NASHVILLE – 2020 was just the beginning for Head Coach Gary Smith and Nashville SC.
Nashville’s first and only head coach at the Major League Soccer level led the club to the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in its inaugural season. That success helped Smith earn a contract extension with the club on Monday, keeping him in Music City through the 2023 season.
“I have to say that I think it’s a rarity in my experiences that you’re involved in and part of such a genuinely good organization,” Smith said. “We have a group here from top to bottom that have a very aligned, focused and straightforward belief in how we’re going to get things done and how we’re going to move forward. I’m not sure you see that too often, so I’m very pleased and very happy to continue my time in Nashville and be a part of the organization.”
CEO Ian Ayre says he values what Smith has brought to the club, and thinks he’s the perfect coach to see this expansion project through to its next phase.
“We had a fantastic first year and a fantastic foundation to build upon with all the great work everybody put into 2020,” Ayre said. “When you see that you have something good and that’s working, it’s important to protect that asset and make sure the majority of those people are around for the long term. We’ll keep building. None of us believed we would solve this puzzle in the first year or the second year. You just have to keep building and improving and making progress. We recognize and reward great talent. If you deliver on your part then we want you to be a part of this for the long term.”
Smith joined Nashville SC in 2017 to coach the club in the USL Championship, and was officially brought along for the move to MLS in 2019. It was his first head coaching role in MLS since his tenure with the Colorado Rapids that included an MLS Cup title in 2010. Smith went on to coach Stevenage FC of England’s League One and the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks before coming to Nashville.
Having been around the world in various coaching roles, Smith knows the value of stability in an often volatile sporting world.
“Going into a new season, it’s certainly very pleasing for myself and the family to know that we’re going to hopefully be here for the next few years,” Smith said. “I think we live and breathe in an environment where if you’re looking further than the next week and the next month in front of you, then I think you’re not quite got the right mindset. This is a pressurized situation. I think every coach knows that you’re normally only a couple of results away from being under a little bit of pressure. There’s been some wonderful continuity here. I think everybody has seen great success and development from that.”
While Smith’s accomplishments in year one helped earn him this extension, he also knows it’s now up to him to build on that foundation. And he thinks the pieces are in place to do just that.
“I do believe we have a very unique situation here where we have a group of people that have got different qualities, but have the very same vision and same thought process to try and move forward, develop and create the right culture and environment for one organization,” Smith said. “The personalities that we have fit extremely well. There’s a hell of a lot of experience around the group, and I'd like to think that everyone’s starting to see the very first shoots of how that organization and team will look as we move into the future.”