Gary Gold, a 50-year-old South African native and current Director of Rugby at Worcester Warriors in the Aviva Premiership, will become the next head coach of the USA Eagles. Eventually.
Gold will complete the 2017-2018 season with Worcester before (supposedly) moving to Colorado and taking over the helm of the Eagles. While the Eagles have some international matches coming up in the near future, there is no indication who will coach the team while Gold finishes up in England.
Gold’s resume includes stops at Newcastle (2012, on an interim basis), Bath (2012-2013), Super Rugby’s Sharks (2015-2016) and Worcester. In terms of international experience, he served as a Springboks assistant from 2008-2011.
Gold’s biggest success may have been at his brief interim stop in Newcastle. There, he took over a Falcons outfit careening toward relegation, but under his direction Newcastle won eight of their final 12 matches and stayed in the Premiership.
Outside of his brief Newcastle stint, his record is arguably spotty. His Bath tenure ended when the owner asked him to leave after a season and a half. His Sharks term ended with Gold resigning to “spend more time with family,” but given the team saw its fortunes diminish significantly in two seasons with Gold at the helm, he may have had external encouragement to spend more time at home.
At Worcester, the good news is that Gold helped the Warriors avoid relegation after last season, which was a triumph of sorts. However, this season Worcester is winless after five games, has managed just one point, and their owner has put the team up for sale because money is tight. That’s not a great situation, though certainly you can’t blame Gold for all of the negative.
In fact, while Gold’s resume doesn’t exactly sound like Bill Bellichik’s, I would assert his selection by USA Rugby is perfectly reasonable. For starters, the release from USA Rugby announcing Gold’s hire suggested that he would be moving to Colorado full-time, something John Mitchell never did (hell, Mitchell was barely a tourist in the US). The Eagles and the American rugby community at large certainly need a present, full-time, year-round leader, and it sounds like we may get one.
Additionally, while Gold’s record is far from perfect, he’s arguably over-qualified to coach the Eagles at this point insofar as he is a current Director of Rugby in the Premiership. He’s admittedly the Director of Rugby of the worst team in that competition, but nevertheless for USA Rugby to manage to convince a reigning Premiership Director to lead American rugby is still a coup.
Painful as it is to admit, the US is currently a mid-Tier 2 rugby nation, ranked 17th in the most recent world rankings (just ahead of Uruguay, and just behind Samoa). With all due respect to Uruguay and Samoa (and even Romania, ranked 15th), I don’t see any current English Premiership coach or director being interested in those jobs were they to open. Someone like Gold is interested in the US because of the size of the sporting market here, and the perceived opportunity to grow the game in America (both through international improvement and the hopeful imminent introduction of a serious professional competition feeding the Eagles). He’s taking a shot on us, and so it’s incumbent, at least at the outset, for those of us rugby fans in America to give him an honest chance.
Hopefully in addition to moving here, Gold immediately shows an enthusiasm for building a sustained program in America over the long term. John Mitchell never fully bought into leading American rugby, if we can get a real steward of our ship, then we’re off to a decent start. We’ll see where it goes from there.