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There’s a lot to wrap your head around when it comes to the forcing out of Matt Hawkins, the most puzzling factor being the timing. I’m not saying I think Hawkins was the guy to lead the USA to the Olympics, and I’m not saying he wasn’t. I won’t pretend to know, but there are people whose job it is to know. It’s their job to make the right decision at the right time. My point is, even if letting go of Hawkins was the right decision, there’s no arguing now is the right time.
Hawkins hasn’t coached a team to a loss in a month-and-a-half. It’s hard to imagine anything he’s done or not done since the end of the 2013/2014 World Series, performance wise, is a fire-able offense.
USA Rugby’s press release announcing the move said Hawkins will step down, “following a program review”. Could a review not have been performed sometime sooner than 10 days before Hawkins planned to have players report to the Olympic Training Center?
At least as recently as a couple of weeks ago, Hawkins appeared to have no clue he’d be asked to step down. He was talking about plans for the future and agreeing to bring players to the OTC. Are USA Rugby or the new coach going to honor the personnel decisions made by Hawkins, or are players who were told they’d be moving to San Diego to pursue their Olympic dreams be left by the wayside?
If it was known Hawkins was going to be let go for some time, as it appears, the things he was doing to prepare for the upcoming season are those a new coach could and should have been doing in that time.
USA Rugby regularly drags its feet when it comes to personnel decisions – see any number of age-grade hirings, including the U20s coaching staff and the Youth Olympics staff in the last several months. Even the timing of Hawkins’ hiring in the first place was problematic.
He was announced Aug. 1, after most player contracts had been renewed by someone other than the new head coach. He had very little time to organize his coaching staff and put his stamp on the program. You could easily argue Hawkins was never put in a position to succeed.
That brings us to success. Hawkins’ 2013/2014 team racked up two less wins and finished two spots lower in the IRB World Series rankings than Magleby’s 2012/2013 team. No, those numbers don’t tell it all, but are they so drastically different that Hawkins should be pushed out after less than a year on the job, while Magleby is lauded for his time?
It isn’t fair to drag Magleby into this, necessarily, because it’s unclear how much of a role he had in the Hawkins hiring or firing. It’s not a Magleby versus Hawkins thing, but we have to use Magleby’s tenure for reference, as the powers that be at USA Rugby didn’t give the Hawkins experiment enough time to work before they pulled the plug.
Hawkins was on the job for 11 months. Had they given Magleby just 11 months on the job, he never would have recorded those now famous wins over Fiji and South Africa, and three Cup Quarterfinal appearances would have to be taken off the board. In fact, he would have finished with a 1-8-1 record over his last 10 games as head coach.
I’m not saying Hawkins was on the verge of back-to-back-to-back Cup Quarterfinal appearances or beating Fiji and South Africa, but he wasn’t given a fair shake. And, at the end of the day, this all goes back to timing.
When Magleby stepped down after the 7s World Cup last summer, whoever was hired should have been the man to steer the Eagles through Olympic qualification. But, apparently, USA Rugby has now deemed it made a poor hire, and for the third season in a row, the Eagles will have a new coach for the World Series.
Since the 2009 announcement that 7s would become an Olympic sport, the 7s program has seen the essential firing of two coaches, the resignation of another, and is now awaiting the hiring of a fourth head coach. This is unacceptable turnover and turmoil at a time when the Eagles should be on a steady ascension toward an Olympic berth.