Press Recaps

Dean Smith Plans 'Evolution Not Revolution' in Trophy-Winning Aspirations for Charlotte FC


CHARLOTTE, NC — In a press conference filled with anticipation, Charlotte FC proudly introduced Dean Smith as the club's new head coach, alongside Sporting Director Zoran Krneta. The duo shared insights into their ambitions and the exciting new chapter ahead for Charlotte FC.

When asked about expectations for the upcoming season, Smith did not shy away from his ambitious goals.

"My job is to develop players. If I develop players, then the team develops. If the team develops, then we start winning soccer games and get into the upper echelons of the regular season. If I sat here and said I hadn't come to do anything but win MLS Cup, I shouldn’t have been hired.”

Sporting Director Zoran Krneta believes Smith’s ambitions align with the club’s own high expectations.

"We are super excited to have Dean in the house. It wasn't easy. It was a very collaborative, very long process, but it took some time. We're extremely happy to have a coach of his caliber to come to the next stage, to the next level where the Club be.”

"As Mr. Tepper said and Joe [LaBue] said,” Krneta continued. “We are not happy to be just a playoff team; we want to be a winning team. We want to host MLS Cup one day in the Carolinas, in Charlotte. I think Dean is the right person and right personality to take us forward.”

Smith has seen success at across all the top three divisions in the English soccer ladder, including leading Aston Villa to Premier League promotion not too long ago. He brings over 12 years of managerial experience, so it’s no surprise that he was an in-demand coach who could have stayed in Europe. So, what about the Charlotte FC job drew him to choose the Club and Major League Soccer as his next destination?

“I think the club is in its infancy, it's only two years old in terms of playing, but it's got real ambition that fits mine,” said Smith. “And that was the biggest thing for me that I wanted somewhere where I'm going to be challenged. I want to be pushed all the time, so this was a challenge that I really looked at that I thought was exciting for me.”

“MLS is a league that's growing,” he added. “And it can be taken lightly at your peril.”

Another major factor that played a key role in Smith’s decision to choose the Carolinas over other coaching opportunities was the electric CLTFC fandom. The Englishman recounted his first encounter with Charlotte FC during a match against Red Bulls, expressing his admiration for the community-driven spirit and the vibrant atmosphere.

"I got invited to a game against Red Bulls and really enjoyed the game. Charlotte were winners on the day, and it was a great atmosphere. You could tell it was a community-driven club with the supporters... and I think that warmth and that feel never left me.”

Smith concluded the conference by outlining his long-term approach.

"It's evolution, not revolution. I want to leave a legacy behind of consistency and success. That could be two years, 10 years, who knows, but I want to leave a legacy behind."

The elephant in the room was Dean Smith’s name, which he happens to share with the late, legendary UNC Basketball coach. It only took three questions to get there, but the Englishman was already in on the joke.

"Anybody who opens Google and puts Dean Smith will probably find the UNC coach. So yeah, I've done that myself many a time."

“I believe that if I'm half as successful as he has been during his career over in Charlotte, then I'll have done a good job.”

Among many other achievements, UNC’s Dean Smith won two national titles in his time at the helm. Half as successful, then, would theoretically be one MLS Cup for Charlotte FC – exactly the goal that CLTFC’s Dean Smith expressed as he interacted with the media for the first time in his new post.

Success is never determined by trophies alone, nor is it achieved through simple comparisons to other coaches in other sports. Smith clearly understands this, as he placed an emphasis throughout his answers on the development and learning environment he wants to put in place in the long term at Charlotte FC.

Still, fans would certainly take an MLS Cup, along with other trophies and achievements. Smith, Krneta, and company definitely would, too.

It just won’t come at the expense of the holistic, growth-focused, and collaborative culture that Smith has clearly prioritized over his first few days on the job.