March 29, 2006
CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine (AP by Erica Bulman)—The head coach of the U.S. men's national Alpine ski team is staying on another year to keep some continuity following the usual staff changes that come after an Olympics.
Phil McNichol, who became the men's head coach after the Salt Lake City games in 2002, told The Associated Press he considered leaving this spring, but agreed to stay on another year after two of the team's speed coaches quit.
"I'm working under the belief this is just one more year, McNichol said. "I still have things to accomplish and I want to make sure the program is in as good shape as it can be when someone else takes over.
"Key coaches are leaving, we've got some internal issues and we need to regroup for the next four years for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
John McBride, the men's head speed coach, retired from World Cup coaching earlier this month, after 10 years with the team.
The men also lost Pete Bosinger, an experienced speed coach who joined the U.S. coaching staff in 2002 after nine seasons with the Canadian downhill team.[pagebreak]"Phil has done a tremendous job and we're glad to have him back on board another season, U.S. alpine director Jesse Hunt said. "It's something we talked about a lot, his contribution to our success. From my side it's important to move forward, to keep the things that are working and improve those that aren't.
"Continuity within our staff makes it a lot easier to do that.
The team is recovering from scorching criticism for its Olympic performance in February.
In Salt Lake City in 2002, the U.S. earned two Alpine medals, a pair of silvers by Bode Miller.
At this winter's Olympics, the U.S. collected two medals again, this time both gold. Julia Mancuso won the giant slalom and Ted Ligety clinched the combined.
But the stated target was eight.
The team also came under intense scrutiny all season, mostly because of the unpopular statements of its star skier.
In October, Miller called for liberalized drug testing. Then he made headlines by saying in a TV interview: "If you ever tried to ski when you're wasted, it's not easy.
He apologized for those comments after U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt flew to the races in Wengen, Switzerland, for an emergency meeting with him.
"There is kind of a dark cloud following us around, like Pigpen in Peanuts, McNichol said with a sad smile.
Despite its Olympic letdown, the U.S. has prospered under McNichol's guidance.[pagebreak]The U.S. finished second behind the powerful Austrian Wunderteam in the men's Nations Cup standings this season.
At the end of 2002, before McNichol took over as their head coach, the U.S. men languished in sixth place in the world rankings, behind Austria, Switzerland, France, Norway and Italy.
This season, the U.S. men collected 20 World Cup podium finishes, second only to the Austrians, who had 39.
In 2002, before McNichol, the American men had just nine to Austria's 43.
McNichol is reluctant to continue much longer because the constant travel keeps him from his two young children.
"My son is going to be a teen before I know it, he said. "After the Vancouver Games, he'll be asking me for the keys to the car and I'll wonder who he is. I can't afford that.
Chris Brigham, an assistant speed coach who has been with the team the last 12 years, could replace McBride as the head of the speed team.
"Obviously, the less change that happens all at once on the team, personnel-wise, is probably better for the team, Miller said.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press