The downfall of John Hackworth

The downfall of John Hackworth

I’ll start by saying this: I like John Hackworth. He was a very nice guy that made covering the team an enjoyable experience. And after seeing him interact with his players and interviewing him for this long-form feature, I still believe he was the right man to be the Philadelphia Union’s manager after Peter Nowak was fired two years ago and that, contrary to what some might have thought, running an MLS team was the logical next step in his coaching career.

But being close to the team, you also notice certain problems (not all of which were his fault) that when put together make Tuesday’s firing of Hackworth understandable, even if most of the onus for the team’s struggles should fall on team CEO Nick Sakiewicz.

Here’s a summary of what I think the biggest problems were (though I’m sure you guys might have a few more to add in the comments section) that led to Hackworth’s demise and the promotion of a Philly guy who had a 4th-and-26th-themed wedding:

1. Playing favorites (and vice versa): OK, so every coach has his favorites and we all know that Hackworth valued (some would say overvalued) guys like Danny Cruz, who’s known for his hustle and grit more than his soccer savvy. But, in my opinion, his biggest issue was stubbornly not playing certain guys who clearly had a lot of skill – players like Roger Torres, Bakary Soumare, Kleberson and even Freddy Adu. Not starting Soumare at the beginning of the 2013 season, you could argue, set the stage for the serious center back problems that plagues the team today. And even though Kleberson wasn’t the player he once was, giving him more minutes last season (if only for his free-kick expertise) could have been the difference in making the playoffs and not making the playoffs.

2. Tactics/lineups: This is a broad one and there’s certainly a lot to dissect, but I think his main tactical misstep this season was trying to play high-pressing attacking soccer when his team lacked the personnel to do so. As such, the Union often looked disjointed and were prone to counter-attacks and defensive giveaways. Perhaps they could have overcome this but the backline lacked any kind of stability because of Hackworth’s lineup shuffling, led by converted striker Aaron Wheeler starting eight games at center back before Hackworth finally admitted it was a mistake. Trying to fit aging captain Brian Carroll into the central midfield along with Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira also proved more difficult for Hackworth than he anticipated.

3. A player’s coach: Hackworth once told me he didn’t want to be known as a “player’s coach” because he thought that term made him look a pushover. But there’s no denying that he fostered a great locker room environment and that his players loved him, as they showed when they all ran over to hug him in a very memorable celebration in Kansas City last month. But when you consider the Union then followed that up with two of their worst games of the season, perhaps loving their manager wasn’t enough. Perhaps they also needed to be fearful of him. Perhaps they needed a happy medium between someone like former manager Peter Nowak (who, as we all know, was a little bit crazy) and an affable, level-headed guy like Hackworth.

4. His technical staff: As a young coach, Hackworth could have used an older guy on his staff to lean on and make tough decisions. Instead, his technical director was the team’s goalkeeper coach (Rob Vartughian) and the rest of his staff was younger than he was. That’s a lot of pressure to be put on Hackworth, who clocked ridiculous hours not only running the team but spearheading most of the personnel moves. And when he did count on his staff, I would argue he didn’t always get good advice – like on draft day when I don’t think the team made the most of having two top six picks.

5. Bad luck/bad timing: For better or worse, soccer coaches are put on the hot seat any time they don’t win. Hackworth had been given a year-and-a-half cushion to clean up Nowak’s salary mess, but after bringing in some quality players in the offseason and finally making the team his, he had lost the one thing he probably needed most: time. And it was a combination of him not being able to figure out a way to make all the pieces mesh together and many of the returning players he counted on struggling that doomed him. In many ways, he was a victim of his good offseason acquisitions – because there was probably too much turnover for him to win early in the season while winning early in the season was what he needed to save his job.

NBC Sports Philadelphia Internship - Advertising/Sales

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NBC Sports Philadelphia Internship - Advertising/Sales

Position Title: Intern
Department: Advertising/Sales
Company: NBC Sports Philadelphia
# of hours / week: 10 – 20 hours

Deadline: November 20

Basic Function

This position will work closely with the Vice President of Sales in generating revenue through commercial advertisements and sponsorship sales. The intern will gain first-hand sales experience through working with Sales Assistants and AEs on pitches, sales-calls and recapping material.

