Stankovic to serve as Spirit player as well as coach

November 27, 1997|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

Clang! Clang!

That blur that just passed by was Mike Stankovic stripping down into his soccer garb and jumping off the Spirit bench to join the fray, just like the proverbial firehouse Dalmatian springing to action at the sound of an alarm.

The Spirit coach had every intention of remaining in civilian cloths behind the bench forevermore, but circumstances -- read a 2-6 record and the team's crying need for experienced defenders -- have forced the one-time perennial all-star to recant.

The game that probably got Stankovic thinking about yet another comeback (move over Mick Jagger) was the Spirit's overtime loss to Milwaukee last week. The team started the fourth quarter ahead 12-6 but the inability to run with the lead proved decisive.

The addition of the coach to the active roster was not the only move made by the club as it readied for road games in Wichita tomorrow and Harrisburg Saturday. Renato Sampaio, a veteran player from Brazil with limited indoor experience, has been signed to help out the attack.

To make room, the Sprit waived rookie defensemen Carlton Williams and Mike Mekelburg and forward Guillermo Castaneda.

"Both Williams and Mekelburg do some things I really like, but the time just isn't right for them here," Stankovic said. "It's apparent we have to add an experienced defender or two right now."

His activation cuts the number to one and team general manager Drew Forrester indicated that another roster move might be imminent.

Castaneda's problem has been that he's had trouble with the transition from the outdoor to the indoor game and also with adjusting to the team's defensive style of play.

"All these kids might end up being good but, right now at least, we can't wait," Stankovic said. "The bottom line is we have to win and they just haven't been able to perform adequately. We had a chance to bring along young players last year because we had so many more veterans than this year."

Stankovic says he'll play his participation by ear, but it wouldn't surprise him if he has to go almost full time. "I love to play and I know I can still play well," he said, "but it really is time to step aside. Unfortunately, it's not possible right now."

Forrester said, "It's strictly up to Mike how much he plays. He could play 10 games now and then not play again until March. Clearly, he can still play and be effective. If I was to guess, I'd say he'll probably play in 20 of our 32 remaining games."

Pub Date: 11/27/97

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