Conference Call: Brian Bilello
New England Revolution President Brian Bilello
Media Conference Call
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
I’m very excited about this opportunity for me to come in and take a greater role with the organization, especially with the team side. Obviously with the season we had, there’s been a lot of discussion internally about what we need to do to improve the performance of this team and I think based on some of what you’ve seen happen today – and hopefully what you will be able to see going forward over the next few months – we felt that there were a lot of changes that needed to be made. That was beyond just saying, ‘one little change here, one little change there,’ but in my role now – taking over and being able to control what’s happening on the team side to a degree – there are a lot of things we want to do to improve this organization, not just in the short term, but really set up an organizational structure to set up a system of having a philosophy of what we want to do, how we want to do it, being aggressive and giving this team the opportunities to compete at the highest levels of this league and that’s what we’re going to be doing.
We, Michael Burns and myself, have been working pretty aggressively on the coach search before today. I think we’re probably within seven days of being able to make an announcement on that front. We obviously want to get that done quickly. We want to be smart about the search. We want to make sure we’re talking to everyone that we’d like to talk to, so by no means was it a quick search. I think it was very comprehensive in terms of talking to enough folks and understanding where we want to be and what strengths they would bring to the table. At this stage, we’re trying to move quickly to close that out so that we can move forward because as you guys know, there’s a lot to do.
So from my perspective, in the past, I really only oversaw the business side of the operations, so nothing really on the team side. Mike [Burns] will be the General Manager and I guess it’s easier to start from that perspective. The head coach will be reporting in to Mike, and every other aspect of our soccer operations there will be reporting in to Mike. So whether that’s the youth, he’ll oversee scouting, player development, the coach and all the technical staff. In the past, Michael did not have that authority over all those groups, so now he will. He is then ultimately accountable to me on all decisions related to that. The head coach will obviously have a lot of autonomy over the operation, but we’re going to set up the right system of accountability [and] decision-making to insure that as an organization, we have a philosophy (for) Michael and I and the Krafts, as to how we want our business run, what we believe in and what we want to do. We can make sure we have systems, checks and balances in place, that we’re doing that. I know from the outside that seems like a subtle thing but internally, for me, it’s an entire half of the organization that frankly, going in the past and now have ultimate accountability for. To me, that’s very important.
On the priority of a soccer-specific stadium…
I’d say in my old role, as Chief Operating Officer, I was already primarily engaged in that and that will not change in terms of that’s still – off the field, I’ll say and not related to the soccer side – our biggest initiative that we’re working on today. It will continue to be so and we’re working pretty hard at it.
On upcoming draft dates…
In terms of the timing and where we think it is for the coach, the coach will have major input on all of those decisions. We plan to have the coaching search in time so that he can have a major input on all of that. Obviously, Michael Burns knows the team very well, knows the players very well. I would say, who we’re going to keep, who we’re not going to keep, ultimately the coach is going to be the one who will decide that. From that perspective, we have a head start, because we know our guys and we have some thoughts on that. But ultimately that will be the head coach, [who] will come in and need to pick his squad.
We’ve interviewed about a dozen folks for the position and to be honest, very purposefully, we’re looking at people with different backgrounds. So, we didn’t narrow and say, ‘we want this type of person.’ We did look at a variety of people in terms of MLS experience, international experience, etc. We’ve interviewed a broad range of candidates.
On bringing in a new coach under tenured management…
Well, I don’t think it’s necessarily incumbent upon on the coach to say all the changes that will need to be made. I think as an organization, I think our owner’s been quite clear that we’ve recognized that we need to have change, that we’re making changes to the [organizational] structure and some of the positions in order to do that. I’ve been with the organization, but I have some pretty strong ideas about the team side in terms of how that needs to be run that are different than what’s been done in the past. So I guess what I’d say is: the change in terms of how the technical side of our business is going to be run is happening. It happens to be someone in myself who’s been in the organization, just not on that side of it. It’s applying a lot of what I know and what I think we need to do there, which I can say is quite different in many areas to what we’re going to do. We’re trying to find a coach that we think can lead us and obviously make us a lot better on the field, not just today, but also looking forward to help us build a strong organization.
