While the ink is still drying on Brendan Murphy's new contract with the Rochester Rhinos, FC Buffalo owners Nick Mendola and Scott Frauenhofer must turn to focus on determining the next head coach for the local National Premier Soccer League club.
The next hire will be FC Buffalo's fourth in their seven-year history - Jim Hesch, Dan Krzyzanowicz and Murphy were the first three under Mendola and Frauenhofer's watch. Whoever impresses the ownership enough will essentially have three months to put his or her stamp on the team, with the 2017 NPSL season kicking off in early May.
To help narrow down the list of prospects, it's likely that the next Wolves gaffer will have strong local ties (and live locally) and not have a coaching job at a nearby NCAA Division I school (so as not to shrink the available pool of players, given the NCAA's coaching rules).
The club has not officially announced interest in any coaches, as of yet. Here are five candidates, in no particular order:
*Bobby McColl, head coach at Daemen College
Why he'd fit: The bright young coach for Daemen had a tough first year in NCAA Division II, but he's driven and in a similar coaching position locally as Murphy. While his role with the Wildcats wouldn't block any prospective NPSL players, the FC Buffalo gig would be a boon for McColl's local recruiting, given the coach and player contacts he'd make.
*Mark Howlett, head coach at Buffalo State
Why he'd fit: The Englishman has found unprecedented success at Buffalo State, building a family atmosphere, welcoming struggling Division I transfers and even winning a SUNYAC playoff game in 2016. Luke Pavone and C.J. Scirto are the only current and former Bengals to play for FC Buffalo, so Howlett's presence wouldn't diminish the player pool.
*Davie Carmichael, unattached, former University at Buffalo assistant
Why he'd fit: Carmichael is a bit in limbo now, as former UB head coach Stu Riddle recently took a new job at Northern Kentucky. It's expected that Carmichael will vie for the Bulls' vacant head coaching job, and if he's hired, it would reduce - but not wholly eliminate - his appeal for the FC Buffalo job. [Update: Carmichael is still under contract at UB, however.]
*Micky Blythe, head coach at Medaille College
Why he'd fit: It was less than three years ago that Blythe was head coach for the Erie Commodores, FC Buffalo's rival club. That stint only lasted one summer, however, and now Blythe is reshaping Medaille into the dominant Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference side it was during Krzyzanowicz's heyday. As a former player and coach in the NPSL, Blythe understands the league and the caliber needed to compete.
*John Grabowski, head coach at Erie Community College
Why he'd fit: Grabowski was dubbed the "Unsung Hero" in FC Buffalo's inaugural season as a player, and he's built his head coaching resume around the area, first as an assistant at Fredonia and more recently at the helm of Erie Community College. Grabowski is Buffalo District Soccer League teammates with Chris Walter and Kendell McFayden, the two veterans interested in sticking around with the Wolves. Landing the FC Buffalo job could be a big break for Grabowski's coaching career.
Dark horses: Casey Derkacz, Kwame Oduro, Gary Boughton, Shawn Burke, Kevin Brenner, Bill Boyle, Matt Brown.
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who's never been called a dark horse in anything, at firstname.lastname@example.org