Andy Olson on Monday acquired his third new job title in the last five months.
Olson capped a swift climb up the coaching ladder when the Spokane Shock formally introduced the 28-year-old as head coach, a promotion from his offensive coordinator role for the last 17 games of the 2011 season. Upon learning he had been selected as the fourth head coach in franchise history, Olson dialed up his father in western Washington.
“I could have kept doing construction and been just fine, but it wasn’t something I enjoyed. It paid the bills and supported my family,” Olson said. “My dad has been trying to get me out of concrete work since I got into it. He knows my passion was in football so he was extremely excited.”
And so is Olson, a résumé underdog who sold himself to Shock management during the interview process with his words and with how he’s carried himself during his three years in the organization, two as a wide receiver. Olson beat out former Shock offensive coordinator Matt Sauk, Chicago offensive coordinator Sherdrick Bonner and long-time arena coach Chris MacKeown.
“No. 1, his confidence,” team president Adam Nebeker said of why he favored Olson. “Despite having less experience than several of the other candidates, he flat-out was more confident in his ability to step in, win and win right away. No. 2, his character. We’ve had a chance to interact with him. His values are very similar to ours. He’s a family guy, he’s honest, hard-working and professional and those were characteristics we were very much looking for.”
Olson’s immediate concerns are filling out his staff and re-signing Shock players from the 2011 squad. The initial window for the latter runs from Sept. 5-15. He has retained veteran coach Travis Crusenberry, who will become defensive coordinator. Olson is leaning toward hiring two more assistants – if it fits within the $100,000 pool allotted for AFL coaching staffs. Many AFL teams have three-man coaching staffs.
Olson has had preliminary discussions with Alex Teems, who played defensive back for the Shock in 2007 and 2010-11, about a coaching position.
Olson hopes to bring back more than half of the 2011 roster. He’s spoken with quarterback Erik Meyer and “he’s definitely giving us the feeling he wants to come back,” Olson said. Asked if that meant the end of veteran Kyle Rowley’s time with the Shock, Olson said, ‘No, not necessarily. That’s one of the topics we need to discuss as a unit.”
Of receiver Raul Vijil, who has been with the Shock since the inaugural season of 2006, Olson said, “I don’t think he’s planning on playing again but I haven’t had an in-depth conversation with him.”
Olson is close friends with former Shock coach Rob Keefe and his family joined Keefe at Silverwood a couple of weeks ago for a day of fun in the sun. Early in Monday’s press conference, Olson thanked Keefe for helping him reach this point in his career.
“One of the first things he did after he was let go is say, ‘You have to go after this,’ ” Olson said. “I think that support will continue.”
Still, it underscores the often unconventional nature of arena football, where players and coaches sometimes come and go at a dizzying pace.
Perhaps Crusenberry, also a close friend of Keefe’s, summarized it best.
“It is kind of weird,” Crusenberry said. “Rob played for me in 2004, 2005 and 2006. We coached together at a small college and here so we have a long history, but it’s business. I’ve seen this before in my 10-plus years (coaching) in arena football. He’ll move on to bigger and better things and he’ll do a great job.”
Crusenberry said Olson “is a young coach, of course, but I was very impressed with how he ran things when he came in. He was very professional and guys treated him with a lot of respect. I told him after the season, before we knew any of this was going to happen, that he did a great job.”