I would say that historically we’ve had a very tight circle around those decisions and that was – for right or wrong – purposefully done. We’re certainly looking at scouting among everything of how to be better about that. The league is constantly changing in terms of how they’re structuring themselves in terms of finding international talent for the whole league: then how do you get access to it. So the returning U.S. international players [process] is an example of that. So what I think is important from my perspective, from what I want to do, is make sure we’re looking at not just what’s the best answer for today which we have to address, but also as the league evolves, what’s going to be the best answer going forward. The head coach has to be involved in that decision, frankly. Some head coaches feel comfortable saying, ‘Here’s a guy I want to come be a scout for me.’ Other say, ‘Look, we can use video scouting, we can use our network of connections. We can use Michael [Burns], we can use internal people to do some level of that. But at the end of the day, once we get down to a short list of guys I want my close circle of coaches to have eyes on those guys before we make a decision.’ It’s hard to really give an answer until we have the head coach and hear what his philosophy is going to be on that. What I would say, my personal opinion on that is we need to be able to cast a broader net, at least initially. So that when we’re looking at more guys, even if that’s on film, narrowing that down and then attacking with live scouting so that you’re casting as wide of a net as possible using technology, using video scouting, using networks of people you trust and I think that’s all going to be important. In terms of exact structure, I think we’ll address that once the coach is on board and see what his desire is.
Sunil [Gulati] is going to be an advisor to the Kraft Family on things related to MLS, but also international soccer and other things as well. From a day-to-day work structure of the team, the coach is going to report to Michael [Burns], Michael’s going to report to me and I report to the Krafts. How [Sunil Gulati]’s utilized on a day-to-day basis, I don’t have a great answer for you on that. He’s a great resource to the Kraft Family and to the organization and will be utilized in a variety of ways, I’m sure.
On if Sunil Gulati will be used to bring in other special soccer events…
I don’t have a great answer to that. That’s also a market that has evolved quite a bit in the last few years. Soccer United Marketing, which many of you know is the sister company to Major League Soccer that we’re all a part of – they’ve become [a] much more prominent force. They were the group behind the Man United tour that we participated in last year. They participate in most of the soccer events; I’d say that from this country. So there’s definitely a more centralized, structured way of bringing those friendlies in. We’re going to continue to look at that. If he can be helpful in that regard, sure, I’m sure he will be. That market’s changed dramatically in the last five years, I’d say, in terms of how those events are coming to the United States and frankly, which events are showing as attractive to fans.
On updates on a soccer-specific stadium…
Not today that I have for you. It’s our number one priority that we’re working hard on. It’s obviously been a big challenge for us, but something that we emphatically want to see happen and want to make happen. In terms of on the team side, there’s a lot of different projects that I’m going to be working on with Michael [Burns] to turn that around and improve that immediately. On the business side, that is number one, two and three priority for us.
On the preferred capacity of a soccer-specific stadium for the Revolution…
I would say for sure more in the 20,000 [person capacity] range than in the 30,000 range. I think the right answer is to build something in the 20,000 range, that you’re pre-engineering to know that you can go up to a bigger capacity as you need it.
On the philosophy of the team going forward…
I think at this stage, that’s at a very high level and we’re crystallizing some more of the details of how that then exposes itself as it pertains to things like scouting, like the draft, like the day-to-day training and development of the team. Certainly at the highest of levels, my strong philosophy is, I don’t want this organization out-worked or out-smarted by anyone out there. I think that’s really really important. There are things from a soccer side that you can control, and there’s things you can’t control. Every year you’re going to have a draft and we’re all going to draft guys and we’re all going to like the guys we draft and –whatever it’s going to be – half of those guys aren’t going to work out. So there’s some levels that you can’t control within that process but there’s certainly a lot you can do: from background, from research, to make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance to be successful in situations like that. From a very high level, I want to make sure we’re putting in the work as much as it takes to get the best chance possible to win in whatever we do. Whether that’s winning in a draft, winning on the field, winning on an international transfer, whatever that may be, that’s key. Same thing with not getting out-smarted. There is so much information out there right now. I think this sport, even though it has come a long way, it’s still on the early curve of knowledge. In terms of, if you look at things compared to things like baseball especially, football and basketball recently, has come on board. Those tools are just tools. They’re not the end-all, be-all. Certainly if there’s a way to find an advantage, to get an advantage, is very important to me that we’re going after all those things. From a high level that’s where I want to be. I think when you translate a little lower, certainly having an organization that up and down, that we’re giving our players every advantage to win that we can, and they see that and they feel that – I think that’s critically important. That relationship between the organization and its players and frankly, what I’m excited about, the fact that I oversee the business and the competitive side, is the relationship between the players and the fans. Ultimately that’s why we’re all in this, that’s what this business is: it’s about the relationship between your players and your fans. It’s primarily about on the field, it’s primarily about wins and losses but it definitely goes deeper than that. That’s an important piece that I want to make sure we’re addressing.