FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Since his appointment as head coach of the New England Revolution in mid-November, Jay Heaps has emphasized his desire to have an experienced assistant on staff to serve as his right-hand man. Following an extensive search, Heaps found his top assistant in longtime U.S. Soccer coach and talent evaluator Jay Miller.
Miller – who joins strength and conditioning coach Nick Downing as the newest additions to Heaps’ staff – boasts more than 30 years of coaching and player evaluation experience, most notably serving in a variety of capacities with the national team program. A former coach with the U.S. Under-17, Under-18, Under-20 and Under-23 squads, Miller also served as a scout for the full national team ahead of the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
Prior to joining U.S. Soccer full time, Miller also served as the head coach for both the University of Tampa and University of South Florida.
“I’m really excited about [Miller] joining our staff because when I set out on the coaching search – when I was assessing myself, my strengths, my weaknesses and what I was looking for – I always wanted to have a very experienced tactician next to me,” Heaps said of his new assistant. “What I’m excited about is that he’s someone I can trust, he’s someone I can lean on and he’s someone who’s coached at every level. For me, that’s huge.”
Heaps praised Miller for his tactical acumen and his astute methods of implementing new tactics, developed through years of coaching – perhaps more so, teaching – younger players with both college and youth national teams.
“It’s developing a style of play that’s going to be what he’s used to doing at the youth national team levels,” said Heaps. “What he’s done his whole life is develop that style of play. I have an end result of what I want, but how do we get there? Well, we have to develop that way.
“From a tactical standpoint, when you’re talking about building a team and you’re trying to instill a new type of formation, a new type of lineup, a new way of playing, you want to be able to progress throughout the year,” Heaps continued, hinting at major changes in the Revolution’s tactical approach in 2012. “This isn’t looking at a weeklong scenario. This is looking at potentially a season-long scenario of how do we get better? How do we train to get better each week so we can start to rely on each other, not just on the field, but also when we’re starting to draw up how we want to play?”
The primary knock against Heaps upon his appointment as head coach in New England was his lack of experience on the bench, as the 35-year-old has never previously held a full-time coaching position. Heaps spent 11 years as a player in Major League Soccer with the Revs and Miami Fusion before spending the past two seasons as the Revolution’s color analyst.
Similarly, despite his extensive resume, Miller has no previous MLS experience, a factor which Heaps admits was discussed during the search for an assistant coach. But ultimately the benefits derived from Miller’s knowledge of the game far outweighed any perceived inexperience within the league.
“When you draw it up, you would like everyone to have MLS experience,” Heaps admitted. “But I was looking for a very specific set of expertise and not everyone in that expertise checks all the boxes. What turned me on to Jay was not only how he speaks about the game, how he is as a person, but also his knowledge of the game. Sometimes that in itself will encompass what we’re trying to do.
“We wanted someone who was going to help compliment the staff,” Heaps said. “Not just, ‘what does his resume show?’ You want to know what the man is like, what his past is like and how he’s going to help our team go forward.”