SAN DIEGO — Every time the camera was on him on the bench, he was looking at those sheets of paper he carries with him. You know what those sheets of paper say? They say, "Ron, you're the greatest." You don't need tactics when you have the kind of players he has.
--Tacoma Star Coach Alan Hinton
There is a thin line between being a borderline genius and borderline idiot, and Ron borders on both.
--Baltimore Blast Coach Kenny Cooper
Guess which two coaches are now Socker Coach Ron Newman's strongest supporters in his bid to be selected coach of the year in the Major Indoor Soccer League?
"Unless his team collapses, he's already got my vote," Hinton said. "I fairly frequently talk to the coaches and tell them to vote for the coach whose team wins the most games.
"(The winner) always seems to be the person who has had an emotional turnaround. That annoys me. For Ron Newman never to be the coach of the year in the MISL is a crime. It's an indictment of the league."
Last week, Hinton selected Newman to be his assistant on the Western Division all-star team for the game in Tacoma Feb. 17. Although Newman had to break in new players at key positions this year, his club has gotten off to a league-leading 21-7 start.
"I don't think it's (coach of the year) any contest," Cooper said. "I think Ron Newman deserves it, and he deserved it before. If he doesn't win, it's an injustice."
Newman led the Sockers to MISL championships in 1982-83, 1984-85 and 1985-86, but he has never been voted coach of the year by his colleagues. He was indoor coach of the year in the North American Soccer League in 1982-83; outdoor coach of the year in 1977 with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and in 1984 with the Sockers, and 1976 coach of the year in the American Soccer League with the Los Angeles Skyhawks.
Why hasn't Newman won the award in the MISL?
"Ron's a little different," Cooper said. "He's the Don Rickles of coaches. He's quick-witted. And when he's on top, he'll jab you a little. That can backfire on you."
Cooper and Newman go back to the Dallas Tornado, where Newman coached Cooper. The Sockers beat the Blast in MISL championship series in 1982-83 and 1984-85. The Blast beat St. Louis to win the 1983-84 MISL title when the Sockers were winning the NASL title.
On the recently named MISL all-star team of the decade, Cooper was named the coach; Newman, who hasn't been in the league nearly as long, was runner-up.
"Ron will go down one day in this league as a Paul Brown or George Halas," Cooper said. "If Ron Newman did for soccer in England what he's done for soccer in America, he'd be knighted by the king."
How stable are the Steamers? One of the MISL's strongest franchises through the years has severe financial trouble. The St. Louis Steamers averaged 17,017 fans for 22 home games in 1981-82, but now they're trying just to stay in business.
"There is a lot of conjecture as to how severe it really is," said Mike Sanger, the general manager. "We need a tremendous amount of support to go on. Hopefully, we'll be able to get through the season. I have confidence we will."
Sanger said efforts are being made to bring in corporate sponsorship. The state of the Steamers will be one of the issues discussed at the league meetings at the All-Star Game.
"St. Louis is struggling," MISL Commissioner Bill Kentling said. "They recognize their financial problems and are doing everything possible to correct them."
On the field, St. Louis is 9-19. Last season, the Steamers were 19-33 and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
"If our product was better on the field, our attendance would be better," Stanger said.
Since the 1981-82 season, attendance has decreased each season; from 14,692 in 1982-83, to 13,992 in 1983-84, to 12,711 in 1984-85, to 10,189 in 1985-86, to 7,037 last season. The Steamers now are averaging approximately 7,000 fans a game. Season ticket sales have decreased significantly.
Two years ago, the Steamers did not know if they would continue playing their home games at the Arena until Oct. 1. Before this season, there was a lot of uncertainty because a new ownership group, headed by Bing Devine, a former football and baseball St. Louis Cardinal executive, did not take over until Oct. 8.
The football Cardinals are on their way to Phoenix. Will St. Louis also be without a soccer team?
What a practice! After the Blast lost its ninth one-goal game of the season, 5-4, to Minnesota at home Wednesday, Cooper let loose with the following:
"We've been patient. We've supported these players. We've tried different formations and given people time, but the clock has stopped. Our statistics, our record--these things don't lie. To lose game after game like this--frustration is not the word. For me, the words are gut-wrenching."
So, coach, how did Thursday's practice go?