Sockers Lose Weller to Stars

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Socker assistant Keith Weller was named coach of the Tacoma Stars Tuesday, replacing Alan Hinton, fired 11 games into his fifth season with the organization.

Weller, 43, has been with the Sockers since the beginning of last season. Socker President Ron Cady said Weller was originally hired because it was felt he had the ability to take over when Coach Ron Newman retires.

"We weren't going to stand in Keith's way," Cady said. "It's something we've got to do for the good of the league and for the good of Keith Weller."

Weller has 25 years of soccer experience, including more than a decade playing in the first division in his native England. He has coached on two Major Indoor Soccer League championship teams, the Sockers and the Dallas Sidekicks.

Though the position was one he said he couldn't pass up, Weller has bitter-sweet feelings about taking over for Hinton, a longtime friend whom he played against in England.

"Unfortunately it's a situation where an opportunity arises for me and disappears for Alan," said Weller, who wasn't contacted by Tacoma until Sunday. "One man's fortune is another man's downfall. Hopefully he understands the situation and we can stay friends."

Newman and Weller were compatible as coaches and shared common interests because of their British heritage.

"We could talk about the same things and laugh about the same things," said Newman, who said he will begin the search for a new assistant immediately. "I lost a very close friend. I can replace coaches. I'll find it very hard to replace his friendship."

Perhaps the hallmark of Weller's coaching style was best exemplified by his first practice Tuesday with Tacoma (4-7). He was out there with the players, running sprints. And he isn't slow.

"That's the one thing I hated about him," Socker defender George Fernandez said. "We used to have those beach runs, and I never beat him once."

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