Less than two years ago, Jay Heaps was handed the challenge of resuscitating the club he helped steer to glory during his playing days when he was chosen to take the head coaching reins. And with the Revolution knocking on the door of their first postseason berth since Heaps’ final season of his playing career - 2009 – it appears he has the team pointed in the right direction.
Brian O’Connell: It’s been well-documented that Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has been a major influence on your coaching style. Now that you’re well into your second season as Revolution head coach, which of his philosophies have you found the most relevant during your tenure?
Jay Heaps: Honesty. I think players want to hear the truth. Truth isn’t always the greatest information that they’re wanting to get, but you have to be honest. You have to relay the message. But I also think one of the things that I always took away from Coach K was his passion for winning. You’re not going to win every game, but the effort that goes into that is something that I try to bring in as a work ethic. That no matter what game it is, we prepare ourselves 100 percent.
O’Connell: Which game this season do you think has given you the greatest glimpse into what this team’s potential is?
Heaps: (Pauses) I would say one of my favorite games coaching was home vs. Philadelphia (April 27) after we lost 4-1 to New York. We came home and played Philly, and it was a must win game for us. We were disappointed in the run of results, and we hadn’t scored in three games, not including the own goal in New York. So it was a combination of the fact that we had just given up four goals, so we had to stop the other team from scoring. Philly was moving up the table at the time, and we needed to score a goal. It was 0-0 going into halftime, and we were all over Philly. But they were keeping us out of the net and we couldn’t score and I thought our resolve just came through. That’s the kind of players that we need here, where no matter what, we were going to find a way. In the end, it was a 2-0 win, which we felt confident about. It was a deserved 2-0 win, but it was just everything leading up to that. We had a good focus and the right mindset.
O’Connell: When you see a guy like Marco Di Vaio, who’s still an amazing player at age 37, and look at the success he’s put together this season, do you ever feel the tug to want to play again?
Heaps: No (laughs) and I’ll tell you why. I think there’s so much that I want to accomplish as a coach, and there’s so many things that I see in this game…the players that we have, the mentality and the physical nature of it all. I want our team to be so much better than I could have been (as a player) and so I think that’s a motivation. I like having an Andrew Farrell at right back and I was a right back, but I couldn’t play nearly (as close as) the way he plays out in the back, with his awareness of the game. When I played left back, and looking at Chris Tierney, I just admire the way he can play the ball from the back, and with his set pieces and his crosses. So for me, I always want our team to be better than I ever was. The passion I have for coaching and trying to get this team into the playoffs and to a championship-caliber level – I don’t even really think about playing. I’ll jump into training just to give us numbers once in awhile, and I just try to stay afloat, to be honest with you (laughs).