Red Bulls name Mike Petke head coach

By IVES GALARCEP

After months of searching for the right man to lead the New York Red Bulls, the final decision on a new head coach saw the team turn the very man who has been holding the position since the departure of Hans Backe last fall.

The Red Bulls have named Mike Petke as the team’s new head coach, ending weeks of speculation and searching by turning to a candidate with strong ties to the club. A candidate who has effectively been running the team this off-season.

Mike is very passionate about our club and has shown us that he has the leadership and organizational qualities to be our head coach,” said Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh. “He is a terrific servant for this club, from being a top player to most recently heading our reserve squad. Mike has earned this opportunity and he will have the full support of our staff to help ensure the team’s success. We believe that his experience both as a player and coach in American soccer will be a significant asset as we head into the 2013 season.”

Petke is one of the most respected players in the club’s history, playing 307 matches for the team, and has held a role on the staff since retiring as a player after the 2010 season. He now becomes the team’s 13th head coach and will try to help lead the team to its first title.

“Ever since I joined New York in 1998, this is the club that has always been closest to my heart. I am thrilled to have earned this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is truly a dream come true,” Petke said in a team-issued statement. “I know there is a lot of work ahead and our challenge is not easy. However, I am excited to take hold of my new responsibility and hopeful that I can help build a hard-working team that our club’s loyal supporters can all be proud of.”

The Red Bulls’ appointment of Petke comes after a failed attempt to land Portuguese head coach Paulo Sousa, who sources tell SBI had originally agreed to take the position before choosing to back away from the job. The Red Bulls had also been linked to Scottish manager Gary McAllister, though reports suggest New York never offered him the job.

There is no word yet on who will make up Petke’s coaching staff.

Ultimately the decision to hire Petke came down to the team running out of time to find a viable candidate with more experience who met all of the team’s seeming requirements. The club had been actively searching for a foreign head coach, and seemed content to hire an American assistant coach, but after Sousa turned down the job the Red Bulls were left with little choice but to turn to Petke with the MLS season less than six weeks away from kicking off.

Petke is well respected among the players and the front office staff in New York, but he also takes the position without any head coaching experience. There has long been a feeling that Petke was better suited to be an assistant coach than a head coach, but he has apparently shown the club enough during his recent stint as interim head coach to lead the club to believe he is capable of handling the team’s head coaching duties for the 2013 season.

It wasn’t difficult to see this coming as the process winded closer toward the start of the season. I addressed this very scenario in the latest episode of The SBI Podcast (at the 33:40 mark).

Is it a good hire? I think it could wind up being a better hire than some of the candidates the team was considering. No, Petke doesn’t have the experience of a Paulo Sousa, but he knows the league and knows the team well. He will have his growing pains as a coach, but he will also be given an opportunity to learn on the job and will be given more of a benefit of the doubt by the team and its fans than any other candidate the team could have chosen.

The biggest issue for Petke will be managing a locker room with some big egos in it, led by Thierry Henry. Petke and Henry played together on the Red Bulls and have a good relationship, and it will be up to Petke to be able to manage Henry if he is going to be able to control the locker room and truly lead the team.

What do you think of the hiring? Think the Red Bulls botched the hiring process or do you think they ultimately wound up making a good hire?

Share your thoughts below.

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58 Responses to Red Bulls name Mike Petke head coach

  1. Alex says:

    He was the “first choice” :S

    In all seriousness though, I think RBNY will do better with this than some of the other proposed candidates.

  2. Irrlicht says:

    Think this is the right choice but the Metros should have done it right after firing Backe (who was such a jerk for getting them to the playoffs so many times…) Petke fits into the Ben Olsen, Jay Heaps mode of tough, popular former player. Think this move could put an end to the amateur hour that is RBNY, which is a pity to see as a DCU supporter but good for the league.

  3. Eric says:

    great choice for our new head coach. He has played for the club, knows about the league, players, and is better then all of the other candidates that NYRB were looking to hire.

  4. Sabella says:

    Feels like a forced selection but nonetheless I think it has the potential to work out. The pros are he knows the club, is American and will give it everything he has. The lack of prior headcoaching experience as well as his ability to control Thierry while keeping Thierry happy are concerns

  5. chris says:

    Petke or Wynalda would have been my top two since they already screwed Richie Williams over

  6. CPTKevin says:

    His success will depend largely on WHO he gets to be assistant coaches. Hope he chooses wisely. I wish him all the best.

  7. Udo says:

    This was a bad move for Red Bull. Petke is an awesome part of this club, but I am not sure if he is ready. This club was in need of an authoritative, experienced personality. With characters like Henry, Cahill, and Juninho this squad needed a presence. Either way I hope it works out

  8. Section133 says:

    “Mr Messi, please meet your head coach Mike Petke”

  9. Nick says:

    I hope that he wins the MLS Cup and then right on the podium quits like Dave Chappelle after impregnating Oprah.

