Last week, the Orlando Pride took the interim tag off Seb Hines, making him the fourth full-time head coach in team history. The Pride are in the middle of a full rebuild, but results on the field aren’t the most important thing when it comes to this appointment.
The Pride have been one of the most unstable teams in the NWSL over the past two seasons. It started July 23, 2021, when then-head coach Marc Skinner resigned to coach Manchester United’s women’s team in England. Needing someone to finish off the season, the club brought in former University of Florida coach Becky Burleigh on an interim basis. However, Burleigh had just retired and made it clear she wasn’t interested in the job beyond the 2021 season.
On Dec. 7, 2021, the Pride announced Amanda Cromwell as the third head coach in team history. Cromwell previously coached in Orlando at UCF and led UCLA to a national championship in 2013. After years of coaching at the collegiate level, she was making her first jump into a professional league.
Cromwell and then-assistant coach Sam Greene were placed on administrative leave on June 7 while the league investigated claims that the coaches violated the league’s policy to prevent and eliminate workplace discrimination, harassment, and bullying. Additionally, former Pride GM Ian Fleming said assistant coaches Michelle Akers and Aline Villares Reis took personal time off. As a result, the club named Hines, the staff’s only coach remaining, as interim head coach.
Hines was the only coach on the staff not appointed by Cromwell. The former Orlando City central defender was originally part of Skinner’s staff and stayed on during the pair of coaching changes after Skinner resigned. Hines brought in former Orlando City players Giles Barnes and Miguel Gallardo to help coach the team through the 2022 NWSL season.
The Hines era started with a 1-0 loss at Chicago, followed by the Pride getting thumped by the eventual NWSL champion Portland Thorns on the road, but the team then went on a seven-game unbeaten run. However, the results for the new head coach weren’t any better than his predecessor. While Cromwell went 2-3-2 for eight points in seven games, Hines went 3-7-5 for 14 points in 15 games. Cromwell’s points per game average of 1.14 was slightly higher than Hines’ 0.93.
Following a lengthy investigation — in which no information was given by the league, the players association, or the club — Cromwell was terminated on Oct. 10. Additionally, the report said that Greene took part in improper conduct and Reis failed to fully cooperate with the investigation. Cromwell, Greene, Reis, and Akers complained of various forms of misconduct, but those claims were found to be unsubstantiated by a third-party investigation.
Since July 2021, the Pride have had four coaches at the helm, two of which were interim, a full interim staff, and four coaches investigated by the league. Making matters more chaotic, the club announced a restructuring of the team, which included the dismissal of Fleming as general manager following the 2022 NWSL season.
To say the Pride have been a disaster off the field in the past year and a half would be an understatement. The fact that the team made a run at the postseason under Hines was nothing short of a miracle. With everything going on around the team, it’s incredible that the team and coaching staff had a seven-game unbeaten run, even if it was followed by a six-game winless skid.
Following Cromwell’s termination by the league, the Pride began a coaching search for her replacement. They could’ve gone with an experienced coach, but this is no longer an ordinary job. The club needed someone who the players would like, respect, and who could bring some stability to the organization. That seems to be Hines.
“Seb’s been here as long as I’ve been here,” starting goalkeeper Erin McLeod said about Hines near the end of the season. “And he’s been here forever. I think he’s done a really great job. I’ve enjoyed playing for Seb.
“He’s a soccer fanatic. He’s always thinking about soccer. He’s always watching soccer. I think it’s what I value and see in him is since he’s taken this role, he’s given it everything that he can. He’s always been one of the first people in the building, but he continued to do that, one of the last people out. He’s so professional and he’s so passionate about the game.”
Since the interim staff took over midway through the season, players have shared similar sentiments about Barnes and Gallardo. Coming out of the situation the club has dealt with over the past seven months, and the various scandals NWSL clubs have had over the past couple of years, the Pride need a coach who will be here for more than half a season and who inspires the players the way Hines seems to inspire the current squad.
In all likelihood, the Pride won’t compete for a title in 2023. The team doesn’t have a general manager and is still quite young. Hines has only been a head coach for 15 games, so it’s unknown how good he’ll be. But we know he wants to be with the club and has the players’ respect. If he can put some results together, he can provide the stability the team desperately needs.