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• Assist Account Executive on preparation of Sales Presentations
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• Track sponsorships in specified programs
• Assist as point of contact with sponsors on game night set up and pre-game hospitality elements.
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• Perform Competitive Network Analysis
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• Other various projects as assigned

Requirements

1. Good oral and written communication skills.
2. Knowledge of sports.
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4. Ability to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment
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7. Must have unrestricted authorization to work in the US
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Interested students should apply here and specify they're interested in the ad/sales internship.

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Best of NBA: Curry, Thompson, Durant lead Warriors comeback over Pelicans

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Best of NBA: Curry, Thompson, Durant lead Warriors comeback over Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS — Klay Thomspon scored 31 points, Stephen Curry added 28 and the Golden State Warriors easily erased a 15-point first-half deficit en route to a 128-120 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

Kevin Durantadded 22 points for the Warriors, who won for the first time this young season after dropping their opener to Houston. New Orleans is still looking for its first victory after two games, shooting well early in both games before fading in the second half.

Anthony Davis had 35 points and 17 rebounds for the Pelicans, while fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins also had 35 points.

The teams combined for 34 3-pointers, with the Warriors hitting 18. Thompson was 7 of 12 from deep.

After trailing by double digits much of the fourth quarter, the Pelicans pulled as close as five points down on Cousins' 3 with about three minutes to go. But Thompson responded immediately with a 3, and Golden State remained comfortably in control from there (see full recap). 

Ball flirts with triple-double, Lakers hold on to beat Suns​
PHOENIX — Lonzo Ball barely missed a triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in his second NBA game and the Los Angeles Lakers held on to beat the Phoenix Suns 132-130 on Friday night.

The Suns had a chance to tie it with 1.2 seconds to play, but T.J. Warren missed the first of two free throws. That meant he had to miss the second intentionally and hope for a rebound, but the Suns couldn't get a decent shot off before the buzzer.

Ball, the No. 2 overall pick this year who is a week shy of his 20th birthday, took over down the stretch, scoring eight points in a 2 1/2-minute span. His final basket during that run, a floating layup, put Los Angeles ahead 130-122 with 1:35 to play.

But the Suns came roaring back behind Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker, whose 3-pointer with 6.4 seconds left cut it to 131-130. Brandon Ingram made one of two free throws to give Phoenix one last chance and Warren was fouled by Ingram on an inbounds play.

The free throw was off the back of the rim, though, and the Lakers survived (see full recap). 

Nets beat Magic in first game without Lin despite Vucevic’s career-high 41 points
NEW YORK — Jeremy Lin was in the hospital Friday, rather than joining his teammates for their home opener.

The Brooklyn Nets are going to miss him, but they showed they still have plenty of firepower without him.

D’Angelo Russell, Trevor Booker and DeMarre Carroll all scored 17 points, and the Nets beat the Orlando Magic 126-121.

Brooklyn had six players in double figures, three more with nine points and got 64 points from its reserves to bounce back after yielding 140 points Wednesday night in a season-opening loss to Indiana.

Lin ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee late in that game and had season-ending surgery Friday morning (see full recap). 

James and Korver heat up from 3, Cavs beat Bucks
MILWAUKEE — Lebron James had 24 points and eight assists, and Kyle Korver hit three straight 3s in a decisive third-quarter run to help the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-97 on Friday night.

Kevin Love added 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs. Their 15-5 spurt over the final 4:25 of the third quarter, sparked by Korver's long-range shooting, opened a 13-point lead. Cleveland led by double digits most of the rest of the way to spoil the Bucks' home opener.

The defending Eastern Conference champions started the season with a second straight victory over an East contender after beating the Boston Celtics in their home opener.

Korver finished with 17 points and was 5 of 6 from 3-point territory.

Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points on 15-of-22 shooting, along with eight rebounds and eight assists. Malcolm Brogdon had 16 points (see full recap).