Utah Warriors New Head Coach Chris Latham Sets Sights High for Year Three
Tuesday, October 29 the Utah Warriors announced their new Head Coach. Parting ways with New Zealander Alf Daniels in June, Utah announced that former Australia fullback and wing Chris Latham would be joining the club as Head Coach for the 2020 season having recently finished roles with the Samoan national side and Japanese club side NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes.
Latham played for the Wallabies at three Rugby World Cups where he finished as a winner in 1999 and a runner-up in 2003. Latham also represented his country in rugby sevens, playing at the Sevens World Cup in 1997 and the Commonwealth Games in 2006.
Having coached in Japan for much of the last seven years, Latham has seen a fledgling professional league thrive, ultimately leading to the immense improvement of the national side. Given his experiences in Japan, Latham believes that Major League Rugby could perform the same role for the Eagles.
"I've coached in the Japanese system for about seven years now and I have seen that progress and grow. I can see MLR in the same predicament Japan was when it first started out, but knowing the American way, I can see it going absolutely ballistic very quickly." Latham said.
"The opportunity to be part of that, that opportunity to play my part in helping that along and developing it is a very exciting prospect and you've only got to look at the USA Sevens and how quickly they have become a force and, obviously, the continual rise of the USA 15s team as well."
Having largely served as an assistant coach so far in his post-playing career, this will be Latham's first time leading a professional outfit. He will be aided by former Warrior Ben Nicholls (Assistant Coach), USA Rugby forwards coach Shawn Pittman (Forwards Coach) and Eagles scrum-half Shaun Davies (Backs Coach) who won multiple Collegiate Rugby National Championships while at Brigham Young University.
"It was important to me that I gave that knowledge back into the local knowledge." Latham explained, "Shawn Pittman has been coaching with the men's national team at the World Cup and will come with fantastic experience, adding a lot of value.
"Shaun Davies has played a lot at a high level, knows the system and knows the competition, so his experience is going to be invaluable to us as an organization. From a coaching perspective, I've been the position that those guys are at.
"All you need is that one person to give you the opportunity and too many times you go to jobs and hear that you haven't got enough experience. Well, how do you gain experience? You gain experience by getting the opportunity. It is exciting to give these guys that. They're hungry, willing to learn, to put in the hours, so it is an exciting time."
Playing alongside the likes of George Gregan, Stephen Larkham, George Smith and Matt Giteau in his career, Latham was regarded for much of his career as one of the sports best. Nominated for World Rugby's Men's Player of the Year Award in 2006, the Brisbane resident says that he had to work extremely hard to get the recognition that he got and that he hopes his Utah team will do the same in order to succeed.
"I built my rugby career on hard work. I certainly wasn't naturally gifted with a lot of things and what I gained was all through a lot of hard work, a lot of persistence and I was lucky enough to have a lot of good coaches to rely on. These are all things that I'm really, really hoping to come across in the way I coach." Latham said, "Through the way I speak and in the way I present myself and I know that every successful player, every successful team, no matter who they are, know that success comes from hard work. Regardless of what business you are in, sport or not, the harder you work, the luckier you will get and I am a stern believer in that.
"So, we have to make sure that the guys know their workings. It's not just a matter of going out there and running as hard as you can up and down a pitch for the sake of it. They've got to understand why we're doing what we're doing, what we are trying to achieve and how we're going to do it. If I can get that understanding across, put that in with some really hard work, then that will go a long way to being a successful organization."
Convinced to take charge at the Zions Bank Stadium by CEO Kimball Kjar, Latham says that it was the culture of the team that persuaded him to move to the northern hemisphere. Currently still in Brisbane, Latham can simply not wait to meet up with his new players and colleagues in person.
"It's so difficult working in a 17-hour time difference, trying to get things organized and done. I want to hurry up and get over there, starting to create the relationship with the players and get on the footy field. That's ultimately what I love about this job, being on the training field and being able to have that excitement."
Having made it to the playoffs in 2018, falling to a Glendale Raptors side that had new backs coach Shaun Davies playing at scrumhalf. A year later the Warriors could not repeat the same feat, placing eighth overall, some way from playing knock out rugby.
Latham's objective for this season is not just to turn the Warrior's fate around, but to be one of MLR's top sides in 2020; "Success. Nothing less. Year one, you could say 'I just want to improve' or 'we've got a three-year plan'. For me, you aim as high as you possibly can and if we don't reach it, we've just got to analyze and see why we didn't get there. This season is looking for the ultimate success and that would be making sure that we finish as number one."
Latham's Utah side will start their campaign away to Atlanta at Life University before playing the New England Free Jacks in the MLR Vegas Weekend. Due to the adverse weather conditions in their state, the Warriors will have to wait until March 14 to play the first home game of the season at the Zions Bank Stadium. Buy Utah Warriors season tickets here.
Written by Joe Harvey
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