If you follow the other football, you know about the Rooney Rule. It’s a mandate established in 2003 (by a committee headed by Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney) that requires NFL teams with coaching vacancies to interview minority candidates. There are a lot of differing opinions on the Rooney Rule, which has surely done some good. On the other hand, it sometimes leads to awkward and disingenuous situations, where minority candidates with zero chance of landing a position are interviewed perfunctorily to satisfy the requirements.
Well, here’s a chance to slap ol’ MLS on the back, to proffer credit where it’s due. There is no Rooney Rule in MLS – and there seems to be absolutely no need for one. Perhaps it’s a tip to the multi-cultural world in which our sports exists, but one way or the other, the situation rightly polices itself in MLS.
Three new coaches will walk the sidelines this year. Two of them are minorities.
Robin Fraser, one of the most respected assistants around MLS, gets his chance to run the show this year at Chivas USA. Fraser is African American.
Meanwhile, Aaron Winter has taken over at Toronto. He’s from Suriname, having been schooled at the famed Ajax Academy in Amsterdam. (Ben Olsen is the other new man, hoping to right the ship at D.C. United.)
Around the 18-team league only one other minority coach occupies the top spot; Carlos de los Cobos remains in charge at Toyota Park – although he’s probably on a short leash considering that he failed to guide Chicago into the playoffs last year.
Overall, however, MLS clubs generally have a good record for hiring Latino coaches. Martin Vasquez was recently in charge at Chivas USA. Juan Carlos Osorio has been hired by two MLS clubs in the last five years, New York and Chicago.
Costa Rican-born Denis Hamlett, another former Chicago Fire manager, is back in MLS, this time as an assistant at Vancouver.
There are other minority coaches among the assistant ranks, and there are other black and Latino coaches going back through the old managerial registers. Could it be better? Probably. But on the whole the coaching ranks in MLS look a lot like the playing rosters – and in the end, that’s the way it really should be.