Galaxy coach Gullit resigns; president/GM Lalas out
LOS ANGELES -- Ruud Gullit has resigned as coach of the slumping Los Angeles Galaxy for personal reasons, and president/general manager Alexi Lalas also is out of a job.
"We are stepping up and doing what we need to do to straighten this thing out," Galaxy investor/operator Tim Leiweke told The Associated Press on Monday in announcing the changes.
The Galaxy, led by English star David Beckham and Landon Donovan, are on a seven-match winless streak as they play Chivas USA on Thursday night.
"There are two good people that for different reasons aren't part of this organization today, and that's a shame," Leiweke said. "The fact is, the players have to look deep inside themselves and understand they have to be responsible for some of this.
"Am I angry we find ourselves in the situation we find ourselves in? Yes. This is not a fun week. The Galaxy hasn't made the playoffs for a couple years. Punting on this season is not acceptable. It starts Thursday."
Much was expected when Beckham joined the Galaxy last season. But he was limited to five games because of injuries and the Galaxy went 9-14-7 for 34 points, and were eliminated from playoff contention on the season's final day.
The Galaxy were in pretty good shape this season before the recent winless streak left them at 6-8-5 with just 23 points.
Gullit will be succeeded on an interim basis by 37-year-old Cobi Jones, a first-year assistant who retired following last season after spending his entire pro career with the Galaxy. The 45-year-old Gullit signed a three-year contract last November, making him one of the MLS' highest-paid coaches.
"I think this was a tough move professionally and personally for Ruud," Leiweke said. "I don't think it was working out for him and his family. I have no issues with Ruud, I appreciate what he's done for us. And we move on."
Leiweke, the president and CEO of AEG, said Jones was the interim coach "for right now."
"I appreciate Cobi's stepping in," Leiweke said. "The one guy's loyalty and passion over there I don't question is his. I think we have eliminated any and all excuses now. No one can point any fingers."
Leiweke said no potential head coaches have been contacted.
"But we have a short list," he said. "We respect Cobi, he's stepping in and filling a void. Whether or not Cobi's comfortable being the head coach or whether or not he has the experience, we'll play that one by ear. Cobi certainly will have a voice in this."
Leiweke said he hopes Jones will remain with the team no matter how the search for a coach goes.
"Hopefully Cobi feels the same way," Leiweke said. "That said, we'll see where we go with the head coaching position."
Leiweke said he didn't know whether a permanent head coach will be named before the end of the season.
"I don't think we're going to mandate or dictate that," he said. "We certainly could make a quick decision if that's what's necessary. My guess is a lot of people will want to throw their name in the ring here."
The 37-year-old Lalas' contract runs out at the end of the season.
"I think because of the Ruud situation, it was an opportunity to once and for all look for a fresh start," Leiweke said. "Alexi's been with us a long time. I'm very appreciative of everything he's done for the Galaxy. That one is painful. We haven't made the playoffs for two years running, and we're headed for a third year. You can't blame Alexi entirely. I do think we need a fresh start."
Leiweke said Tom Payne, who has served as Lalas' assistant, will run the business side of the team. Paul Bravo, the director of soccer, will work with Jones on personnel decisions, he said.
Lalas left a similar position with the New York Red Bulls to join the Galaxy on April 17, 2006, as the successor to Doug Hamilton, who died of a heart attack.