Dr. Sport: Watching Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini is almost as entertaining as the games themselves.
Who knew what personality bubbled from within while Vanni Sartini was inconspicuously spending his time as an assistant coach with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC?
We know now.
The tall Italian who wears blue jeans and sneakers to work has quickly become a matinee idol with soccer fans throughout British Columbia with his animated antics on the sidelines since taking over as interim head coach of the Whitecaps in August when Marc Dos Santos was fired.
“Vanni Sartini is must-see television,” says Squire Barnes, sports director at Global TV. “His enthusiasm is contagious and you never know what’s coming next. Simply put, he’s fun to watch.”
It is difficult not to enjoy a head coach in professional sports who teases the media in the aftermath of clinching a playoff spot by saying he’s happy for a break in the schedule “because tonight, we are getting so drunk, we cannot play (tomorrow).”
The veteran sports scribes and broadcasters I’ve polled this past week agree that never in our Vancouver market has there been a head coach to match Sartini’s spirited approach. Vic Rapp with the BC Lions and John Tortorella with the Canucks were given mild mentions, but not considered serious comparisons.
“Vanni is the real deal,” says one Whitecaps insider. “He is what you see. The players respect the fact that while he was an assistant coach, he knew his place in the locker room and would never, ever try to upstage Marc Dos Santos.”
Sartini, celebrating his 45th birthday this weekend, now takes the Whitecaps into playoff battle next Saturday for the first time since 2017. You can bet his title will soon lose the word “interim.”
SCENE & HEARD:
Drum-thumping Seattle Sounders fans did their best to upstage a pre-game Whitecaps FC Ring of Honour tribute to the late coaching icon Tony Waiters last Sunday afternoon at BC Place. Fans were encouraged to arrive early for the ceremony and the Seattle supporters were among the first to settle into their seats, drum mallets at the ready.
Their constant thumping made it almost impossible to hear the public address announcer’s salute to Waiters while his family and close, invited friends watched from a private suite.
Waiters passed away in November 2020 at 83. Inducted into Canada’s Soccer Hall of Fame and the BC Sports Hall of Fame, he coached the Whitecaps to a Soccer Bowl championship in 1979, then guided Canada’s men’s national team to the 1984 Summer Olympics and 1986 FIFA World Cup tournament in Mexico.
Away from the international spotlight, Waiters and wife Anne later created World of Soccer, a concept that included coaching manuals for players and instructors of all ages with an emphasis on the game’s youth movement.
Tony’s tireless work with Cliff Avenue United FC helped introduce inner-city kids to the game he loved. His name today is attached to the annual CAUFC Coach of the Year awards.
HERE ‘N THERE:
In his capacity as Curator & Facility Director at the BC Sports Hall of Fame, Jason Beck spends the bulk of his waking hours acknowledging athletes, teams and builders throughout British Columbia. The role was reversed this week when he stepped up to the podium to receive the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award at the University of the Fraser Valley.
Beck spent his youth on the family dairy farm in Sumas Prairie and later enrolled at UFV for three years before transferring to SFU. He’s worked at the BC Sports Hall of Fame for more than a decade and has developed into one of the leading sports historians in North America. Jason authored the Canadian best-seller The Miracle Mile: Stories of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games that featured the historic Empire Stadium showdown between Roger Bannister and John Landy, the first two men to break the four-minute mile.
- At the invitation of one-time sports director and on-air personality Iain McLetchie, a good number of the old guard from the former TSN Team 1040 got together last Saturday night for the first time in nine months.“It was a solid representation from over the years and the surprising thing was the party didn’t go too late with the exception of a few holdouts,” McLetchie says. “The highlight was probably what we called Legends Corner with John McKeachie holding court with Donnie Taylor, Rick Dhaliwal, Paul Dolan and Dave Pratt.”Bell Media pulled the plug on TSN 1040 the morning of Tuesday, February 9 without notice to staff members. The move sent shock waves through the local broadcast industry, leaving the on-air staff scrambling for new employment.
- Speaking of ‘Legend Corners’, the likes of Stan Smyl, Thomas Gradin, Harold Snepsts, Ron Delorme, Dave (Tiger) Williams, Darcy Rota, B.J. MacDonald, Rick Lanz and Ron Sedlbauer will be among the group of former players representing the Canucks’ run to the 1982 Stanley Cup Final at the Canucks Alumni Association & Foundation luncheon next Thursday at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.The ‘King’ himself, goaltender-turned-artist Richard Brodeur, will be on hand to auction off a special piece of his artwork reflecting on the towel-waving Canucks under late coach Roger Neilson.
Greg Douglas ‘Dr. Sport’ contributes to The Orca on a biweekly basis. His five decades of covering sports in British Columbia included 19 years as a weekly columnist with The Vancouver Sun.