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  • Rampage hides nothing in search for new coach

    July 16, 2004

    The Grand Rapids Rampage has come up with a rather unusual hiring procedure for its next head coach.

    Pro sports teams usually try to keep their coaching candidates a secret, mainly out of respect to those who ultimately don't get the job.

    But the Rampage, which plays in the Arena Football League, sent out a press release Thursday revealing its five finalists: Rick Frazier, Rampage interim head coach; Sparky McEwen, former Rampage offensive coordinator and current Oklahoma (Arena Football 2) offensive coordinator; Tom Luginbill, Detroit Fury head coach; Kevin Porter, New Orleans VooDoo defensive coordinator; and Steve Thonn, Dallas Desperados offensive coordinator.

    Not only did the Rampage announce its finalists, but the team invited the media to spend time with each of them when they are flown in for interviews next week.

    Another bizarre twist is the news that Luginbill would interview for the job. His contract with the Fury doesn't expire until August, but he has been given permission to pursue other opportunities.

    Fury officials haven't addressed the future of the franchise since the season ended. Palace Sports & Entertainment president Tom Wilson hasn't responded to repeated interview requests about the Fury in recent weeks. Wilson originally told the Free Press that he would reach a decision on the Fury's fate after the season. It has been months with no official word. People familiar with the situation say the outlook is bleak.

    The Fury did not sign any of its players in June, when arena teams are allowed to re-sign their players before the free-agent period begins in August. So all the Fury players are free to sign with other teams.

    Reached in Alabama, Luginbill said he had no comment on Detroit's situation. But he said he's glad to be able to look for other work and said he thought Grand Rapids could be a good fit. "They have the intangibles it takes to have a championship atmosphere there," Luginbill said.

    Frazier didn't show much when he took over for the Rampage, guiding the injury-plagued team to an 0-5 record after replacing Bob Cortese, who resigned after a 1-10 start.

    Thonn and McEwen were finalists for the job before, losing out to Cortese.

    Porter played five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and was a head coach in AF2 with Macon (Ga.) and Pensacola (Fla.) before helping the VooDoo to an expansion-record 11-5 regular season.

    By George Sipple

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    Owner says 'sloppy' play led to Haege's dismissal
    by DJRamFan
    Fear of losing players contributed to decision
    By Adam Candee
    <[email protected]>

    An emotionally detached assessment showed Jim Ferraro that he wanted to fire Frank Haege as the Gladiators' head coach. The perceived danger of losing current and prospective players because of Haege, combined with the owner's distaste for the team's "sloppy" play during the past two seasons, made it easy for Ferraro.

    But the owner's personal respect for Haege made it hard to pull the trigger.

    "You look at it all and the decision was not really hard at the end of the day," Ferraro said Friday, speaking publicly for the first time since Haege was fired on July 28. "It was just hard for me to do it."

    Along with a long evaluation process that Ferraro said could not have happened while the team focused on winning games during the season, that respect led to the two-month wait after the season's end to fire Haege.

    Ferraro is in town to conduct interviews with the three finalists to replace Haege: Gladiators assistant head coach Ron James; New Orleans defensive coordinator Kevin Porter; and Indiana interim head coach Mike Wilpolt. Interviews begin tonight and continue Tuesday, with Ferraro and general manager Dan Dolby hoping to select someone by Friday. Ferraro recently returned from a long trip out of the country, which slowed the process of hiring a new coach.

    After three middling seasons that produced a 25-21 record and a division title, but no playoff wins, Ferraro entered the offseason intent on evaluating Haege's situation after signing the coach to a three-year contract extension during the 2003 season.

    The most distressing conversations Ferraro had, he said, were with people both inside the organization and around the league indicated that some free agents might avoid Las Vegas and that some current Gladiators might try to get away from the team if Haege remained the head coach.

    He became more disturbed by the lack of support he found for Haege from both players and management.

    "I didn't have anyone who objected to it," Ferraro said of firing Haege.

    No players have spoken out against Haege. Talking the day after Haege's firing, Gladiators quarterback Clint Dolezel -- the team's centerpiece acquisition last offseason -- expressed no reservations about the coach.

    Dolezel did not mourn for long, though, phoning Dolby to vouch for Sparky McEwen as Haege's replacement. McEwen, who worked with Dolezel in Grand Rapids as the offensive coordinator, came off the Gladiators' finalist list Friday when he accepted the head job with the Rampage.

