Sean Nahas was handed a difficult task when he was named the North Carolina Courage’s interim head coach: take care of his players as people during this difficult time while guiding them through an impossibly tight series of fixtures that will decide if the Courage make the NWSL playoffs.
The players have made it clear exactly how well Nahas has done, and they want that interim tag removed from his title.
“I 100% think that he deserves to have the interim taken out of that title,” said center back Kaleigh Kurtz after the team’s game against Washington. “He deserves the head coaching job. … I think that would be a very big mistake on [the club’s] part [if it did not hire him]. I think he's fantastic. And he's been given a crap deal to start off with. And the fact that he's been so good for us and to us, is really amazing. I think we would be a lot worse off without him.”
The campaign began with a very simple Tweet from Kurtz hours before Nahas’ second game in charge, replying to a thread from his pregame presser with “#RemoveInterim.”
After that game, club captain Abby Erceg, one of the players who retweeted Kurtz, spoke about Nahas’s first week in the new role.
“I feel for the guy, to be totally honest,” Erceg said. “He has just been given this kind of bag of crap and been like, ‘Turn it into what you can,’ but he's done a really good job. I can't say enough good things about him. He's just picked up exactly where he needs to. He hasn't really missed a step as far as we're concerned and he's been involved with the players, and with the club, for a long time, so we have a lot of trust in him.”
Erceg went on to say the players advocated for him to be given the interim role, as they did not want a total overhaul. Erceg also added it was nice to be heard.
Striking the balance between giving the players the time and space they need while maintaining a high level of intensity in training, Nahas has given the players an environment that allows them to get back to the game they love.
“He's been so good about making sure that we feel supported and heard and everything on and off the field,” Kurtz said. “Because right now, a lot of what we're dealing with is off the field stuff, even though we have four games in, what is it 14 days? Something like that. On the field, though, he's an incredible coach. [He] really knows his tactical stuff, knows his technical work. And he inspires all of us to continue to get better.”
Through his time as an assistant coach, Nahas built a good relationship with the players and it is clear just how much he cares about them.
“The one thing I promised myself was that I couldn't change just because I was now the interim head coach,” Nahas said after the Washington game. “I couldn't change who I was from the assistant coach, because that's what created the relationship. If I changed who I was, and approached things differently as a head coach, in terms of how I treated them, basically I'd be fake. And I'm not a fake person. I'm as real and honest as they come. Sometimes to a fault.”
That honesty and the relationships have allowed Nahas to step into the role flawlessly, knowing what the players need right now off the field, while still being able to coach them on the field. Midfielder Meredith Speck praised Nahas’ ability to change from game to game when things are not working.
“I think if you watch the two games, tonight was a way better performance,” Speck said after Washington. “Unfortunate with the result, but I think having that combination of, the standards are still so high and we respect him so much from a coaching standpoint that, whatever he says we know is going to be like a good decision but also there's so much trust and respect that everyone feels really secure in everything that's happening right now.”
Although he was apprehensive to take the interim job in the first place, Nahas is ready to accept the full-time job if the offer is made. And all it would take is a phone call.
“But at the end of the day, I didn't come into this thinking, ‘Man, I want this interim taken off,’ Nahas said. “And don't get me wrong. It’s just a phone call. But at the end of the day, I care about these players.”