Brennan to assume York 9 head coaching post along with role as VP and co-owner
When Jim Brennan was introduced as York 9 FC’s head coach he took off a suit jacket and put a track suit top over his dress shirt.
It was a fitting symbol.
In becoming York 9’s first head coach Brennan is going to be wearing a lot of different jackets with the new Canadian Premier League club. Brennan is also the team’s executive vice-president and a co-owner of the club.
“We’re not going to be in this league just to participate. We want to put on a good show. We want to win. We want to be successful on the field and off the field,” Brennan said as his introductory press conference.
A dual owner/coach role is unconventional, but is far from being without precedent. Paul Brown was a co-owner and the first head of pro football’s Cincinnati Bengals from 1968-75. In baseball, Connie Mack owned the Philadelphia Athletics (who now reside in Oakland) from 1901-54. He managed the team for 50 years as well.
Closer to home and in more modern times, Dale Hunter, Patrick Roy, Brent Sutter and Kelly McCrimmon have all been the head coach of the junior hockey teams that they either own or co-own. Hunter, Roy and Sutter have all coached their teams to a Memorial Cup title and McCrimmon won a Western Hockey League championship in 2016 before joining the Vegas Golden Knights front office.
“You can tell in his voice, he really is burning for this. He’s really deeply engaged. Which is what you want in your head coach. I couldn’t be happier with Jim at the helm of the club,“ said Preben Ganzhorn, President of York Sports & Entertainment.
“This role was ultimately very important for us to fill with the right person,” added Ganzhorn who said Brennan will set the tone for the club moving forward and called him “the obvious choice” to be the club’s first head coach.
Brennan and Ganzhorn co-own the team along with the Baldassarra family.
After 15 years as a professional in England and Canada, Brennan moved into Toronto FC’s front office in 2010. He initially became an assistant general manager under Mo Johnston. He would go on to coach the TFC Academy under-17s, the reserves and he also served as an assistant coach under Aron Winter, Paul Mariner and Ryan Nelsen. Brennan also served as TFC’s head coach for one match — a 4-1 win over DC United — while Nelsen was suspended.
Brennan returned to the York region in 2015 to become the executive director of the Aurora Youth Soccer Club. In his time there, they rebranded as Aurora FC and joined League1 Ontario in 2016.
Brennan grew up in the York region and is passionate about giving local players opportunities.
“We can’t wait for the day when we have 11 starting players on the field from York region,” Brennan said. “We want to truly be a local club. Everything that we want to do, we want to keep it in the community.
“We’re really excited for what’s coming up and the academy that we’re going to be building together with York 9 and York Region Soccer Association. We can’t wait for that day to come.”
York 9 supporters held an “In Jimmy we trust” banner at the press conference at the Markham Pan Am Centre.
Brennan said he expects player signings will begin in the new year and that they hope to have all of their signings completed in February so they are ready for the first training camp ahead of the start of the 2019 season in April.
“We’re already starting to look at players. One of the goals is we want to get as many players as we can from York region. We’ve been scouting League1 teams. We have our eye on a number of players from within our region. Once we can’t get them from the region, we’ll go outside and we’ll also go overseas to get our foreigners,” Brennan said. “There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make sure we get the right players. We don’t want players who are just here to get a pay cheque, come here on holiday and enjoy the lifestyle. We want people who are going to put on that jersey, represent York 9 and give 100 per cent effort when they step on that field.”
While Brennan’s coaching CV isn’t extensive, he will benefit from having the experience of Carmine Isacco as an assistant head coach.
Isacco has been the head coach of Vaughan Azzuri of League1 Ontario since 2014. He also served as the head coach of U Sports’ York Lions where he won four national titles in his decade at the helm. The former professional keeper was the Toronto FC’s goalkeeper coach during their first two seasons in MLS.
Isacco is from Markham and the rest of the team staff are also from the reigon. Sergio De Luca from Richmond Hill is the first team coach, Ryan Brennan from Newmarket is the team manager, Markham’s Kosta Poulos is the first team strength and conditioning coach and Richmond Hill’s Luca Forno will be the equipment manager.
Forno and De Luca both played under Isacco, with Forno also serving as an assistant coach at York. De Luca has most recently been coaching with the Vaughan Soccer Club. De Luca, 35, played professionally for the Toronto Lynx and also spent two seasons in Hungary. Poulos has served as a strength and conditioning coach at the TFC Academy.
Brennan said he has learned from every coach he’s had from his minor soccer days to his time in the English Premier League.
“My vision and my philosophy is a make-up of all of the coaches I’ve had in the past. It’s the influence of them that has made me who I am today as a coach,” he said.
No coach influenced him more, however, than his boss at Nottingham Forest – Paul Hart. The former defender had a 19-year playing career and has managed nine clubs, including a spell with Portsmouth in the Premiership.
“I’ve played under some great managers who have brought a lot to the table and educated me along the way about what the game was all about — tactically and technically. You take a little from everybody, but there’s one who stood out and it was a guy called Paul Hart,” Brennan said. “Technically and tactically he was sound. He played the game in the right way. He loved possession, but with a purpose. He wanted to dictate how games were going to be. Tactically he seemed to always get things right. He was always thinking ahead to what the opposition was going to do. He was such a great motivator and I took an awful lot from him. That was probably the best time of my career because he allowed me to flourish.”
Brennan want to emulate Hart’s belief in dictating matches and possessing the ball, but also being purposeful and decisive going forward.