    Ferraro was disappointed in both the Gladiators' preparation and performance leading to an 8-8 record in 2004 after he spent up to the $1.7 million salary cap to upgrade...
    -08-17-2004, 10:12 AM
  • DJRamFan
    McEwen has shot at job in Vegas
    by DJRamFan
    Saturday, July 31, 2004
    By Gary Bond
    The Grand Rapids Press
    Sparky McEwen is doing the best he can to stay focused.

    His Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz have an arenafootball2 playoff game today and a week has passed without a decision in the hunt for a new coach for the Grand Rapids Rampage.

    Grand Rapids native McEwen has been a candidate for the Arena Football League coaching job for a second consecutive year. And like Danny White, who has received many phone calls about possible coaching jobs since being fired by the AFL Arizona Rattlers last week, including one from the Rampage, McEwen's phone has been ringing too.

    From Our Advertiser

    McEwen, the Rampage offensive coordinator from 2001 through 2003, was contacted by the AFL's Las Vegas Gladiators on Friday. He is on their list of possible replacements for Frank Haege, who was fired Thursday.

    "I have talked to Sparky McEwen and he's on our list of possible head-coaching candidates," said Dan Dolby, the Gladiators' general manager. "We will condense our list of names down in the next few weeks and begin face-to-face interviews the week of August 16.

    "McEwen has just as good of a chance as the rest of the candidates."

    Dolby made a call to McEwen, but it was former Rampage quarterback Clint Dolezel, who teamed up with McEwen to guide the Rampage to the ArenaBowl XV Championship in 2001, who called Dolby to give his support for McEwen.

    Dolezel was traded to Las Vegas last offseason after playing in Grand Rapids from 2001-2003.

    "Once I found out the organization had fired Heage I made a call to say McEwen should be a candidate for the job here," Dolezel said. "And I think there is a good possibility he will come in for an interview."

    White, who is considering the Rampage coaching position, asked for and was given more time by the Grand Rapids organization to sift through all his coaching options over the next few days.

    Rampage general manager

    see RAMPAGE, C6

    Scott Gorsline, who wasn't aware McEwen was a candidate for the Las Vegas job, doesn't expect to speak with White again until Monday.

    That leaves things in a holding pattern here for McEwen and the other four candidates, who have completed their interviews with the Rampage.

    "The job hunt will take care of itself in due time and it's something I can't concern myself with because I have no control," said McEwen, who was in Grand Rapids for a few days recently because the Yard Dawgz had a bye week.

    The expansion Oklahoma City franchise (10-6) will host a first-round playoff game today.

    "I have a huge, huge date on Saturday and that's where I've tried to put all my focus...
    -08-02-2004, 03:00 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Gladiators considering coaches
    by DJRamFan
    Eight candidates, including White, being looked at to replace Haege


    In addition to Danny White, the Gladiators' coaching search includes two current Arena Football League head coaches whose contracts for next season are in doubt, two team sources said Tuesday.

    The Gladiators are considering Carolina Cobras interim coach Ron Selesky and Indiana Firebirds coach Mike Wilpolt to replace Frank Haege, who was fired last week. The Cobras have yet to remove Selesky's interim tag, and Wilpolt has not been signed for next season.

    They are among eight candidates, according to the sources, who provided the information on condition of anonymity. The others are: Gladiators assistants Stan Davis and Ron James; Sparky McEwen, offensive coordinator for Oklahoma City of af2; Kevin Porter, New Orleans VooDoo defensive coordinator; and Gary Reasons, Oklahoma City head coach.

    Gladiators spokesman Adam Grant declined comment about specific candidates, but said, "We obviously have narrowed the list down to individuals we feel give us a chance to compete for the ArenaBowl in 2005."

    Probably the coach most in demand is White, fired last month by the Arizona Rattlers after two AFL championships and five ArenaBowl appearances in 13 seasons. The Grand Rapids Rampage even altered its coaching search for White, keeping open the job after interviewing five candidates.

    Grant said coaches' talks with other teams will not affect the Gladiators' process.

    "The message we've given out to everyone is we don't want to hold them up from making any decision they feel is best for them and their family," Grant said. "With our owner (Jim Ferraro) out of (the country), we are physically unable to make any decisions this week."

    Ferraro is expected back Aug. 12 and will be in Las Vegas for the AFL's board of directors meeting Aug. 17. Grant said the Gladiators would like to decide on the finalists Aug. 16 or 17 and conduct in-person interviews that week.

