MacWilliams steps down as coach of Spirit Assistant Stankovic could be successor

January 30, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

Frustrated and exasperated by the Spirit's unresponsiveness to his urgings, Dave MacWilliams stepped down as coach yesterday.

He and general manager Drew Forrester said the move was by mutual agreement. The Spirit has lost five of its past six games and eight of its past 11, dropping from second to fourth place in the National Professional Soccer League's American Division.

The logical successor is Mike Stankovic, an assistant under former coach Kenny Cooper who has been a player exclusively under MacWilliams. Assistant coach and goalie Cris Vaccaro also is a possibility.

Forrester said Vaccaro and Stankovic will conduct practice today and that he will name MacWilliams' successor later today.

The new coach will inherit a team that he didn't put together, one that is 13-10 and mired in a losing streak.

MacWilliams was particularly annoyed by the way the Spirit was losing, appearing listless.

The Spirit lost by one point Friday night to the Chicago Power, which has the worst worst record (3-21) in the league, and by one point Saturday night in Wichita to the Wings. Four days before, the Spirit beat Wichita by 13 points here.

"Things were not going the way we wanted them to," MacWilliams said. "I wasn't getting the response from the players that I would like to have seen.

"There's still a lot of time left in the season. After talking it over with Drew for three days, I thought maybe it would be best if I stepped down."

Was MacWilliams pressured?

"No," he said by phone from his home in Philadelphia. "It was mutual. I have a lot of respect for this organization."

Spirit owner Bill Stealey acknowledged that.

"Dave's a hard worker with a great love for the game and the franchise," Stealey said. "I respect him for the position he has assumed. . . . But we feel we made the best decision for the franchise."

Forrester's and MacWilliams' frustration reached a peak after the loss to the lowly Power. In the locker room afterward, they slammed doors and knocked over the blackboard and then talked deep into the night.

They talked more the next night in Wichita and again Sunday and yesterday morning, when they reached the decision.

"Whether this decision benefits us or not remains to be seen," said goalie Joe Mallia. "I can't say I'm happy or not happy, but we've got to move on."

Last year, with a roster that included 11 new players, MacWilliams led the Spirit to 23 wins and the playoffs. But the club lost to the Harrisburg Heat in the first round as it had the previous two seasons under Kenny Cooper. MacWilliams' overall record in a year and a half was 37-30.

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