6 Names to Watch in Atlanta, Dallas Coaching Searches

With Dallas and Atlanta suddenly needing to replace Michael Hodge and Scott Lawrence just weeks before the season, we’ve pulled together five names to watch in the coaching scramble search.

Elaine Vassie

Candidate for: Dallas Jackals

The first name should be the most obvious. Elaine Vassie initially joined Dallas prior to its 2021 inaugural season as an assistant coach and assistant GM. After the team’s launch was delayed, Vassie moved to the top chair in Dallas’s front office while maintaining a coaching role. Vassie’s resume is worthy of an MLR coaching job if she decides to pull a Greg Popovich and appoint herself as coach. She’s coached in the third tier of English rugby, the Scottish national 7s team, and the Dallas Harlequins.

The drawback for Vassie is simply a lack of time. Dallas does not have a deep coaching bench. The head coach will need to do most of the rugby specific coaching. Pair that with her front office role and you could run into a time crunch. If she would take the job, expect the team to adjust one or both of her potential roles after the season.

Stephen Brett/Blake Bradford

Candidate(s) for: Rugby ATL

Scott Lawrence took ATL from an expansion side to a Championship appearance in two seasons. How do you replace a man that’s long been considered a potential Eagles’ coach?

The most likely scenario is promoting either Brett or Bradford to the lead role. Keeping as much of the current culture in place would be the obvious decision. (The most obvious would’ve been kissing the Eastern Conference Championship ring on Lawrence’s finger, but I digress.)

Neither of these two are considered as an immediate head coaching candidate in a normal hiring cycle, but the cycle is past. Ownership will need to avoid the temptation to appoint them as co-Head Coaches a la the failed Legion experiment of 2021. Speaking of San Diego…

Rob Hoadley

Candidate for: Dallas Jackals, Rugby ATL

Neither Dallas nor Atlanta will have truly done their work if they don’t call Rob Hoadley. The former San Diego Legion head coach was unceremoniously sacked after the 5-0 2020 campaign, two playoff appearances, and a Finals loss when the clock was red in 2019. Gary Gold happily picked him up to be an assistant with the Eagles. He may be content with his budding national team and media career, but he’s arguably the most successful coach in MLR history. Call him.

Nate Osborne

Candidate for: Dallas Jackals, Rugby ATL

Nate Osborne is a poor man’s Rob Hoadley. The ceiling isn’t nearly as high, but the floor is reasonably high. The last of the original MLR coaches was surprisingly fired at the end of 2021. Osborne is a program builder. His Gold teams never found a playoff spot but were consistently in the late season conversation. He should be especially appealing to Atlanta, due to both the relatively short travel from his New Orleans home and his ability to keep this franchise from falling apart as they head into a new stadium.

Scott Lawrence

Candidate for: Dallas Jackals

No. I’m not crazy.

The news of Hodge’s dismissal came hours after Lawrence’s departure was announced. There’s no indication that the team would move on from Hodge simply to get Lawrence, but if the conversations were already happening, it could’ve lit the fuse to blow things up. In fact, there’s a chance that the deal was done via back channels before he stepped down from his post. There’s nothing I know that I’m not passing along, but the gut says this is a bit too perfect to be a total coincidence.

As already stated, Lawrence is a program builder. He’s every bit as good of an MLR coach as Hoadley, and he’s experienced with bringing an expansion up to speed. He’ll demand (and be worthy of) a significant amount of organizational power. Would Dallas be willing to conceed that level of influence? Would he accept a true head coach role after pulling double duty in Atlanta? Would there be a natural tension between Vassie (who’s rightfully accumulated massive amounts of influence) and Lawrence (who would walk in the door worthy of the same).

It has the ability to be two much of a good thing or just the right amount of talent to create something special.

Brian Ashton

Candidate for: Dallas Jackals

A bit unrealistic? Probably an understatement.

Brian Ashton is the only true rugby coach left on the Dallas staff outside of Vassie. The former England coach is highly unlikely to shift from his consultancy role to a spot in the coach’s box. At 75 years old, he’s probably well past walking the touchline. However, an interim coaching role could be conceivable.

If that were to occur, expect a coaching hire to be made during the season. Which would raise the question of why the team didn’t simply retain Hodge and use an interim until he was able to arrive.

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