The Portland Timbers held a closed practice today at the team's Beaverton training facility, but like yesterday very little attention was being paid to what was happening on the field. Instead, everyone in attendance was waiting for team owner Merritt Paulson to arrive and make the formal announcement that Caleb Porter had been hired on as the Timbers' new coach, which he did as practice was wrapping up.
Let's jump right into the quotes from Merritt Paulson and Gavin Wilkinson.
Paulson's opening statement to the press
Not the best kept secret over the last couple of days, but this is a great moment for us. A lot of work went into the announcement that we just made. It is a bit unusual not having a formal presser with the new coach here. It is critical to Caleb that this announcement not be a distraction form what he is focused on with the Zips right now: winning an NCAA title. It is a testament to his character.
From the very beginning it was always very clear that he was committed to Akron through the 2012 season. He has got a couple of quotes in the release today but that is going to be the extent of his media availability until we are able to blow this out in mid-December when he starts and we will do a formal press conference.
As I said, this was a long and thorough process. We've talked to a lot of people. There are some really excellent coaching candidates out there, but it became clear that to Gavin and to me that this is the right guy, the right guy to grow this team. He is just a unique talent.
He has an understanding of the levels of support that he is going to have. He spent a lot of time with Gavin and with me getting a great feel for expectations on both sides. He gets this organization. He knows a lot of the players on this team. We've got a lot of young talent on this team and this is a coach who is a cerebral coach, a great leader, a great tactician. He is extremely reflective.
I think that he is poised to do some great things, but we have got to give this some time to grow as well. That is something that I want to be clear about from day one as well.
Read the rest of Merritt Paulson's quotes plus hear from Gavin Wilkinson and Darlington Nagbe after the break.
On how Caleb Porter's career experience factored into his hiring
I always said that it was a prerequisite to have a coach that understands MLS. I never said that we need a guy who has been an MLS coach. This is a guy who has played in MLS, has coached MLS players, has a very good understanding of the league and respect for the league, understands the american player.
In terms of the Olympic experience, it was really the first diversity that he has had, in many ways, and talking with him extensively about that experience, what he learned from that experience his thoughts really showed me the level of intellectual curiosity that he has about his craft. That was something that I actually see that as a positive. Look, he lost one game, had a great result with that team against Mexico early on in the process, and then in soccer anything can happen in any one given game but it was never about excuses or anything like that. He is a very reflective individual.
Could we have brought in a guy who is a tried and true MLS head coach and in year one we are just going to go for broke? Maybe. Caleb is 37 years old and I think that makes him the third youngest coach in the league, but this is about trying to build something special and elite and there are not many people, I think, that have the capability and talent that he has. He has been a sought after coach in this league. This isn't the first offer that he has received.
He is very ambitious. He wanted to make sure that he chose the right opportunity when he got it. This is a powerful platform in the world of soccer. The Portland Timbers are helping to shape and grow the sport of soccer in North America like few clubs in the league. He gets that and he gets our vision. There is a real good understanding between him and Gavin about that vision.
It is something that I feel really good about.
On the interview process
We had eight finalists that we were in serious discussions with and then a shortlist of three. I am not going to get into those names. I referenced yesterday that there were some inaccurate rumors; those rumors were talking about people who were cited as finalists who were not finalists. All the interviews were conducted privately.
I've watched Timbers games on the road with Caleb. Gavin and Caleb have been on road trips to go look at some other games. There has been a lot of time spent with them, a lot of time spent with all our candidates, but this have been an ongoing discussion and we needed to make sure that this was the right fit. I feel so much better prepared at this point in time to go through this process than we were out of the chute, that is not indicting any individual or anything, in terms of the questions that we asked.
This position reports to Gavin and Gavin had a 110% endorsement of this position. He was Gavin's guy very early on.
On what made Porter the correct coach for the job
It is not one thing. It is a combination of all the qualities that we are looking for. There are a lot of ingredients that go into making a great coach and you talk about the cultural fit as well. That is really important. Is the coach going to be a great man manager and leader of young men? A developer of young talent but still able to work with older professional players as well?
The one thing that was always illuminating to me in talking to Caleb was that there is a confidence but there is also an understanding that you continue to progress, to get better, and he is always looking to learn and always looking ot improve and, to me, I can't tell you how refreshing that is to hear.
On what will change on the pitch under Porter
Caleb will bring in his own system, but in terms of the philosophy of a possession oriented attack, some of the things that Gavin was talking about, widening the field, those decisions were certainly made prior to bringing in Caleb. I think that was something that we were looking for no matter who we chose to be the head coach.
On if Porter will be able to deal with professional players
Bruce Arena was a first time MLS head coach when he made the leap, as was Jason Kreis, as was [Dominic Kinnear]. At the end of the day there has got to be a feeling that it is the right fit. There is some leap of faith that you take with any hire, but this was a detailed process and one we feel good about.
On if the Timbers approached Porter
It was a mutual interest from the get go. We had a lot of interest in this job from the get go. We interviewed a coach who was recently at the helm of one of the top English Premier League teams who was interested in the Timbers. There was a lot of interest out there and no shortage of great candidates, but this has got to be the right long term fit. I don't plan on making a habit of sitting up here with coach hiring and firing press conferences.
On the involvement of Bob Bradley
He is focused on Egypt and getting Egypt to the World Cup. I talked with [Jurgen Klinsmann] more than I did with Bob. He knows Caleb really well and had a lot of thoughts but Bob is a guys you have got to get insight form as well. I talked to him about the candidates. I talked to a lot of people, as did Gavin. It may be two months since we have formally been in a coaching search but a lot has gone on in those two months.
On Porter not arriving in Portland until December
It is going to be a soft landing for him. He will stay focused on the Zips and I think that Akron should be really proud of a guy that honors that committment. He wants to go out on top and he has, arguably, the number one college program in the country. Right now he feels a lot of loyalty to his players. He is talking to them right now so you have got to respect that and everybody is going to have all the access they could want to Caleb when he is made official here. I think it is somewhere around December 15th.
On the future of the Timbers current coaches
We have got a good staff in place. Ultimately it is on the coach to come in and make his own evaluations and do what he needs to. Certainly he has already spent some time with the staff and we have got guys like Sean McAuley and [Mike Toshack]. We have got some really capable folks here.
On going through the coaching search a second time
It is funny, I was joking with Taylor Twellman and he referred to me as Jerry Jones in MLS. I am like, Taylor, do you have any clue what you are talking about? Jerry Jones is the GM of the team. Since I have been here, I have never once said, a player plays despite your wishes. I never once said, trade for this guy, don't trade for this guy. I have supported every move that they have made. I've let the soccer guys do the soccer thing.
Now, I need to be able to evaluate at the end of the day. The buck stops with me and I want to have a communication with the coach and our general manager. Understand how they are thinking and that helps me evaluate. That's not overbearing. It's not something that happens a lot and I am not hovering over the locker room.
Really understanding how a coach prepares form a game ending one Saturday to getting ready for the next Saturday's game, what's his process like? How's he thinking about tactical decisions? How's he dealing with this scenario or this scenario? There were a lot of real world questions coming off of my last experience that I was very focused on. I wanted there to be just a very crystal clear understanding of expectations and support among all sides. The Gavin relationship was really important too: that they had a really good feel for each other.
Had some computer issues then had to go to work, so no Wilkinson quotes for now. For quotes from Darlington Nagbe check out the video that Andy posted on the front page.