FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Nine hardnosed seasons as a player, six as the head coach, and two more as part of the broadcast team. Few have given more of themselves to the New England Revolution than Jay Heaps.
That history made the decision to part ways with Heaps after six years at the helm all the more difficult for Revolution General Manager Michael Burns and the rest of the club’s brass.
“The last two days have been a lot for everyone to digest,” Burns said. “It was certainly an extremely difficult decision to let Jay go given how much he’s meant to this organization, both as a player and as a coach, and how much this job meant to him. That was certainly not taken lightly.”
But a demoralizing road trip through Atlanta and Kansas City – including the heaviest loss in club history at Mercedes-Benz Stadium – highlighted some of the struggles the Revs have endured in recent years, as they’ve played just one playoff game since that magical run to MLS Cup in 2014.
So with five games remaining in the regular season, New England made the decision to move in a different direction, leaving assistant coach Tom Soehn in charge on an interim basis.
“In regards to the timing, once we made the decision that we were going to make a change, in fairness to both Jay and to us, we didn’t see or feel a need to continue on as is,” Burns said. “From our side (that) allows us as much time (as possible) to conduct a comprehensive search for the permanent replacement. But also on the flip side for Jay, it provides him as much time as possible to seek another opportunity.”
New England’s search for a new head coach begins immediately, and Burns said that process will include candidates both externally and internally, including current interim boss Soehn.
This will be the second head coaching search that Burns has led – the Revs have had just two head coaches (Heaps and Steve Nicol) in the past 15 years – but he noted that the process has evolved since Heaps was put in charge ahead of the 2012 campaign.
“Over the last few hours, the number of e-mails, texts, phone calls and resumes that I’ve received, both domestically and internationally, has changed a little bit from six years ago,” Burns said. “There’s a lot more interest and intrigue internationally than there was even six years ago, from a coaching standpoint and from a player standpoint.”
Burns said the Revs’ search will be exhaustive and didn’t place a timeline on when they hope to have their new head coach in place. But there are several offseason mechanisms like the Re-Entry Drafts, Expansion Draft and contract option decisions for which a new hire would ideally be involved.
“I think it would be important for the next head coach to be able to get in here as soon as possible to be involved in player personnel decisions, roster construction and all the things that go into drafts and protected lists for expansion,” Burns said. “There are a lot of things that go into it.
“We’re not going to make any rash decisions, but we want to begin the process now in searching for that candidate. There’s no timetable that we’ve set on hiring a candidate. We want to make sure that we do our due diligence and make a smart hire.”