Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Union manager Jim Curtin gets along with sporting director Ernst Tanner, but still has to earn his job for next year – and hasn’t yet

Curtin, who has been on a series of one-year contract extensions since he arrived in 2015, isn't worried about proving himself, especially with his primary focus on the Union's playoff berth on his mind.

Union manager Jim Curtin watches his players during Wednesday's practice.
Union manager Jim Curtin watches his players during Wednesday's practice.Read moreJose F. Moreno / Staff Photographer

Union manager Jim Curtin knows his future is far from certain. The Oreland native has been on a series of one-year extensions to his initial contract signed in 2015, and with a new boss in Ernst Tanner, Curtin knows he has to prove himself all over again.

Curtin isn't worrying too much right now, though, and not just because he has plenty on his plate as the Union head toward the playoffs.

"You're always proving something," Curtin said. "Coaches are always on an interim basis … It's year-by-year, it's day-by-day. As much as you'd like long-term security, it's just not the nature of professional sports. People that are wired in the professional atmosphere understand that. It's been no different this year."

Tanner first met Curtin years before becoming the Union's sporting director. The 51-year-old German visited the Union's academy in Wayne back when its foundations were still being built, and Curtin was one of the builders.

"I've known Jim for a long time, not as a coach but as a person," Tanner said at a press conference a few minutes before Curtin took to the same podium. "What I have seen during the couple of weeks now was good. How he is guiding the team. … The discussions we've so far had were quite OK. So, for sure, we need to sit together, see how good we match, and then take a decision."

Curtin has often been defined by what he isn't — and he's done some of that defining himself.

He isn't a tactics savant like Columbus' Gregg Berhalter, who might be the next U.S. men's national team head coach.

He isn't a quasi-celebrity like Atlanta's Tata Martino, who coached Lionel Messi's Barcelona and Argentina; or new San Jose manager Matias Almeyda, hired this week after winning the Concacaf Champions League with Mexican giant Chivas.

He isn't a brash shouter like Kansas City's Peter Vermes, or like countless European coaches you see on TV every weekend. But he is clearly very good at managing a locker room, as the Union's chemistry and work ethic have shown.

"Is it hard? For sure, yeah, it's challenging. There's pressure, there's highs, there's lows, there's emotions," Curtin said. "But at the same time, if you believe in the work that you're doing, if you believe in your players, if you allow them to go on the field with confidence and execute, you can have success. That's all I'm really looking forward to, and that's my focus right now."

Tanner sees the value in that.

"I could tell you stories from out of my experience," Tanner said, "but I'll tell you only one."

It was an instructive one.

"Once, I asked my players about their opinions about the coaches they had in their careers. It appeared that not the top coaches were [the ones] in their brains anymore, from my standpoint," Tanner said. "But the ones who created a good culture and who really took care of the players, they remember. That shows a lot. Personality is important, but having a good culture is a base which is mandatory for every development. And that is also Jim's point, what he already created — and we will continue in that manner for sure, because that is important. The rest, I also can bring in something. So, we should get it [right]."