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Christy Holly on his Racing Louisville FC hiring

The first Racing Louisville FC head coach discusses the hiring process.

Racing Louisville FC announced on Wednesday that they have hired Christy Holly as their new head coach. With that hiring comes the highs and lows of Holly’s resume - a so-so record with Sky Blue, a sudden mid-season departure, a lower-key period working for US Soccer and a neuropsychology and behavioral health center in New Jersey. But it seems he addressed these things to Louisville’s satisfaction during the interview process, which Holly said in a phone call started as far back as February when he first spoke to the team’s executive vice president, James O’Connor. Fast forward to about three days ago, when Holly said things were truly done and dusted and he was able to tell his family in Ireland.

A spokesperson for the club said that there were initially 50 head coach candidates on their list, with “men and women from many different international backgrounds.” The 50 were eventually whittled down to a shortlist of five, two of which were women. One of the women withdrew from consideration in order to take another job. According to the spokesperson, through O’Connor, the club has “many connections in both the men and women’s game,” giving them the foundation for their job search network. Louisville wasn’t able to provide data about the percentage of female or POC candidates on the list before time of publication, although the spokesperson did say, “Through the team building process, equality has been a word tossed around quite a bit here. We have the established USL Championship club, Louisville City FC, and want Racing Louisville FC to be treated on equal footing in every way. You can be assured that mindset translated to a diverse coaching search.”

There was certainly some disappointment that yet another NWSL club has hired a man, now making it nine out of 10 teams that have a male head coach.

When I quoted “the NWSL keeps recycling average coaches” to Holly and asked if he had any response, he laughed. “Listen, as someone said to me last night, you can only be insulted if you value someone’s opinion. There’s people who, opinions that you certainly want to sit down and listen to and talk to but it doesn’t matter what people say because you can’t get caught up in it,” he said. “The reality is I certainly know that the easy thing would be to fire back, but that’s just not in my nature. I’d rather be nice and quiet and just get on with business. The best way to do that is be successful. And even when you’re successful, people throw stones at thing that shine, so that’s all right. You can’t please everybody.”

Holly has certainly dealt with his fair share of opinions; after he departed Sky Blue FC, followed several days later by Christie Pearce being placed on the injury list for the rest of the season, The Equalizer reported that both of them had lost the locker room. At the time, Holly said, “I have nothing but the highest regard for every single player.” Though we didn’t get to it in the interview, Louisville should be aware of this part of his resume too, if the vetting was as thorough as Holly described. “They definitely dug deep and I encouraged them to quite frankly,” he said, when asked if the club had asked him to discuss his Sky Blue win-loss record in their interviews. “It’s something I said to James on a number of occasions; I want you to know every point, you go as deep as you possibly can.”

That record, 14-17-7 overall from 2016-17, isn’t necessarily the worst one he could have put up, given that Sky Blue didn’t have the strongest roster at the time, Sam Kerr notwithstanding. And the club certainly had its share of internal dysfunction, lest anyone forget how things came to a head in 2018 over subpar player conditions. Holly himself said that he was having to wear too many hats at the club. “ I was going between negotiating trade days to negotiating corporate sponsorships to putting signs up at the stadium before a game and then trying to pick a team and coach the team,” he said. It was what spurred what he considers his largest area of growth as a coach as he learned to be more patient and not try to have too much, too soon.

It probably also helped that growth to be part of the USWNT coaching setup, as Holly talked about spending time with them during the 2019 Women’s World Cup and the 2020 SheBelieves tournament as an opposition analyst. He said he had actually still been working with USSF until weeks ago, although the landscape obviously has changed significantly from the originally-scheduled full calendar for the senior team, the U23s, and the U17s. “For me being able to work around someone such as Vlatko [Andonovski], I’m proud of that,” he said. “You’ve got Jill [Ellis], you had Tony [Gustavsson], you had Graeme [Abel].” Now, with no NT games for the forseeable future and the NCAA fall season essentially kaput leading into whatever the 2021 college draft looks like, Holly will need every scrap of that experience as he and the Louisville staff try to adapt. He mentioned they’ve already started gathering statistical information for player profiles, but they are very much in uncharted waters.

Holly drove to Louisville the day before the announcement, an 8-and-a-half hour journey from New Jersey that he’s done before while he was interviewing. He spoke with Racing fan groups the Lavender Legion and Lou City Ladies, did an early afternoon conference with local media, and hopped on the phone for calls to out-of-market journalists. And he’s expecting to do more of that drive over the next several weeks, before he makes the permanent move in-market. Of course, there’s more to that move than just driving down one last time, as Holly is engaged to Pearce, who has two children from her previous relationship. He said that Pearce’s daughters, Rylie and Reece, have been “one hundred percent part of the conversation,” and that it helps that Pearce is a seasoned pro at the logistics of having part of her family be on the road for long stretches at a time. He didn’t say if they’ve decided yet on if Pearce and the girls will be joining him in Louisville for the 2021 NWSL season, but he did acknowledge that it’s a rough time to be a parent, and there are a lot of considerations at play right now.

When asked what he would say to fans who have looked at his record and might be on the fence about getting on board, he said, “Whatever the results are on the field, you’re going to have a team that is gonna be where all the players want to be here, that want to represent the city and want to wear the colors of Louisville. And not only that, we’re a very progressive, forward-thinking organization that wants to provide fans with something they can attach themselves to. That’s important.”

Louisville seems to have bought in on their women’s team so far, and perhaps having a consistently good level of club support, a few years learning in the USWNT environment, and a fresh start with his roster will bring results for Holly and the club. At the very least, we can hope to see the latest NWSL expansion team get a full 2021 season that allows them to build a solid, lasting fanbase.