Q&A: Gavin Wilkinson
Announced earlier this week, Gavin Wilkinson, a long-time member of the Timbers organization, was tabbed as the Technical Director for the Timbers MLS franchise. Already on the job, Wilkinson will play a large role in what the team looks like when it takes the field in 2011. He sat down to talk about his role, the transition throughout 2010 and what lies ahead.
You have been a part of the Timbers' modern era since it started in 2001, serving in several different capacities as a player and a part of the front office. With as much as you have invested in the club, what are your thoughts on being a part of the Timbers move to Major League Soccer?
GW: I am extremely excited to be a part of the Timbers organization as we make our transition to Major League Soccer. When I first came to Portland in 2001 as a player, I envisioned that it would be one of the stops in my playing career. However, I've since fallen in love with the city of Portland and its passion for the sport. I am grateful for the opportunities the Timbers have provided me over the years as a player, coach, general manager and now as the technical director. Being a part of the Timbers organization is something I take a lot of pride in.
Looking at your new responsibilities as technical director, what tasks are at the top of your "to-do list" in preparation for the 2011 MLS season?
GW: There is a list of things that need to get done before starting the MLS season in 2011. Firstly, we need to establish a list of exceptional coaching candidates. Second, find a core of players that can help us be successful in our inaugural MLS season. Being able to bring some of those players in for this season will be an important step in the process, not only for the success of the 2010 season, but for the seasons ahead in MLS.
This year will be a busy one for you in particular as you integrate your technical director duties with your current role as the club's general manager and head coach. How do you think you'll approach the 2010 season, while still planning ahead for 2011?
GW: Helping to establish the foundation for the Timbers MLS franchise and building towards that future is a significant responsibility as technical director. While that will be a priority, it is important to focus on the season ahead and work towards a successful 2010, both on and off the field. Finding the right players, and the right mix of players, for 2010 is a focus for us right now; this transitional season is an important one for our organization on many levels.
In preparation for the 2011 MLS season, and in order for me to get out and network or scout players my new role will require quite a bit of traveling?
GW: I will still be the team's head coach, but Amos (Magee), my assistant coach and our director of player development, will have an increased role in the coaching duties in 2010. This will allow me the flexibility to execute my technical director responsibilities. We have the utmost confidence in Amos and know he will be successful in this role.
How do you think being the Timbers general manager and head coach for the past three seasons will help you in your role as the MLS franchise's technical director?
GW: What I've learned over the past three years as the Timbers general manager and head coach is that it comes down to balance. Balancing the business aspects of the organization with the soccer-related side and finding a way to put the two together. Finding a balance between all of my responsibilities as the technical director — scouting, player evaluation, personnel, etc. — will be important while tackling the day-to-day tasks yet still looking after the long-term well-being of the club.
Seattle has gone through the expansion process, and Philadelphia is only weeks away from starting its first season in MLS. What have you learned from observing these two clubs tackle expansion and preparation for MLS?
GW: Watching both Seattle and Philadelphia go through the expansion process over the past two seasons we have seen different, yet both successful, ways of going about expansion into MLS. That said, I'm sure in many ways we'll be different from Vancouver as we approach 2011.
While there are different paths, what is important is that you do what is right for your club and best represents your city.
GW: I think we will benefit from being in a position where we can transition from a Division 2 club to MLS. We are committed to building an organization that our fans and the city of Portland can continue to be proud of.
Between now and the Timbers' first kick in 2011, there are a lot of things that need to be put in place — coaches, players, staff, etc. What part of helping to build a club interests/excites you the most?
GW: The complete package really. Searching for the right coach and the right mix of players then seeing how they all gel together. Ultimately, I'm excited to be able to have a hand in and be able to watch the Timbers reach their potential at the highest level like MLS and find successes in our first season in the league. I think that is something we are all striving for and is achievable.
What do you feel will be the biggest project leading up to the club's first season in MLS?
GW: From my perspective, it has to be fielding a competitive and entertaining squad that will live up to the expectations of the fans — one that will represent Portland well on a bigger stage.
The 2010 season will be your 10th overall season with the club. Sifting through the years, what are some of your favorite Timbers moments, either as a player or coach? Where does this fall in line?
GW: I have many favorable memories from over the years with the Timbers organization. Certainly being part of the healthy Northwest rivalry between Portland and Seattle that has developed over the modern eras of both clubs will always be memorable. From first signing with the Timbers and playing under Bobby Howe, to becoming the head coach and GM, seeing the potential for the club and then getting to be a part of reaching those goals has been enjoyable. But, being a part of MLS coming to Portland and serving as the technical director to help steer the Timbers towards MLS is a great honor.