion of 100-game managers that are active. Of the 31, nine are active managers. The 32nd member of that list will be inaugurated in August when Greg Vanney (93 matches) hits the mark. The full list of active coaches with 100 or more regular-season games managed (through June 4, 2017):
 
Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City (hired 2009) 261
Ben Olsen, D.C. United (hired 2010) 230
Jay Heaps, New England (hired 2012) 185
Caleb Porter, Portland (hired 2013) 150
Gregg Berhalter, Columbus (hired 2014) 118
Pablo Mastroeni, Colorado (hired 2014) 115
Oscar Pareja, FC Dallas (hired 2014) 115
Carl Robinson, Vancouver (hired 2014) 115
Jim Curtin, UNION (hired 2014) 100

The list of 100-plus managers includes one manager let go in 2017 (Jeff Cassar, 105 with Real Salt Lake), and two whose terms ended in 2016 (Sigi Schmid after 250 games in Seattle and Bruce Arena after 274 in Los Angeles). One other member of the 100-match club, Jason Kreis, is active at another club. Completing the season in their current jobs, Dominic Kinnear (already in the 100-match club with Houston) and Jesse Marsch would join.

By the end of the year, it's possible that half of all the managers ever to have logged 100 games with a club in MLS' 22-year history will have been active with their clubs in the last 12 months or so. That paints the picture of drastically increased stability. Soccer is not a sport known for patience with coaching, even in places that aren’t Palermo. MLS hasn’t been immune from this trend despite protection from the whims of promotion and relegation.

The one commonality of all the active 100-match managers is playing experience in MLS, an understanding of the league from both sides of the coach-play divide. They also have something else important in common, in Curtin’s eyes.
“The one thing that you would say is that you could go through each guy, whether it’s Caleb Porter, Greg Vanney, myself, Benny Olsen, whoever, Gregg Berhalter, we’ve all been through these moments now of decent stretches, of tough times where you almost have moments where it could be the end and people discuss that, but we’ve kind of come through it and learned from it and we’ve continued to grow. I think it’s important to never get too high or too low. Are we as good as the time we make it to finals, or are we as bad as the times we make it a tough stretch? Probably somewhere in between.

“I think there’s more stability now in the league, I think that’s fair to say. But at the same time, it’s a high-pressure job. It’s pro sports and at the end of the day, you’re judged on getting to the playoffs, winning trophies, so there’s going to be turnover, there’s going to be change. Those are peers of mine so it’s good to see that there are guys in the league that you’ve played with that are learning, growing each and every year and doing good work.”

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