Best Local Pro Sports Coach

Ben Olsen
D.C. United
Yes, Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders once called the plays for the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star Game (though not as the Wizards’ boss). Sure, Mike Shanahan won some Super Bowls (but they were with the Denver Broncos, and they were so long ago John Elway was his quarterback). And it’s true, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has had success with the Caps, and the Fort Wayne Komets, and he can curse a blue streak. Doesn’t matter. When it comes to earning the love of a team’s fans, none of those respected coaching mainstays match D.C. United’s Ben Olsen. Named permanent coach last year even though the team only went 3-8-1 when he was the interim boss, Olsen’s been beloved by United fans (and fans of the U.S. national team, which he joined for the 2006 World Cup) for more than a decade. He left the University of Virginia early to play for the team in 1997, was a critical piece of the teams that won two of United’s four MLS Cups, and served as captain on and off throughout his playing career. As a player, Olsen seemed to have been created to allow sportswriters to use the old cliché, “he left it all out on the field.” He retired, in part, because chronic ankle problems made it hard for him to carry his daughter up the stairs of his D.C. rowhouse. As a coach, he hasn’t done much yet—United opened its 2011 season just this past weekend, beating Columbus, 3-1. But you can bet the Barra Brava really means it when they sing out, “We’re all part of Benny’s army.”
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