Poland: Wroclaw Panthers announce Val Gunn as new HC

The Wroclaw Panthers, winners of the Polish title in 2016 and 2017,  have announced the signing of Val Gunn as their new head coach.

Gunn replaces Nick Johansen who has coached the Panthers for the past four years.

The 51 year old, former Texas A&M quarterback and best selling author (In the Shadow of Swords), has coached extensively in Europe. He had two stints coaching Norway’s Oslo Vikings (1997-98, 2006-2008) and in 2007 they defeated German semifinalists that year, the Berlin Adler, in EFAF Cup play. He also coached the Norwegian national team, France’s Aix-en-Provence Argonautes, the Paderborn Dolphins from Germany, when they played in the German Football League as well as Poland’s Wroclaw Devils.

The Panthers have won two of the last three Polish titles, losing the 2018 game narrowly to the Bialystok Lowlanders in Poland’s Liga Futbolu Amerykańskiego (LFA) title game.

American Football International caught up with Gunn at his home near Sante Fe, New Mexico.

AFI: You have returned to Europe after a two year absence. What prompted your decision?

Gunn:  Wroclaw contacted me after they made a coaching change, and asked if I would be interested in taking the job. The Panthers have really grown as a club since the Devils/Giants merger and I have a great relationship with management—so this was an opportunity that I could not pass up.

AFI: You last coached in a top division in Italy with Ferrara Aquile which was a challenging situation. You then coached with the Munich Rangers in Germany’s Div. 2. What do you expect from coaching with one of the top teams in Europe?

Gunn: Taking the Aquile from the 3rd division to the IFL was extremely difficult, but at the same time very rewarding. Munich was different, in that they should not have been playing in the GFL2—at the the time—and would have been better off playing in the regional league. Obviously the Wroclaw Panthers are in a far more favorable situation. That doesn’t mean it will be easy sailing. Expectations are much higher and there are no excuses for not winning a championship—so there will be pressure to succeed at the highest level.

AFI: What have you been doing since 2014?

Gunn: I’m never far from the football field. One of my former players is the head coach at the local high school and I have been assisting him. It’s been a lot of fun helping him grow as a coach and building the program into a playoff contender. Also writing of course, finishing a children’s book and another fantasy novel.

AFI: Can you fill us in on your coaching background in Europe?

Gunn:  I’ve been fortunate to coach for some great clubs: Oslo Vikings, Aix-en-Provence Argonautes, Paderborn Dolphins (when they were in the GFL), and the Wroclaw Devils. I also served two times as the Norwegian National Team head coach

AFI: You are also a distinguished writer, the author of a best selling book. How do you combine the two vastly different interests?

Gunn:  Creativity. One fuels the other. My mind is always working, developing and adapting. The writing really makes me a better football coach. I also think it keeps me from becoming over-compulsive in just one thing.

AFI:  What are you expecting from the season?

Gunn:  We’re going to into every game with the intent of winning it and coming away with a Polish championship. There is no complacency or compromise. We will have a excellent coaching staff, with Skip Albano coming over as my defensive coordinator, and we’ve got some great Polish coaches as well. The roster is very solid and we’ll bring quality imports to bolster the national players. This really makes me excited for next season.

Wroclaw is a fantastic organization, with tremendous potential, and I’m just chomping at bit to get the Panthers rolling again

 

AFI
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