`Terrier' McAvan has hot Blast believing

Coach's positive approach rubs off on team heading into championship series


April 12, 2003|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

In his thick Scottish accent, familiar to many from his five years as the Blast's radio color commentator, Bobby McAvan has said repeatedly that what the team has achieved since he became coach is about the players, not him.

The first-time coach, who took over a 4-9 team in December and now has the Blast in the Major Indoor Soccer League finals, had his time in the spotlight.

In the MISL's glory days in the 1980s, McAvan, now 49, played five seasons with the Blast and was a part of its only championship season, 1983-84. He was a fierce, competitive defender who was once described as a "little terrier snapping at the opposition's feet."

Those attributes played a big part in Blast owner Edward Hale Sr. deciding to take a "calculated risk" in bringing the inexperienced McAvan down from the radio booth to make him the team's third coach in three months.

With the Blast in Milwaukee this afternoon to open the best-of-three championship series against the Wave, the calculated risk has turned into a gamble that scored.

"I'm a positive, optimistic kind of guy, and I feel like when I speak, it's from the heart," said McAvan, who brought in Baltimorean Timmy Wittman, a former teammate, to be his assistant. "I was never intimidated by failure, because then you can never succeed. This is something that Timmy and I believed could happen."

The Blast re-established itself under McAvan's guidance on its home turf, going 9-2 at 1st Mariner Arena after he took over. Road success came later - most notably a 12-7 win in Philadelphia over the defending champion KiXX on Feb. 26. And now, with a four-game road win streak that includes playoffs at Cleveland and Philadelphia, the team's confidence is gushing.

"He doesn't like any negative thoughts around the team, and he believes in the players," said captain Lance Johnson. "When he calls you out on something, it's done positively, like, `We need you to step up and have a good game tonight - it's your game tonight.' And that gives a player a real boost."

Johnson added McAvan is the same as a coach as he was on the radio: quick with a joke, keeping things light until it's time to get to work.

McAvan and the Blast have laughed their way to the MISL championship round. A win today in Milwaukee, and the Baltimore team can return to 1st Mariner Arena at 6:05 p.m. tomorrow with a chance to complete an improbable task and clinch a championship.

The Blast respects the Wave but likes its chances.

"Bobby kind of gives us that outspoken confidence to go out there, keep playing and keep battling," said veteran Jason Dieter. "We're probably resembling what he did as a player."

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