The Farwell Side: Russ Farwell talks about firing of Rob Sumner
It was announced today that Rob Sumner was relieved of his duties as Head Coach of the Thunderbirds. I spoke to General Manager Russ Farwell about his decision to let Sumner go as well as other issues that face the team this off-season.
Mike Caccioppoli: What went into the decision to let Sumner go?
Russ Farwell: Well I think we probably need to re-group (after two rough seasons) and head in a new direction and give someone else a chance. I don’t have any comment on who might take over, we just started this process.
MC: Rob had been with you for a long time and you guys were close so it had to be a difficult decision.
RF: Yes it was, it was a difficult decision but I just didn’t think we’d get a fresh start next season as is. I felt we didn’t have much of a choice. Odds weren’t in our favor to persevere next season with the status quo.
MC: Some will say this was the right decision and others will say that Rob was used as a scapegoat especially if you look at the string of poor drafts.
RF: Well I think that’s often the case. It’s never entirely the Head Coach’s fault. I don’t think it is here. We had a number of returning guys and a number of new guys, I didn’t think we got the most out of this team. I’m not blaming Rob entirely for how things went, I think he gave us his best effort. I just felt for our team going forward that this was the way we needed to go. I think some of those comments are valid. I just think sometimes a fresh approach is the best way to go. That’s what we decided to do.
MC: What is the process now of finding a new coach?
RF: You see who is available and that won’t happen for a while. You have to wait until the AHL and NHL playoffs are over. We won’t have a decision until probably the summer. Unless someone really pops up and decides he wants to coach here I think we’ll be going through interviews until the summer.
MC: Lately we’ve seen teams go for guys with AHL or NHL experience. Is that what you are looking for?
RF: Not just because of that but if you look at the coaches in our division we are looking at an experienced coach. We need to keep pace. We are just going to wait and see what’s available.
MC: What’s the situation with the Assistant Coaches?
RF: Turner (Stevenson) has been in a unique situation. He’s been doing this year to year. I haven’t spoken to him yet but if he wants to be a candidate for Head Coach he certainly would be. We’d let the person that’s hired go forward with who the assistants would be. I’m not sure if Jim McTaggart would want to stay on with a different coach or not.
MC: So Turner would be considered for the Head Coaching job?
RF: Yes, like I said I haven’t had a chance to talk to him yet but if he was interested he’d be considered.
MC: If Turner was indeed interested would he be just another candidate or the front runner?
RF: Well if we started this process tomorrow he would be the front runner but we still have a long process to go through. We still have to find who might be available before a decision. I like Turner, he’s a quality guy but I don’t want to predict anything at this point. If he wants to be considered he would be.
MC: When you talk about change are you looking for a guy that will bring a change in coaching style, or a disciplinarian? What are you looking for specifically?
RF: I don’t have any specific style in mind. You would consider all of those things. Some coaches are disciplinarians, some can be that way but aren’t fiery. I’m not looking for a specific style I’m just looking for the best coach.
MC: Let’s talk a bit about the guys on the ice. Are you looking to make any big changes in personnel?
RF: Well that’s hard to comment about. We’re always trying to get better. I like the character of our guys. Some of them are poised to take a big step. If we can improve offensively we would do that. We are watching Button’s situation, hopefully he will be able to come back. Boston told us at one time that there was a good chance he’d be back. That has to be followed up. In fairness to him he needs to have the chance to win a job with them. Defense is an area where we would need an older guy especially if Button is not available.
MC: Talking about the defense are you worried that it will be too young next season?
RF: Yes. If Button isn’t coming back then we have to add an older D man. Even if he does that could be the situation. We have a couple of good 16’s coming up but I don’t want to rely on them too much. There aren’t many of those kinds of trades during the summer when it comes to picking up key guys.
MC: What about the offense? We know that guys like Alos, Elliot and Lund didn’t score much.
RF: Well I think all those guys will take a step. Rouse really came on so I think you will see offense there. Alos is a good player and I can see his numbers going up. All of those are good focused kids and it’s now time to step up an get more done.
MC: In the upcoming bantam draft are you looking at any specific kind of player or just the best player available?
RF: You can’t go into it looking for a specific guy. It’s a little early in the process but you definitely look for the best player.
MC: Did you see the season coming down to the next to last game as a big step, or any real kind of progress?
RF: The fact that we pushed back into it was good, if there was one good thing about this season it’s that we had a resilient bunch. I’m not sure if I see it all as progress but character wise we had that all year long. We had some disappointments and I thought we bounced back well. Not sure I’d call that progress. We have guys that hope to have a better season next year.
MC: Last year you put out a letter to the season ticket holders saying you expected to make the playoffs this year. That didn’t happen. What can you tell them to give them something to look forward to for next season?
RF: Well I think we have a lot of character in our kids. Potentially with a step forward many of these guys will have a good season up ahead. We are heading in a new direction and once we hire a Head Coach we can assess what will be. There are still decisions to be made by a new coach and getting someone is the first order of business now.
MC: Did the fans showing their displeasure factor at all into making a coaching change?
RF: Well some fans don’t like our announcer either. I think our record and losing some key games factor into the decision. Rob was frustrated too. We all felt the frustration. We just felt we had to address the situation. I think all of this stuff factors in is the best way to put it.
MC: What do you have on your plate during the next few months?
RF: The search for a new coach will be at the top. We have to get prepared for the draft as well. At the same time we’ll be identifying candidates and doing interviews until we get things in place.
MC: There is a general theory in sports that having an owner who is also the General Manager is a conflict when it comes to checks and balances. Have you though about having someone else be the General Manager or do you just want to continue to do it?
RF: I haven’t though of doing that. I don’t know how many people you can afford. As long as I think I can do the job I’m going to do it. We are where we are the way we’re set up. I haven’t looked at bringing someone in. I’m sure I can continue in this role. We just have to go through the process of putting someone in charge on the bench and move ahead.