The Portland Thorns are set to unveil their new head coach on Monday, but the news appears to have already been broken.
A source familiar with the hire confirmed to Ryan Clarke of The Oregonian/Oregon Live that Mike Norris is set to be named the new head coach of the Thorns. Norris was a member of former head coach Rhian Wilkinson’s staff during the 2022 season, which saw the Thorns capture their third NWSL Championship.
BREAKING: The Portland Thorns will name Mike Norris as the club’s new head coach on Monday, The Oregonian/OregonLive has learned.— Ryan Clarke (@RyanTClarke) January 6, 2023
Norris previously served as an assistant under Rhian Wilkinson and was a longtime youth coach in Canada. #BAONPDX #NWSL https://t.co/7dV6tPkX5K
Norris will step into the role left by Wilkinson, after Wilkinson made the decision last month to resign as Thorns head coach.
Norris, like Wilkinson before him, has been very involved in Canadian soccer during his coaching career. The Englishman spent time with the Canada women’s U-17 and U-20 teams over the span of six years, serving a variety of coaching roles. During that time span he was also head goalkeeping coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps’ U-14 and U-15 boys teams for two years.
Before being added to the Thorns staff in January of 2022, Norris was part of the coaching staff for the senior Canada women’s team at the 2020 Olympic games. He served as a goalkeeping coach and set piece and penalty kick specialist during the team’s run, which saw them capture the gold medal for the first time in their history.
The hiring of Norris represents continuity for the Thorns at a time of great uncertainty. Wilkinson has stepped down after just one season in charge, and the team is also in the process of acquiring new ownership after owner Merritt Paulson announced last month that he was selling the club.
The players on the Thorns roster would already be familiar with Norris due to his time as an assistant coach (and some like Janine Beckie and Christine Sinclair from his stint with the Canadian national team), and according to reporting from Jeff Kassouf of The Equalizer that was an important element to the players in the process of Thorns General Manager Karina LeBlanc choosing a new head coach.
Mike Norris is the new head coach of the Portland Thorns, a big role to fill. Adding to this, I've heard that players (and likely the club) valued the continuity of this hire and this phase of the team build. Norris was Rhian Wilkinson's assistant. Wilkinson recently resigned. https://t.co/CfVgqSz1I2— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) January 6, 2023
With that familiarity and continuity as the backdrop, it appears the Mike Norris is set to step into the spotlight as the fifth head coach in the Portland Thorns’ history. After a trophy-winning and successful season and with uncertainty and change swirling around the club, he will have to be prepared to hit the ground running.