BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 01/26/2021

Thiel: Schmetzer, Sounders get a deal, finally

After nearly a year of meandering, the Sounders bosses finally gave coach Brian Schmetzer the contract extension that was overdue.

Brian Schmetzer was given a contract extension after almost a year of dithering. / Charis Wilson, Seattle Sounders FC

As far as stand-up people in sports, Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer and general manager Garth Lagerwey are solid guys. If they say something, they generally mean it, and it wouldn’t be like them to screw with anyone’s career.

But it took them sooo long to secure a contract extension for coach Brian Schmetzer that it felt as if something was up.

In a Zoom presser Monday after the extension through 2023 was announced, Schmetzer said his agent had begun negotiations with the club “before COVID-19.”

What?! Do you realize The Before Times were a billionty-billion years ago? I mean, I was a kid then, and most of you were barely zygotes. Worlds have come and gone, presidents have changed, dogs and cats are sleeping together (Ghostbusters was right).

Well, OK. Tom Brady is still in the Super Bowl. But he’s an anomaly. Brady and Earth’s molten core are the only things that were here before the coronavirus.

As eons passed, Sounders fans had every right to ask to stop the count regarding the votes to continue Lagerwey in his job. They had a right to see what alternative facts Hanauer was studying.

Schmetzer has taken the Sounders to four of the past five MLS Cups, winning two. His regular-season win mark of 60.8 percent is the best in MLS among coaches with at least 70 games, and his 76.2 percent record in the postseason is just stupid.

Fercripesakes, he went to Nathan Hale High School, and, as one of the state’s top prep players, signed to play with the original, NASL Sounders in 1980. He reveres Alan Hinton, Jimmy Gabriel and Sigi Schmid the way Luke Skywalker reveres Obi-Wan Kenobe, times three. He played for the indoor Tacoma Stars in 1988 at the Tacoma Dome, and coached the Sounders USL team to two titles.

Letting Schmetzer leave would be like Costco getting rid of the $1.50 hot dog. Or orcas exiting Puget Sound and never coming back. Or tearing down the Elephant Car Wa . . . uh, check that. It would be like chainsawing in April the cherry trees on the University of Washington campus.

Yet Hanauer and Lagerwey let Schmetzer linger through the bifurcated regular season, around the bubble tourney and into the playoffs, where the defending champs were the No. 2 Western Conference seed.

The Sounders staged the greatest comeback since Tony Bennett when they beat Minnesota 3-2 in West finals at the Loo by scoring all their goals in the final 17 minutes. It is best explained here:

After the Sounders were beaten in the MLS Cup 3-0 by a clearly better Columbus team on Dec. 12, there still had been no deal struck.

The negotiations slow-footed into the new year, so much so that I thought Schmetzer should put pressure on the bosses by getting an interview for the Seahawks’ vacant position at offensive coordinator. Everyone else has, and I figured Schmetzer was so good at scheming Jordan Morris open downfield that doing same for DK Metcalf would be cake.

Finally on Monday, Schneider announced in a letter to fans that he would continue to coach.

So I asked Schmetzer what the deal was with the long delay.

“Well, you’d have to ask Garth and Adrian what the deal was,” he said. “My representative was doing his best, and Garth and Adrian have to protect the club. Sometimes even the easiest negotiations can have bumps in the road. Obviously, the end result — and the smile you see on my face — is that I’m happy with the deal. I’m just glad it’s done.”

Hanauer and Lagerwey issued the sort of happy-happy, joy-joy corporate-speak statements about the continuation of Schmetzer’s tenure, free of any insights. But any long-term viewer of human nature can see that Schmetzer, 58, had this club and town in his bones. He wasn’t going anywhere, but he didn’t want his affection exploited.

“There were a lot of things that that I felt were important for this deal to go through, but I’m not greedy,” he said. “Money wasn’t the top thing. I think the relationship between the club and myself, those type of finer points, were the things that always were gonna keep the deal alive and me not going anywhere.”

I’m guessing the team got a hometown discount, and Schmetzer got what he wanted. I suppose those of us who wanted to see Schmetzer live long and prosper here can take solace from the fact that Hanauer and Lagerwey took up soccer for a living instead of, say, vaccine distribution.


  • Kirkland

    I figured it was just a matter of crossing T’s and dotting I’s.

    • art thiel

      That’s not exactly heavy lifting. And Schmetzer did lament a bit publicly in November.

  • Husky73

    The most successful coach in Seattle sports history…Gil Dobie (58-0-3) or Brian Schmetzer?

    • art thiel

      I think Dobie beat a few high school teams and the local boxing club.

      • Husky73

        Don’t forget the 90-0 win over Fort Worden.

  • jafabian

    Overdue. I don’t get why the Sounders waited until after the season. IMO a team easily could have hired him away. You don’t take team loyalty for granted because when a contract expires there isn’t any and I would have hated to see Brian be the next Nate McMillan.

    Brian is the new Bruce Arena. In fact I wonder if he’ll ever get the call to head the National team?

    • art thiel

      There’s a lot of house politics involved in the selection of the national coach. I’m not sure Brian has played that game.

      You’re right about an absence of loyalty. It also works the other way, when a team hangs on to a coach out of loyalty instead of what’s best for winning.

      • jafabian

        I thought that the Galaxy and Toronto were very real possibilities with Atlanta and Cincinnati right behind them. Wouldn’t have surprised me if the Red Bull entered the equation. Just odd to me that the Sounders would wait until now when in professional sports teams usually get this done before the current contract runs out. Based on Brian’s comment to direct questions to Garth on why waiting until now to complete an extension almost seems like he’s puzzled about the delay as well.

        • art thiel

          I’m sure Schmetzer’s agent made inquiries about other vacancies just to apply some pressure. Neither Hanauer nor Lagerwey will speak publicly to any apprehensions about Schmetzer. I think they assumed he’d always be there, which is a little disrespectful.

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