  10. MMV says:

    About damn time. Ridiculous it took this long. Red Bull looked so amatuerish throughout this process. As for Petke I do not know if he’s the right hire. Time will time. However, there is absolutely no denying his loyality and devotion to the club. He has been there through thick and thin and stood by the club. It would have been easy to walk any from the mess but someone had to keep the cracks somewhat intact. That was Petke. He deserves a shot. It won’t be easy but he’s already aware of that. I just hope in the long run he proves he is the right choice.

  11. Vic says:

    Not sure how he’ll do but he’s had more coaching experience then Jason Kreis and Ben Olsen and both have done well. It will bring back some die hard fans and encourage them to go to more games. It will also give the fans some well deserved pride.

  12. Tom says:

    mike has always been a fan favorite with the metros/ redbulls.. a great guy and always nice to the kids. i knew him personally when i was connected with the team and have no doubts that he will give it his all and do a great job as head coach and won’t take any crap from anyone. GOOD LUCK MIKE!!!

  13. Mecra says:

    I think with the know how and support of the legends we have on the team, we will be just fine.

  14. Wasabi Papichulo Oso says:

    Congratulations Mr. Petke. Many will be rooting for you.

    It sure makes for a great story, should he be able to bring us our first Cup.

    I’m intrigued.

  15. ed - houston says:

    they must have heard the fans, not only RB fans but ALL mls fans…

  16. Abe says:

    I bet Preki and Wynalda are hitting themselves in the head right now. Not to mention Richie Williams, Steve Nicol, and John Spencer. There are so many more experienced candidates than Petke – this has failure written all over it.

  17. ThaDeuce says:

    Truly a dream come true.

  18. Josh D says:

    Now what will NY fans complain about? You now have your American, former MLS’er, former player, who has a long history with the club.

  19. Adam M. says:

    This is a solid choice. His lack of experience shouldn’t matter much. This isn’t a team filled with 20 superstars angling for time and chemsitry. Parituclarly with some of the off-season deletions, the player choices and roles are fairly clear cut. He knows many of the players, the organization, and the league well. The fans like him and will cut him some slack. He is probably much cheaper than some foreign manager — and the Red Bulls can plow that money into a good DP. Who knows if this is a longe term solution, and maybe this hasn’t exactly been a graduate seminar on how to run a professional sports team, but there is plenty of on-field talent for Red Bulls to make a deep run into the playoffs and Petke seems like a reasonable choice to lead them.

  20. Brain Guy says:

    Another upside is that Petke surely has had a big role in the draft and in the make-over the roster, so in some sense this is already “his” team. An outsider would have been in the position of accepting a team that he had no part in assembling.

    Can’t wait to see Petke and Vermes go toe-to-toe on the touch line.

  21. Cairo says:

    This is what they should have done all along. He’s got a ton of MLS playing and coaching experience, he’s respected in American Soccer circles, and the fans identify with him. Of course he’ll have trouble earning Thierry Henry’s respect (Cahill and Juninho will be fine, I think), but the myth is that modest European coaches like Backe, Souza and the others mentioned could control Thierry Henry. . The only guys who could really stand up to Henry would be the big names (Wenger, Mourinho, etc…) that would never come to MLS in the first place. This is a good hire, provided management gives him the proper support and doesn’t meddle too much in on-field matters.

    • Irrlicht says:

      Petke should just sit Henry at the first whine and tell him next whine it will happen again. If Henry is going to act like a second grader, treat him like a second grader

      • Chris2 says:

        NO! Play Henry. He just likes to whine. Or “whinge.” Don’t mean anything.

        Petke should hire a European assistant coach.

      • AtléticoUnionCity says:

        Really? Mike Petke is going to win you games? I’ll answer that for you: no, Thierry Henry will.

        • Irrlicht says:

          Yeah really (though I’m a DCU supporter so my incentive isn’t to see the Metros win games, would just like to see Henry zip it and play like a team player. Think Petke could actually teach him a thing or two about that.)

  22. Adam says:

    I’m not saying this is a bad hire, we don’t really know time will tell. But I do think that finding a way to have some foreign coaches be successful in the league would be a good thing. I love that players from the league are getting the chance to pass on their experience, but I think there needs to be a mix of that and outside influences. The league and players as a whole would benefit from some coaches who bring a different approach to tactics and training with a more wordly perspective. I know it has rarely worked in the past, but I would like to see a few organizations find a way to team a foreign coach with MLS experienced advisers. I think this would also elevate the American coaches and better prepare them for competitions outside the US. And I am a huge Ben Olsen/Dom Kinnear/Jason Kreis fan but the league needs to be careful it doesn’t become too homogenous, an argument some have made about the BPL in the 90’s that kept England from being competitive in major tournaments.

    • AMPhibian says:

      i feel the same way. i want to see our best coaches tested against the best we can bring in, and their varying philosophies. plus, it should help make our league appear as inviting as it actually is, to attract more world talent/interest.

