In recent years, the USL Championship has become an incubator for young coaches to reach their goals.
The previous two coaches to win Coach of the Year — Neil Collins of the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2021 and current Charleston Battery head coach Ben Pillman in 2022 — were both under the age of 40.
Entering the 2023 season, more than half of the league’s coaches fit that description. Nate Miller (36), Las Vegas Lights FC’s Isidro Sanchez (35) and FC Tulsa’s Blair Gavin (34).
Kano Smith, current Birmingham Legion FC assistant coach, is not.
The 41-year-old former Bermuda international was interviewed for a head coaching role at the USL Championship. He has not yet had the opportunity to take the next step in his coaching career.
That may be true, but Smith’s focus is on journeys rather than destinations.
“I think you have to approach it with the mindset that it’s a journey,” Smith said recently. “Obviously, we have to remember, as humans, that we don’t have to be focused on our destination all the time. It’s never smooth sailing. You have to remember who you are in and why you do it because I’m passionate about gaming.I’m passionate about helping people be better and being better myself is tilting.”
Indeed, Smith seems ready. In the 2022 graduating class alongside SD Loyal’s Miller he is one of his two championship coaches to have a US Soccer Pro License. He has seven years of experience as an assistant at both USL Championships.