Utah Warriors owner Sean Whalen introduced Salesi Sika as the Warriors new head coach Friday via Facebook. Sika replaces Jon Law, who served as the head man during the Warriors’ maiden Super League voyage.
“His business is growing and he’s had to put a lot more time and attention into his business,” said Whalen of Law, “so it’s a good decision to have him focus on that.”
Sika, formerly of French Top 14 Castres Olympique, was an All American at BYU and an Eagle on the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cup squads. He retired from the professional game last year and has returned to school in pursuit of his PhD.
“He’s a really smart guy, super smart, and just said, ‘Look, I don’t have tons of time, but if I’m going to commit to this, I’m going 110%,’” said Whalen, “And I said, ‘Great, welcome to the club,’ and he agreed to come on, and he’ll be basically running the whole deal for us in 2012.”
Whalen said he considered a handful of other coaches, “(but) Salesi’s name kept coming up and coming up, so I called him and took him out to lunch, and he took a couple weeks. He checked me out and checked the team out and talked to Mike Palefau and a lot of other guys that he knows, and he saw my commitment to it. He went up to the facility and saw the facility that I’m building.”
Whalen broke ground on a training facility some months ago, and though not yet open to the public, it’s been occupied by the Warriors plenty during the offseason.
“We’ve been going hardcore fitness, I mean hardcore fitness, for the last month. I’m not just saying it because they’re my boys, but I hope the other teams are in shape, because we’re going to hang a lot of freaking points on these teams when we play,” said Whalen.
“These boys are in shape, like no-joke in shape. Having Salesi out there running with them, and not only bringing that, but bringing his playing experience, is phenomenal…He gets the game and understands the game, plus he’s a cool dude.”
Sika’s title with the Warriors is coach, but, says Whalen, it’s not impossible Sika will make his way onto the field.
“It’s funny, he’s actually been playing quite a bit with the boys. He’ll go out and run with them, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you see him in a Warrior uniform as well, too.”