    • Strider257 says:

      Well, at least we won’t have the BPL problem with homogeneity as our players are in multiple different leagues (BPL, MLS, Eredivisie, Bundesliga, etc.). I agree with your overall premise, but the key is the foreign coach has to have the humility to recognize that he really needs advice from “underlings.” There may be a few out that that are capable of that, but likely not that many, maybe a Roy Hodgson or an Owen Coyle.

    • AtléticoUnionCity says:

      This! Thank you.

  23. Michael F. SBI Mafia Original says:

    I’m not surprised we ended up here but I don’t hate the idea. It’s really hard to believe that a pro sports team is so inept that they can bungle the hiring of a head coach. Wy not have multiple choices at the ready? We all know Petke backed in to this – he was even quoted on this site a few weeks ago saying he was not ready for the head coaching job. All that said, you never know and I hope he does great. I’ll be pulling for him. Maybe he’ll do a good job like Olsen is doing. But something tells me he won’t be able to control the locker room and there will be an implosion in 3…2…1…

  24. TomG says:

    So, basically, Roxburgh will be coaching the team through Petke as Petke gets seasoned? Or will it mainly be Houllier that will be Mike’s go to guy?

    • TomG says:

      I just hope there’s one main guy Petke can go to. The FO seems very divided so I hope there aren’t a bunch of mixed signals and instructions filtering down to Mike. It will become a real mess.

  25. The Imperative Voice says:

    I’m not sure this is the wisest choice but it had gotten to the point they had to do something, and now that they have someone, anyone, in place for stability’s sake, maybe they can make a run by some of the European-based players on the market with a week left in the window, eg, Kaka. I’m not sure if a rookie coach will attract but they can sell the “NY” aspect and try.

  26. Dennis says:

    Whether Petke is the 14th or 13th coach for the Metros/Red Bull depends on whether you count Richie Williams’ 2 tenures as one or two in the coaching history. Still you wonder what took so long and if it means that management really has little faith and will dump Petke at the first sign of trouble.

  27. MA1 Rodriguez says:

    Good choice! The man from the area & deserve a chance to prove himself.

  28. JoeW says:

    Here is what I fear. I fear that they hired Petke b/c preseason is about to start and it hurt their credibility to not have a coach in place. But they’ll hire someone else and bring them in, in 2-3 months or when the Euro season finishes and Petke will be replaced unless the team isn’t winning the East. I don’t read this as a commitment to Petke, only that he’s a “place holder” effectively. And that’s a shame–that’s not a winning position to be put in.

  29. master red card says:

    This cannot end well.

    • Pete says:

      Why not ? Even Pep Guardiola was a rookie coach ( at similar age ) , only after being reserve coach( which Petke was for 2 seasons) for a season . Mike has an eye for a talent , and in his carrier was coach by some good coaches ( arena, Bradley ) . He had some coaches to learn what to do and what not to do . Love the hiring ..

  30. rafavic says:

    It’s about time. With all the foreign coaches that could not get it done maybe Petke will.

  31. el paso tx says:

    This only holds back MLS for so many reasons. First of all Mls teams need international managers (coach) from all over the world with experience an different tactics, that will show other coaches different ideas, even if failure is involve. Second of all, what other league in the world hires young coaches just because the person played with the team and “knows the league”?????? In mexico for example, they arre giving simple positions but not a head coaching job because they know its a very imature move. In mexico as well, teams hire international coaches but their assistants have mexican league experience and that is what Mls needs to do. Third of all, how can a young american coach know more tactics, skills and have a thick mind in order to pursue DPs, to come to one of the most famous metropolitan cities in the world. That’s is why sooner or later, the philosophy of ” he doesn’t know the league” must go away in order to help american soccer. In final thought, if young american coaches are said to be the future of Mls, well I think that is wrong because it will only hold the league back. Therefore, do a nice combo like petke and a good international coach like bielsa. One teaches each other the goods and bads.

  32. Footballer says:

    WHO? HUH? Who is this guy?

  33. Georgie says:

    Big congrats to Petke. Good point by Ives about him getting a better benefit of the doubt by RB fans. It might be a lot of pressure a little too soon, but in a perfect world, his dedication to the club should command enough respect to keep the wolves at the door at least for the better part of the season.

    Even Jose Mourinho had a first time as head coach, it’s all about what he makes of it.

  34. Ddicanio says:

    Petke is a puppet because at eleventh hour after having agreed contract the pork chop was denied a visa for non payment of taxes leavin nyrb w pants down around ankles arse exposed to the winds w no other plan in place petke was wheeled out as coach now in panic as mikes never done a session in his brief coaching career at ny they are hastily negotiotiating to bring in an assistant w mls experience to run the sessions.this leaves a coaching staff of separate hires w poor mike fronting it and th and his agent calling the shots
    You really can’t make this shit up it’s just too funny and obviously neither could
    The truth whole truth and nothing but ps claudio told them go f themselves whe they asked him to b sousa s assistan