Sporting Kansas City emphasized once more Tuesday that its on-the-field future remains the vision of Peter Vermes.
In a press conference Tuesday morning, Sporting KC announced an extension with Vermes, who serves as both the head coach and technical director. The new contract will run through the 2019 season.
Mike Illig represented the Sporting Club ownership group at the news conference, and Vermes referenced Illig’s role in the negotiation of his new deal. Illig is the son of Cliff Illig, who is a principal owner of Sporting KC along with fellow Cerner co-founder Neal Patterson.
The Star caught up with Illig for a brief interview. Below is the transcript from that conversation.
Question: What is your role and involvement in processes like this?
Mike Illig: “I’ve been involved in the ownership since 2006 in various capacities. In probably 2013, I started spending a lot of time with Peter on the technical side. When it comes to negotiations, it really wasn’t much of a negotiation. It was a conversation with Peter. It was the preference of Cliff (Illig) and Neal (Patterson) for me to run point on those discussions because we’re the majority shareholders of the team, and we feel like we should be represented in those conversations.”
Question: When did you first approach Vermes about an extension?
Illig: “Early on in the season, I’d say May, in informal conversations. Peter and I have a lot of these informal conversations. We talk and play creative pingpong when it comes to the technical side and what we think we need to be doing. We’re constantly playing devil’s advocate to one another. So in the flow of those conversations, I mentioned, hey, sometime this season, I’d like to catch up with you on an extension on your deal. No pressure. Love to do it. So it was just a few small conversions from then on. And then we basically decided that I don’t want this to be a distraction at any point, because it could be. I didn’t want to put him in a situation where it distracted him or took him away from what we were trying to do, specifically with our playoff push at the end of the season. Once we got through the end of the season, it was a pretty easy process. We have a history together. We both know who each other are, so it was pretty easy.”
Question: How instrumental do you view Peter Vermes to the future of this franchise?
Illig: “He is enormous. Without Peter, we don’t think any of this works the way we want it to work. The way we have defined and challenged him in his role over the last decade, he’s responded and surpassed our expectations in that regard. He wears two hats — technical director and head coach. But he’s proven himself to be far more than either one of those. He’s defined himself to be what we refer to as a high performance sports executive. He is the CEO of our technical and player enterprise.”
Question: Has there ever been thought given to splitting up the roles of technical director and coach?
Illig: “No, I think he’s demonstrated it has been a perfect fit. You have one brain working on what he has defined as our system. Early on in our owner meetings, we challenged Peter with the way we want (everything) to work (and) to define and commit to that system. He has defined the system. It goes all the way to the bottom of our academies in the U12s. The trickle-down effect he has on the staff and the adoption of that mind-set and that overall top-down approach is really funneled down well throughout the entire organization. That speaks to the culture point. We’ve done a really good job of managing the culture — a winning culture — and mentality on the technical side. As you grow and expand your entities with Swope Park, with the academies, with the flow of associations coming in and out — coaches, trainers, whatever — it’s important to reemphasize that culture. Basically, it all boils down to Peter is 100 percent our guy. We don’t think any of this works without Peter.”