Mike Stankovic, who has spent eight years as a defender/midfielder with the Blast, has signed a one-year contract as a player and assistant coach with the team.
"It obviously makes me happy," Stankovic said. "I feel like it's a reward to me for what I've done for the team all these years."
Stankovic, 34, said he agreed to the terms of his contract as a player "10 to 15 days ago," and was just asked yesterday by head coach Kenny Cooper if he would serve as assistant coach as well. Jim PollihanCooper's assistant for the last five years, left two weeks ago to become coach of the Harrisburg Heat of the National Professional Soccer League.
Stankovic said he didn't expect his new coaching duties to take away from his playing time. "I had a good year last year and Kenny said he sees me as a player first," said Stankovic, who had 23 goals and 30 assists in 49 games last season. A five-time Major Soccer League All-Star, he is among the team's all-time leaders in games, goals, assists, points and blocked shots.
"Obviously coaching will be totally different," Stankovic said. "We have a lot of young players, and I have a lot of experience I can get across to them . . . I think it will be easy for me [to work with Cooper] because I know how Kenny thinks and how he likes to work with the team. I'm familiar with the system and feel very comfortable here."
Cooper added, "With our development of your college players during the last four seasons, there is a need for someone with leadership and teaching qualities to step forward and help in the team's progression, which is where Mike falls into place."
Stankovic, a native of Kaludra, Yugoslavia, began his MSL career with the Blast in 1981, left in 1987 to spend 2 1/2 seasons with the Wichita Wings and then returned to the Blast in January 1990.