Paul Kitson, whom Blast fans may recall not only for his scoring prowess over three seasons in the 1980s, but also for the snake he sometimes draped around his neck, returns to Baltimore today as the Maryland Mania's new coach.
Kitson succeeds Darryl Gee, who was fired Monday by the new, Columbia-based A-League team. Kitson will meet Mania players at practice this evening and be on the sidelines for the team's home-opener at 4 p.m. Sunday at UMBC Stadium against the Charleston (S.C.) Battery.
In two decades-plus as a pro player, Kitson has seen a lot of North America, holding jobs in 10 U.S. and two Canadian cities.
Last summer, he coached the Montreal Impact to a 21-7 record and second place in the A-League's Atlantic Division.
This past winter, he guided the young Impact, owned by the same organization, to the National Professional Soccer League's playoff semifinals after a 19-21 regular season.
Kitson, who turns 43 on May 31, was on the job market because the Impact, a three-time A-League champion and for several years one of the A-League's most successful franchises competitively, dropped out of the outdoor league.
His contract with the Mania extends through the A-League season, and he is expected to return to the NPSL Impact after the A-League season ends this fall.
"We expect Paul to bring some solidarity to our organization and create a strong link between the players, owners and management," Mania president A. J. Ali said yesterday.
"Kitson also is expected to develop younger players and bring in a few more seasoned players to make this a winning club," Ali said. "One of the biggest things he'll bring is focus -- no distractions."
But short-term distractions, at least, continued for the Mania yesterday with the resignation of assistant coach Bill Stara, whom Ali had said on Monday would return after leave for a family matter.
Stara, also boys soccer coach at River Hill High School and a 1996 national high school Coach of the Year, quit about midday, declining to talk about his situation.
Ali said Bill Moraveck, the team's player-development director, will serve as assistant coach. Other arrangements could result once Kitson gets oriented.
Kitson's U.S. travels began in 1976 with a New Jersey team in the old American Soccer League, and he later played for the North American Soccer League's San Jose Earthquakes.
He made his biggest impact indoors, scoring 206 goals and posting 344 points in 291 Major Indoor Soccer League games and contributing an additional 291 points in 135 NPSL games. He played for the Blast between 1983 and 1986.
The London-born Kitson, now an American citizen and father of seven who lives in New Jersey, began his pro career in 1974 with Watford, an English second-division club owned then by rock star Elton John.
Kitson has been increasingly active in coaching in recent years, gaining experience with two Continental Indoor Soccer League teams before moving to Montreal as a player.
But he took over coaching the Impact of the NPSL for the 1997-98 season's final 16 games, going 10-6.
Date, Opponent, Time
May 9, Charleston, 4:05
May 15, Lehigh Valley 7:35
May 20, Atlanta 7:05
May 23, Rochester 4:05
May 29, at Hampton Roads 7:30
June 4, at Richmond 7:00
June 6, Lehigh Valley 4:05
June 12, Jacksonville 7:35
June 20, Toronto 4:05
June 25, at Charleston 7:30
Pub Date: 5/05/99