Montreal Impact Coach Jason DiTullio On The Canadian Classique And Working With Thierry Henry

Montreal Impact Coach Jason DiTullio On The Canadian Classique And Working With Thierry Henry

WFi‘s Jerry Mancini spoke to Jason DiTullio, former centre-back and current U-17 head coach of Montreal Impact, about his career with the Canadian club, Thierry Henry and the rivalry with Toronto FC.

What were some of the challenges that you encountered as a coach of the Montreal Impact senior team?

“I think when you’re a head coach, you have certain ways of thinking. You have certain beliefs but as a young coach, you also have to be open. So, you go into an environment where, as an assistant coach, it’s a different role [and] you’re the extra eyes for the head coach. You try to challenge the coach but at the same time you’ve got to have the same beliefs as him and I was fortunate that Mauro Biello did have the same beliefs.

“I think the biggest challenge was convincing certain players. When you have some big players that have been coached from some big managers and played in some big clubs and then, on the other side, you have some young Montrealer’s or some players that came from a university background. So, I think there were a lot of different mindsets, different experiences and just trying to get everybody on the same page. When you’re winning it’s a lot easier because when you’re winning as a player or as a coach, you keep working in that direction.

“I think the hardest part was convincing those with different experiences on a pro team. It’s doable if you work well, you’re coherent [and] work with clear communication, and then the results help convincing players, management and fans. So, I think that was tough but definitely doable.”

Thierry Henry signed a two-year contract until the end of the 2021 season as the club’s new head coach. What were your thoughts on Henry becoming the new coach and what can he offer to the club?

“For sure a ton of experience. There’s coaching experience and then there’s being around the game experience. Someone that’s been around the game that’s won, [and] knows what the game’s expectations are. So, I think that was the first thing that I thought when it came out — he was going to come in with a bunch of experience.

“Then seeing how he works and how he thinks. Unfortunately, with this pandemic, we’ve had certain ways of working with the first team and having that cohesion with the first team. We didn’t get a chance to do that but there is communication throughout the technical department. He’s got a certain way of thinking tactically and brings a certain type of mindset of the highest level because he’s been there.

“I think it was great for the club. Montreal is a club where and a city that wants their big players and big coaches to succeed. It got everyone excited and I know that it also got everyone excited throughout the club. We didn’t see enough, but we’re positive that he could bring some excitement back to this club and hopefully, after this pandemic, we will have people jump back on board. I know fans here and they can’t wait to get back.”

Do you foresee yourself coaching for the first team again in the future?

“I’ve been around this beautiful game [and] it’s a part of me, my personal ambition. I think being around the highest level there’s no doubt, I want to be there one day. To be the head coach of the Montreal Impact, if I’m blessed enough to have that opportunity, just to be around the highest level with my staff and living those emotions, the everyday grind, the pressure and just developing a playing model where your fans and everyone throughout the club is proud.

“It’s no secret that everyone that knows me knows that’s my ambition, my dream to go back. I understand that it’s a process and there’s going to be projects and objectives on the way to that dream. So, I just need to make sure I’m doing well. Now it’s about serving our players that want to play at the highest level and I’m there to help them achieve that.”

When Toronto FC and Montreal Impact play in the Canadian Classique, what does the rivalry mean to you and what is the experience like?

“The first thing that comes to my head is we got to beat them. There are no excuses, we have to beat Toronto. It’s not only about saying it, it’s about getting into that right mindset. There’s going to be tactics, there’s going to be emotions, it’s going to be about who wants it more but for me, it’s about those individual tactical battles on the field and those one-on-one battles.

“Here in Montreal, like I’m assuming in Toronto, it’s not only the players or the coaching staff but it’s throughout the club and throughout the city. It’s a game where you have to be ready, it’s a game where you can’t mess up. So, I think the first thing that comes to mind is, after those 90 plus minutes, that you’re up on top.

“Then it’s also for the fans, being part of those conference finals and those Canadian Championship battles. I’ve been there as a player, fan, coach and those emotions are unbelievable. It’s 90 plus minutes where you just forget about everything, you’re in that zone and you try to feed off that energy.

“There’s a lot of emotion but that competitive mindset is just ignited a lot more when you play Toronto. Like I said, and I don’t like to use the word hate, but there’s a love-hate relationship through the respect of the work that’s done through that coaching staff, their players and how passionate their fans are. As a Montrealer, you just want to be better and I’m sure Toronto feels the same way when they play Montreal.”

Click here to read the first part of Jerry’s interview with Jason DiTullio.