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Looking back at the San Jose Clash’s second coach, Brian Quinn

The young manager had a rough run at the helm.

Brian Quinn

Brian Quinn became the second head coach of the San Jose Clash, when he replaced Laurie Calloway after the Englishman’s firing in June 1997.

Quinn was born in Northern Ireland and began his career in England in Everton’s system, but a lack of opportunities led to him moving to the United States in 1981, when he joined the Los Angeles Aztecs in the original NASL.

The midfielder plied his trade around North America, became a U.S. citizen and became part of the squad of the early-1990s U.S. Men’s National Team, earning 48 caps between 1991-94.

Settling in San Diego, Quinn became a coach, leading indoor powerhouse San Diego Sockers after his playing days ended, before getting the nod by San Jose in the summer of 1997.

Over time, it’s become predictably common, but Quinn’s first half-season with the Clash was rocky, as they were doomed to miss the playoffs in 1997. Under Quinn, they went 7W-10L, including a four-game losing streak.

But 1998 was a new season, and just like every manager wants, a preseason was offered to him to mold the squad and implement his ideas. But it was another difficult campaign, as they missed the playoffs again, by four points, with Troy Dayak temporarily retired due to a severe back injury, Eric Wynalda at the disastrous 1998 World Cup with the USMNT and missing extensive time, and the LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire both having incredible seasons that year, effectively lapping the competition.

So there was another season for Quinn, a chance to put a de facto three-year plan together, in 1999. Unfortunately, it was more of the same, as despite the roster being turned over considerably, they missed the playoffs for a third consecutive year, this time finishing a whopping 11 points behind the final playoff qualifier in the West.

In the dying weeks of the 1999 season, the club and Quinn agreed to part ways. And that was that for Quinn’s MLS coaching career, with a 35-41 record across roughly two and a half seasons with San Jose. Lothar Osiander, a German-born manager who called San Francisco home, became the next head coach at the club.

Since then, Quinn returned to his adopted hometown of San Diego and returned to coaching, eventually taking over the San Diego Sockers once more, and beginning in 2008 joining the coaching staff at the University of San Diego. In 2018, he became the head coach at the college.

Quinn’s son Aodhan is a pro player now, the midfielder a USL regular who has spent the past few seasons at Orange County SC.

Like many men of his era and before, Brian Quinn was a player who probably doesn’t get his due because he just missed the 1994 World Cup squad and didn’t become an instant star like Wynalda, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones, Tony Meola and the like. And since he didn’t play in MLS, his club career is largely obscured.

But as an MLS head coach, Quinn had a tough road, and three undistinguished seasons mean his MLS legacy is barely known these days, less than 25 years later. Some of it probably comes from a new league just finding its footing, and some of it probably comes from Quinn being a young coach at the time and not being experienced enough for the occasion. Still, the soon-to-be Earthquakes went on to success and Quinn found a pretty solid coaching career for himself where he’s still toiling away, all these years later.

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