The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
goalWA.net is very pleased to continue a new column that allows writer Doug Thiel a forum to share his memories of our “Original Sounders,” the North American Soccer League (NASL) club that played in the Emerald City from 1974 through 1983. Doug is the author of the 1977 Sounders season highlight book “All the Best,” as well as two new books for youth soccer players, coaches and parents called “The Winners Way.” Click www.cowanparkpress.com to purchase one or both books.
by Doug Thiel
In 1974 the yet to be Seattle Sounders had to begin somewhere. First thing to do? Assemble a staff and roster.
The year before, the new owners, who later also owned the Seahawks, had hired Cliff McCrath. There was no one better in this town, and he had a triple aka: Uncle Nubby, Nubbers and Nubs.
Uncle Nubby got a head start by quickly spotting John Best (30 years later…) then Playing Captain of the Dallas Tornado. John was the team’s Head Coach but also doubled up as VP of Public Relations. John always was a busy guy.
But no more than the man looking him over. Cliff was Seattle Pacific College’s (now SPU) Dean of Students and the Head Soccer Coach as well as President of the NAIA Soccer Coach’s Association. And that’s a load.
But mostly he was a gold mine of information, inspiration, and enthusiasm. And still is.
As was John Best who, during his first three years here, had a 43-26 record. For you non-mathematicians that was a 67% win record right out of the chute.
Prior to John’s arrival in Seattle he’d played for three English and seven American teams. But wherever John went two things happened: problems and ways to wiggle out of them.
Enter now Cliff McCrath who’s first stop as consultant for SPS, Seattle Professional Sports, was Philadelphia, PA. SPS was a holding company for the yet to be Sounder owners and later the Seattle Seahawks.
In Philadelphia, Cliff met Al Miller, an old friend whose Philadelphia Atoms were about to do battle in a semi-final game with the Toronto Metros. Al, very happy with this win, welcomed Uncle Nubby into the locker room: a shamble of towels, debris and laughter.
It was at this match that Cliff met Jack Daley, Metros GM, and the reason he was in Philly.
The two snacked and got to know each other in the Press Box before, during and after the game. The result of which was that Cliff was keenly interested in Jack Daley as GM for Seattle’s new soccer club.
Cliff also discovered that Jack had recently told the owners to take a hike in the woods after they had told him, “No way, Jose,” to his demands that they fill in the pot holes that were ruining the team. Or else. Or else won.
Jack also said, “Cliff, at the end of this contract year, I’ll be leaving the Metros and possibly soccer.”
Uncle Nubby smiled.
Pay attention now: you’re going to need a program to sort out and track the players.
So, “Let the games begin.” And they did.
Game One: Phil Woosnam, NASL Commissioner, asked Jack to join the league’s office in New York as his assistant. Didn’t happen.
Game Two: Back in Seattle Cliff told an anxious group of owners that Jack Daley would be the man to hire as the GM.
Walt Daggett, Managing GP, called Jack and asked him to come out to Seattle. He did.
Game Three: Jack wanted to sneak in and out Toronto: even made his own travel arrangements. Told no one he was leaving Toronto or going to Seattle. Never mind being sneaky.
Next day’s Toronto Star had banner headlines that read DALEY LEAVES METROS. “How could this happen?’’ you ask. The answer is.
Game Four: A reporter who was following another story had called Jack’s office and decided that he was out of town. So where might he be? The reporter took a guess. Seattle seemed logical because of Uncle Nubby’s interest in Jack during the 1973 playoffs.
Bingo. The trap is closed but never mind. Time and Jack Daley march on. If by now you’re wondering where is John Best? Hang in there. He’s coming up the hallway.
Game Five: The next day at the Seattle Golf and Country Club Walt said, “Look, Jack, we’d like to hire you.”
Now watch this clever move. Jack wrote out his own contract on Olympic Hotel stationary using a yellow, # 2 pencil. What he wanted was a three year commitment with complete decision making authority.
And he got it. Jack wanted what Walt Daggett wanted: a chance to develop a first-class soccer franchise. Franchise cost? $25,000.
Jack ended the meeting by saying, “Just give me that, and I’ll live or die on my efforts.” Walt stuck out his hand, grinned, and said, “You’ve got a deal.”
So, what gave Jack the courage to ask for what he did?
One: He was the best GM in the NASL and knew it. Two: He knew that Seattle needed a GM who could build a strong franchise quickly, likely based on his serrated chats with Cliff in Toronto.
Round Two, Game One: On December 12, 1973, a simultaneous announcement was made in four cities: Vancouver, BC; San Jose, LA, and Seattle. “Soccer Comes to Town.” And Walt Daggett announced that Jack Daley had been hired as the new GM.
Here’s John coming through the door now. “Hello, John.”
What is fascinating about John Best’s hiring is that it happened while Jack was still in Toronto after he’d come back from his first Seattle visit.
But before he left to return to Seattle, Jack mailed John’s contract to Dallas, John’s current abode. However, if you’re still online, Jack and John met for the first time on January 1, 1974, in Miami, Florida.
Anyway, it could have been dicey for John to accept the offer. He had only this to go on: Jack’s reputation, a brief meeting with the owners and a phone conversation.
Well, from this chat John discovered the two primo items on his TO DO list. The first was: you’ll be shaking hands with a lot of locals while selling soccer on the Rubber Chicken Circuit (banquets and meetings), and the second? Our team will be very competitive.
So now we had John Best as Coach, a GM, a PR Director, and Walt Daggett. The Sounders (still unnamed) had three and a half months to go before the first match. But why worry, we can work this out.
And so it was that Hal Childs, PR Director, decided that the team would be more appreciated and easier to identify if… it had a name. Brilliance at its best.
You know what’s next: a “Name the Team contest.” Not a novel idea, but it does generate fan interest.
Visit the 1974 Seattle Sounders NASL Museum Page on goalWA.net