He paces along the sidelines, arms crossed. Sometimes, he sits, hand on chin. Nevertheless, his expression remains stern, almost intimidating to the participants and referees alike. He closely observes the contest in its entirety, never once shifting his attention away from the action before his eyes.
Such mannerisms may be aptly ascribed to Mike Krzyzewski, the current head coach of the Duke University men’s basketball team and the United States men’s national basketball team. However, they may be similarly ascribed to Jay Heaps, the current manager of the New England Revolution and a former member of the Duke men’s soccer and men’s basketball teams.
Although Heaps realized a successful career as a member of the Duke men’s soccer team, the Miami Fusion and the Revolution, his unexpected foray into men’s basketball and his experience being coached by Krzyzewski proved more formative for his recent success as the manager of a Major League Soccer team. “I really like Jay,” Krzyzewski said in a recent interview with MLS Insiders. “There’s a little bit of me in him that I see. I knew he would be a natural coach.”
As a member of the Duke men’s soccer team, Heaps was recognized as an All-American twice and as a member of the All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team for each of his four seasons between 1995 and 1998. During his first season, he guided the team to the championship round of the NCAA Tournament College Cup, although it eventually lost to Wisconsin 2-0. After the conclusion of his fourth season, Heaps was recognized as the Missouri Athletic Club Player of the Year, an annual honor bestowed upon the finest men’s and women’s collegiate footballers nationwide.
Between 1999 and 2009, Heaps made 314 cumulative appearances with the Fusion and the Revolution, four of which were within MLS Cup Finals in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. He was recognized as the Rookie of the Year and Defender of the Year during his respective tenures with both teams and, in 2009, made four appearances for the United States men’s national soccer team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Although he was nationally renowned for his performance upon the pitch, Heaps also conveyed his athleticism, intelligence and passion within other avenues and, in particular, upon the surface of the basketball court. After the conclusion of his first season as a member of the Duke men’s soccer team, Heaps offered to assist the women’s basketball team during one of its practices, vocally relaying the instructions of head coach Gail Goestenkors and serving as a guard within offensive sets she had arranged for the team to run. Krzyzewski and Quin Snyder, then an assistant coach of the Duke men’s basketball team and the current head coach of the Utah Jazz, subsequently noticed Heaps and offered him a position on the men’s basketball team in order to assist them in their development of Steve Wojciechowski, then a point guard and the current head coach of the Marquette University men’s basketball team. “I joined the team because they were in need of another dribbler to help work Steve Wojciechowski into the starting rotation,” Heaps recollected. “Jay had the ultimate respect of everybody on our team because we understood that he was the best player in his sport,” said Wojciechowski. “He didn’t have the key role in basketball that he did in soccer, but he enhanced our team everyday he was with us because he pushed us.”
Having accumulated a mere total of 69 minutes of playing time during his four seasons as a member of the men’s basketball team, Heaps often closely observed Krzyzewski, a master at his craft, analyzing and manipulating the contest upon the court. Krzyzewski, Heaps learned, had perfected the art of coaching. Just as he had remained emotionally invested and focused—constantly contesting decisions made by the referees, discussing offensive and defensive adjustments with his assistant coaches, substituting one member of the team for another and directing the team to execute a variety of offensive and defensive sets—Krzyzewski expected the same of those he coached. Heaps also closely observed Krzyzewski behind the scenes, in film sessions, warmups and practices.
Heaps continues to visit Duke annually during the MLS offseason in order to further observe Krzyzewski upon the court and behind the scenes, at times seeking his advice on the management of the Revolution. “Coach K is the main reason that I wanted to be a coach,” Heaps said. “As a player, I’ve been able to take from his approach to the game and take it onto the soccer field.” On December 12, 2004, for instance, Heaps observed Krzyzewski achieve his 700th career victory as a head coach in an 82-54 defeat of the University of Toledo men’s basketball team.
“We’re sitting in front of the TV at midnight,” Heaps recalled, describing the evening following the conclusion of the contest. “They brought in a cake. The 700-win cake is on the table. His wife comes in. I’m thinking, ‘He’s doing the media. His wife’s here. They’re going to go home and celebrate.’ Instead, Coach K comes back in and turns the TV on and starts watching the tape,” Heaps continued. “And Coach K says, ‘All right. We’re going to finish this session,’ and we’re there until 4 a.m. He wasn’t happy with the way the team was playing and he wanted to see why.”
That Krzyzewski eschewed the celebration of yet another historic accomplishment in order to conduct a standard postgame film session with his team revealed to Heaps the importance of coaching behind the scenes. For me,” Heaps said, “Coach K’s genius is he thinks about it all the time and is constantly visualizing how to make his team better, and I’m telling you, it pays dividends and you can see why.”
Indeed, Heaps, who has served as the manager of the Revolution since 2011, has realized a successful career as the manager of an MLS team. During the season before Heaps assumed his role, the Revolution amassed a 5-16-13 record, tying that amassed by the Vancouver Whitecaps as the worst within the league. However, during his first season as the manager of the team, Heaps guided the Revolution to a 9-17-8 record. In 2013, the Revolution amassed a 14-11-9 record and qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009. In 2014, the Revolution amassed a 17-13-4 record—its best since 2005—and competed in the MLS Cup Finals for the first time since 2007. Consequently, Revolution executives extended Heaps’ contract following the conclusion of the 2014 season, unmistakably confident that he will continue to realize success as the manager of the team.
Although the midfield depth of the Revolution has waned recently, with the loss of midfielders Jermaine Jones and Xavier Kouassi to transfer and injury, respectively, the team has primed itself for yet another successful season. With Heaps pacing along the sidelines, arms crossed, or sitting, hand on chin, success seems to be all but guaranteed.