Former Utah coach makes his debut tonight at the helm of the Pittsburgh Power

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Not even 10 days ago, Ron James was ready to move on.

For the past four seasons, James was fulfilling something of a dream as head coach of the Arena Football League’s Utah Blaze. He won the league’s coach of the year award in 2012.

Last offseason, however, the Blaze folded, and James was left without a job.

Though he was applying for positions in the NFL and Canadian Football League, he was beginning to embark on a new life, starting his own small business and launching a website several weeks ago. Then, it all changed.

It was March 19 when James received a call from Pittsburgh Power owner Matt Shaner, who had a new — and entirely unexpected — opportunity for him.

The Power made the unconventional decision to fire coach Derek Stingley one game into the 2014 season. James has replaced him and inherited a talented roster some believe possibly can compete for a championship in the near future.

James admittedly was “very shocked” that such a move was made so early in the season, but he’s excited about what awaits him.

“When I got the call, it’s natural for a coach to want to get back involved in the game he loves,” he said.

After overhauling its roster in the offseason, the Power lost its season opener to the Cleveland Gladiators, a game in which it squandered a 17-point lead in the second half.

Stingley’s firing never officially was announced by the Power— his name wasn’t mentioned in the Power’s news release announcing James’ March 21 hiring— and the former coach said the move was described to him over the phone as “a business decision.”

Stingley led the Power to a 7-20 record in his time with the franchise.

After the initial March 19 contact. James flew to Pittsburgh to meet with Shaner over dinner. The following afternoon, he was offered the job.

“It was kind of a bang-bang deal, very fast,” James said. “But I think that both parties, myself and the ownership group, just felt comfortable about it.”

James has been reunited with a number of players he coached in Utah, including quarterback Tommy Grady, with whom he formed a successful bond for three seasons. In 2012, a season in which Utah finished 13-7, Grady was named the league’s MVP after throwing for 142 touchdowns and nearly 6,000 yards.

Two of the wide receivers who were a part of that aerial attack, Aaron Lesue and Shaun Kauleinamoku, also are on the Power roster. Earlier this week, it added center Antonio Narcisse, who also played for James in Utah. James’ record with the Blaze was 29-34.

As a result, there’s a sense of familiarity with the move for James, even if his surroundings are unfamiliar. It’s one of several reasons he feels like he and his team could find success, despite such an abrupt change.

“If the team gets to be smarter, gets to work harder and gets to jell together, I think you’re going to see some really good results,” James said.


Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.

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