    McEwen, also a candidate for the Grand Rapids job, said Tuesday he is particularly interested in the Gladiators position.

    Before moving to the af2 this season, McEwen was the Rampage's offensive coordinator for three years, coaching current Gladiators quarterback Clint Dolezel.

    "That roster is ready to win right now," McEwen said. "When I say win, I mean compete for the ArenaBowl title. That's saying a lot because of that division with Arizona, San Jose and Los Angeles."
    -08-04-2004, 01:42 PM
  • DJRamFan
    League bosses come to Vegas; is the ArenaBowl far behind?
    by DJRamFan
    Adam Candee

    Both locally and nationally, Las Vegas will be the center of the action in the Arena Football League today.

    While the Gladiators conduct their third and final interview for a new head coach, the AFL is holding its board of directors meeting today at the MGM Grand.

    Among the topics being discussed at the AFL meeting is the possibility of creating a neutral-site ArenaBowl for the first time in the league's 19-year history. If the owners decide to do that, Las Vegas is at the top of the list of candidates to host what league officials envision as a weeklong event leading up to the championship game.

    Adding expansion franchises and adjusting the playoff format are other major topics to be covered at the meeting. The league is looking at adding franchises in Utah, Cleveland, Boston, Miami and other cities, although no more than a couple are expected for 2005. The future of struggling franchises in Detroit, Indiana and Carolina could also be up for review.

    Gladiators owner Jim Ferraro and general manager Dan Dolby interviewed Ron James, the Gladiators' assistant head coach, and Mike Wilpolt, the Indiana interim head coach, Monday night. New Orleans defensive coordinator Kevin Porter was to interview with Ferraro and Dolby this morning. The team hopes to make its final decision within a couple of days.

    Las Vegas fired head coach Frank Haege on July 28 after three seasons with the team.
    -08-17-2004, 10:08 AM
  • DJRamFan
    White pulls out of running for Rampage job
    by DJRamFan
    Wednesday, August 11, 2004
    By Gary Bond
    The Grand Rapids Press
    Danny White, whose interest in the Grand Rapids Rampage head coaching vacancy made him the No. 1 candidate, said no Tuesday.

    White threw his name into the hat after he was fired three weeks ago by the Arizona Rattlers. He had a deadline of Tuesday to inform the Rampage of his intentions.

    White told Rampage general manager Scott Gorsline thanks, but no thanks. The reason was mostly geographical.

    "It was a tough decision turning down the coaching opportunity in Grand Rapids because I was impressed with everything about the city and organization," White said.

    "I was presented with an unique coaching opportunity, one I can't elaborate on right now and I expect this opportunity will be announced no later than the Arena Football League's board of directors meeting next week in Las Vegas.

    "When everything happened with Arizona, Grand Rapids was the first team to call and make me an offer. They have been first class with everything they did and someone is going to get a great organization to work and coach for."

    White, who was born and raised in Phoenix, said he also has declined coaching positions in Las Vegas and New York.

    "White was very impressed with everything about the Grand Rapids organization and was happy with a lot of the parameters, including his contract we had talked about," Gorsline said. "In the end, though, he said he was pursuing another opportunity that was a great opportunity for him to be closer to home.

    "We knew geography would be a big issue with White especially with his family based in the southwest part of the country.

    "After speaking with Rampage owner Dan DeVos and minority owner David Green, I anticipate moving quickly in filling the job here. I don't know if we will name a coach this week, but I expect it will happen soon."

    Sources told The Press the AFL plans to announce next week that St. Lake City, Utah, will have an arena football franchise for the 2005 season and White will be the team's head coach.

    Without White, and Steve Thonn, who accepted the offensive coordinator's position with the Georgia Force, the Rampage are left with four candidates: Sparky McEwen, offensive coordinator for the arenafootball2 Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz; Kevin Porter, defensive coordinator with the New Orleans VooDoo; Rick Frazier, who finished the season as the Rampage interim head coach after Bob Cortese was fired after a team started 1-10, and Tom Luginbill, the head coach of the Detroit Fury.

    McEwen, who also was the Rampage's offensive coordinator from 2001-2003, and Porter, are candidates for the Las Vegas position. They plan to begin it face-to-face interviews no later than next week.

    2004 Grand...
    -08-11-2004, 11:03 AM