TRU women’s soccer is currently searching for a new leader after head coach Tom McManus was fired by the university.
For seven seasons, McManus paced the sidelines of Hillside Stadium, leading the ‘Pack to multiple PACWEST division titles and eventually into the top tier of Canadian university soccer, the CIS.
McManus was officially fired Jan. 5 according to TRU athletic director Ken Olynyk, but the writing was on the wall much earlier than that.
“I went in in the middle of November. We were just going to do an end of the season review of how things went and at that time I was asked if I would sign a resignation letter and I said no.” McManus said.
After refusing to resign McManus then took further steps to try and force the university to reconsider.
“From there I kept sending in things to them, to show what I’ve done over the past seven years and every time it would just get rejected.”
Taking control of the team in 2009, McManus quickly built a successful program, winning three straight provincial titles from 2011 to 2013. The team also won a bronze medal at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association nationals in 2013.
“I got coach of the year all three years (that the team won provincials). I’m surprised this is what it’s come down to,” McManus said.
Olynyk agrees that those three years were a good time for TRU soccer.
“I think that there were definitely positives within the program, within the PACWEST and the college championships we did well at that time. I think that that was good for the institution and good for us.”
McManus then steered the team through the difficult transition of stepping up a level from the PACWEST into the CIS. After a rough first season in which the team won only one game, McManus and the ‘Pack were able to right the ship this past season and qualified for the playoffs with a record of 5 wins, 7 losses and 2 draws.
“As far as I’m concerned, we did really well. We achieved what we needed to. We were given two pages of things we had to achieve this year and we hit each and every one. Ken (Olynyk) gave me this list last year and we went out and hit each and every one,” McManus said on the improvement that the team showed in just its second year competing in the CIS.
Jaydene Radu, who played five years for the WolfPack under McManus said that the jump to the top level of university soccer was tough on the team.
“It was a tough transition from PACWEST to CIS and when you start losing some games it’s tough to stay positive,” Radu said.
Radu also said that despite the positive season put together by the ‘Pack this past year that the decision to fire McManus did not shock her.
“There are a lot of factors that go into the program, I think it was going in the right direction but some changes needed to be made to make that happen.”
As for any possible reasons that the long-time coach of the WolfPack was fired McManus says that he wasn’t given any.
“They just stated that it’s in my contract that I could be released without cause and I was quite surprised, but it is in there. I looked up my contract since then, so I was a bit shocked by the whole thing.”
Citing university policy, Olynyk declined to discuss any reasons for the coach’s firing.
Having just traversed through the period of instability inherent in making the step up to the CIS level of competition, Olynyk does not believe that a coaching change will result in more uncertainty for the program.
“No, I think it’s a necessity. We’re making this change to move forward so that’s what we are looking at,” Olynyk said.
Now that the split has happened the two parties will go their separate ways.
The university has already begun the search for a new head coach by sending out an advertisement for a coaching position to the CIS, the CCAA, the national soccer association, the B.C. soccer association and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“So that way, we think we will hit everybody that might have an interest in the position, so it’ll be a national search. We’re looking at candidates across the country, not just regionally in the city.” Olynyk said.
McManus, meanwhile has “gone through all the emotions that I think you could have – disbelief and anger to a point now where I’ve had to accept it and relax a little bit,” he said.
The former coach of the WolfPack now begins the long process of trying to find a job in the ultra-competitive field of elite-level soccer coaching in Canada.
“It won’t be in Kamloops, unfortunately, because there’s no coaching jobs,” McManus said.
While he tries to move forward with his career, McManus said that, “I still don’t know what’s going on. It’s frustrating. I didn’t expect it at all and it kind of blew me away when they told me.”
McManus finishes his career at TRU with an overall record of 42 wins, 30 losses and 17 draws.