When things are going perfectly, everyone seems to love it when a team is being analytical about every decision. But it's relatively easy to be analytical when the immediate results suggest you're right. What's tougher is holding to your guns when things aren't going so well and everyone is demanding immediate change.
This seems to be the situation the Seattle Sounders currently find themselves in. The recent results have been awful. Four straight losses, especially by a cumulative score of 12-2, would be unacceptable no matter what point in the season they came. That they are coming just as the team heads into the playoffs for a fifth straight year is obviously quite a bit more unsettling.
But at least for now, the Sounders don't seem to be in any rush to make any permanent assessments.
"We will definitely do a deep dive at the end of the season, MLS Cup or first-round exit, and figure out what we think went well and what didn't go well," Sounders general manager and part owner Adrian Hanauer told reporters following Tuesday's training session. "Hopefully our conclusions won't be any different if we win an MLS Cup or if we get eliminated in the first round, because we just want to get better in every area of our organization. That means every area of the organization."
Hanauer went on to list almost literally every part of the organization that will be under examination. He wondered aloud if he could do better as a GM; whether he and Joe Roth could be better owners; if the business side of things could be improved; if they are doing the best possible work in sports-science; if they could have done a better job of scheduling (noting that the Vancouver Whitecaps game on Oct. 9 was originally scheduled for earlier in the season). Somewhere on that list is how well they maximized the talent, something Schmid will obviously be judged on.
But, like Joe Roth told Grant Wahl a day earlier, Hanauer didn't sound as if he was fixing to fire arguably the most successful coach in MLS history, especially one that has dealt with as much roster churn as Schmid has this year.
"I know that first and easiest trigger to pull is to fire the coach," Hanauer said. "That's the easy solution. Let's fire someone. But it's just not always a good solution. My job is to sort through the complexity of the issues, including whether a coach has his players to actually put on the field, because it's hard to blame a coach for not being able to play he'd like to play."
Hanauer compared Schmid's tenure with the Sounders to George Karl's with the Seattle SuperSonics. In his six full seasons, Karl never won a NBA title but did average about 60 wins and made the playoffs every year. His departure heralded an era in which the Sonics missed the playoffs in seven of their final nine seasons.
"I do believe history and a track record are meaningful, and we've had these conversations before in slumps, when everybody wants to put the headline up about the coach on the hot seat," Hanauer said. "I don't think coaches go from being good coaches to bad coaches over night or even over the course of a year.
"There comes a time when every coach, whether it's through how he begins to act or the team, how the interaction works, every coach comes to the end of the line, and whether that means retiring or being fired, it happens. But I don't want to be the owner that pulls the trigger because it's the easy solution. If I get to the point where I think that's the solution, then we won't be afraid to make tough decisions like that, but they're not going to be knee-jerk and emotional."