Jim Pollihan's nine-year association with the Baltimore Blast ended yesterday when he resigned as the team's assistant coach to become the head coach of the Harrisburg Heat of the indoor National Professional Soccer League.
Pollihan played four seasons (1980-84) as a defender for the Blast under coach Kenny Cooper and returned two years later to begin a five-year stint as an assistant to Cooper.
The departure of Pollihan to the NPSL comes as a surprise because it had been thought that he would leave the Blast only to become a head coach in the Major Soccer League.
But Pollihan, who was introduced as the Heat's head coach yesterday at a news conference in Harrisburg, Pa., said: "There were no openings I was aware of in the MSL, and the timing was right after five years as an assistant to Kenny for me to gain some experience as a head coach. And the opportunity was in an area where my wife [Barbara] and I were familiar with."
Pollihan said he left the team "on good terms" and didn't want to "close the door on my future with the Blast. My decision had nothing to do with what has happened to the Blast [21-31 season and wholesale changes in team] or the league [the MSL nearly folded twice in past two weeks]."
Baltimore Blast assistant general manager Drew Forrester said yesterday that Pollihan wouldn't be replaced by a full-time assistant. Forrester indicated that most MSL teams would most likely go this season with a player doubling as an assistant coach to save money.
Cooper said: "This is a happy and sad day for me. Jim came with me to Baltimore from Houston and moved up the ladder from All-Star player to a top-quality assistant coach. He is the consummate company man, and I feel very privileged that during his time in Baltimore we shared five division titles and an MSL championship."
Pollihan said he discovered three weeks ago that the nine-team NPSL, considered by many to be a minor league compared with the MSL because of smaller arenas and a team salary cap of $132,000 compared with $525,000, was placing an expansion team in Harrisburg.
"I inquired who the owners were going to be, I asked for a meeting with them, and everything worked out perfectly," said Pollihan. "I'll be starting up a team in Harrisburg just like I helped do here in Baltimore."
In another development involving the Blast, there is talk of Bays-Blast II.
This confrontation between the area's two soccer teams would take place indoors. The outdoor Maryland Bays defeated the indoor Blast, 2-0, in an outdoor game April 28 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Now Bays marketing director Emilio Pozzi says his team is willing to give the Blast a rematch at the Baltimore Arena on the first or second weekend in October.
However, Forrester said yesterday that the Blast most likely wouldn't be able to fit the Bays game into its preseason schedule.
Forrester said: "We've discussed the possibility of playing the Bays in a friendly indoor game. But if we do, it would come after our season is over. There are only so many weekends to donate to exhibition games, and you want to match up with MSL teams you'll be meeting in the regular season."
NOTES: Forrester said 7 Bays players have been sent letters inviting them to the Blast's preseason training camp that will begin Sept. 16. Those players are D Chris Reif, F Jean Harbor, F Phillip Gyau, F Brian Haynes, MF Kevin Sloan, D George Gelnovatch and G Steve Powers.