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Spokane Empire

Shock thought process confusing

Tue., Aug. 30, 2011

The players do get paid so it is professional football, but frankly speaking when it comes to the Arena Football League and the Spokane Shock there’s still a lot of, “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!”

Don’t think so?

Well, consider that not even five months ago, the man announced Monday as the Shock’s newest field boss had never coached before and was paying the rent pouring concrete.

Just what about that suggests real-deal football?

And yet it’s altogether probable that Andy Olson will be a hit as the Shock’s fourth head coach in seven seasons. His predecessors were – to the point of each of them winning a championship, which for various and disparate reasons management took as signal every time that the wheel needed reinventing.

Olson’s elevation from Shock offensive coordinator to head coach is the unguent being applied to the latest open wound, the firing of one-time favorite son Rob Keefe for transgressions so terrible they cannot be revealed.

Either ownership can’t handle the truth, or doesn’t think we can.

The point continued to be driven home with sledgehammer subtlety on Monday when team president Adam Nebeker, handling the announcement, managed to empty the thesaurus with repeated hosannas to Olson’s integrity, character, high standards and trustworthiness.

If Gandhi had been the previous head coach, that intro would have left him looking like Sweeney Todd.

This one was obviously more about finding a great guy than a great coach, and if the Shock found both, hey, really great.

And there are some reasons for even disgruntled Shockaholics to cheer the move.

Olson is an old favorite, too – a two-year receiver for the Shock, including the last ArenaCup champs of 2009, who thrived on savvy and toughness. When the Shock decided to ax offensive coordinator Fred Biletnikoff Jr. after just two games, it was Olson – working construction in Bellingham – who answered the emergency call.

And he comes with a promise.

“We’ll be more aggressive – on both sides of the ball,” Olson said. “Look down field first, checkdown second. I’m a very aggressive coach.”

Because the character stuff got slathered on, his bona fides in that regard didn’t get much of an airing Monday, so Nebeker was asked about the circumstances that greased Olson’s escape from the concrete jungle in the first place.

“In the middle of a season, most people interested in coaching are coaching already,” Nebeker allowed. “So our thoughts went to former players, and I believe it was (receiver) Raul Vijil who first said, ‘A guy you might want to think about is Andy.’ ”

Vijil, of course, played with Olson – and leaned on him.

“We were inside the second week of practice, running plays, and I just looked at him and asked, ‘Andy, what do I got on this one?’ ” Vijil remembered. “He was new and knew the playbook within the first week and I’m still asking, ‘How do you run this one?’ He understood the game better than anybody. He’s a smart dude.”

And, frankly, the least experienced coach the Shock could have found.

Is this a big deal? Not to management.

“As crazy as it may sound,” said Nebeker, “experience is not real high on our list of priorities. Neither of our previous two head coaches had head coaching experience.”

No, sir. And one was deemed not to have the right stuff to make the jump to the AFL two years ago, and the other was just shown the door.

“We feel we have a recipe as an organization that doesn’t necessarily require experience,” he went on. “It requires hard work, passion, understanding of the game and good chemistry. Experience can be gained quickly on this job.”

Nebeker insisted that the Shock front office handles many of the duties – recruiting, housing, feeding, some business aspects – other AFL teams ask coaches to take on.

But perhaps what’s most important, if anyone’s concerned about the new coach’s thin résumé, it isn’t the 28-year-old Olson.

“I know there’s going to be questions about my youth,” he said, “and I wouldn’t say there’s a need for healing, but I know there are upset fans that Rob was let go. Rob is a great coach and I learned a great deal from him, but there were some things the owners decided they couldn’t deal with and they moved on.

“I just want to regain the trust of the fans – not for me, but for the organization.”

That trust might be more easily regained if the team had publicly acknowledged vetting a few more candidates. But minds tend to get made up quickly around Shock HQ – and Olson helped them get made up even quicker.

“There’s certainly less risk,” said Nebeker, “when you hire somebody you already have a relationship with.”

Hmm. That may have been left over from last press conference.

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