Stankovic has different vision for Spirit New coach says winning means total dedication

February 01, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

No sooner had Mike Stankovic been named the Spirit's coach yesterday than he gave the team a 20-minute description of his notion of indoor soccer in Baltimore.

It is not just on the field, it is in the community. It is in the mind. It is a lifestyle.

"I was loyal to the Blast back then and to the Spirit now," said Stankovic. "I didn't go from club to club. It was the Blast first, Mike Stankovic second. The biggest challenge for me now is to find who on this team wants to go in that direction.

"They've got to show me -- on the field, in the community. Not from time to time. All the time."

As the successor to Dave MacWilliams, who resigned Monday because of the team's unresponsiveness to him, Stankovic signed a 2 1/2 -year contract, through the 1997-98 season.

"I don't know if our response to Mike will be better, but it was a change that had to be made," said leading scorer Franklin McIntosh.

"The guys weren't responding to Dave's coaching style. He was more rah-rah, get in your face. You need that, but also to be on the same page as far as teaching a system and style."

The question all the players have that will be answered only in time: Can Stankovic convey his system, his style?

"He has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and we certainly respect him as a player," Kevin Sloan said.

"Can he communicate that knowledge? I don't think anyone knows if Mike has the answers, but we're all willing to put our best foot forward and give it a shot."

At the age of 39, in his 15th indoor season, Stankovic is having a banner season, leading the Spirit in blocks and being No. 3 in points. This is a defender with an affinity for offense. To determine what Stankovic wants from them, the players only have to watch him.

"Mike's system is to defend like a dog and attack like a cat -- like he does," general manager Drew Forrester said. "We need energy, intensity and aggressiveness from 18 guys. If we have that, Mike will get us back on track."

Stankovic was passed over 18 months ago when MacWilliams was chosen as Kenny Cooper's successor. Now that he has the job he coveted, he must attempt to revive a team that has lost eight of its past 11 games and plunged from second to fourth in the NPSL's American Division.

"Sometimes a new coach jump-starts a team," Barry Stitz said. "I don't think Dave was the reason we were losing, but we were missing chemistry. Maybe Mike can find what that chemistry is."

(NPSL standings, 5D)

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