McNichol, McBride step down at season's end
BORMIO, Italy -- Bode Miller's breakaway ski squad was in pieces Saturday when practically his entire staff resigned for family reasons.
Miller split from the U.S. Ski Team before this season to train and race on his own, and he clinched his second overall World Cup title Thursday.
"It's obviously a concern of mine for next season if I continue to race, which is still up in the air on its own," Miller said. "But with the right program in place, I think it would be a great opportunity for me to race further."
Phil McNichol, the U.S. team's head coach for men, also resigned Saturday after American skiers wrapped up their best season. He, too, wanted more family time.
Miller and Lindsey Vonn became the first Americans to sweep the men's and women's overall titles in the same year since Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney 25 years ago. Also, Miller took the men's combined title, Ted Ligety won the giant slalom title and Vonn got the women's downhill crown.
"It's good to leave when the guys are doing well and the team is in a good place," McNichol said. "The whole federation is moving in the right direction. I wanted to leave it better than it was when I started."
Also resigning to spend more time at home were: Miller's head coach, John McBride, and his assistant, Mike Kenney (Bode's uncle) and Robbie Kristan, Miller's ski technician the last six seasons.
"It's something that I'm going to have to deal with, just like I've dealt with it in the past," Miller said. "It was something that was an issue when I broke away from the team. I didn't have any contracts secured when I broke away from the squad."
McBride wanted to retire two years ago and Miller lured him back to be his personal coach within the U.S. team. When Miller left the U.S. team, he brought McBride with him.
"He's invested 10 or 12 years in this program and with me, and I appreciate that time," Miller said.
Miller's problems with the U.S. team centered on rules prohibiting him from sleeping in his personal motor home. He wouldn't rule out a move back to the U.S. team, but considers that option unlikely.
"There's possibilities there, but it would have to be with some concessions I'm sure on both sides," Miller said. "They would have to do a pretty good job with putting forward a proposal and in the past they've been pretty resistant."
The only coach still with Miller is Forest Carey, who skied with Miller at the Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine years ago.
McNichol joined the U.S. staff in 1997 and coached Miller to his first overall title in 2005. U.S. Alpine director Jesse Hunt has not selected a replacement. U.S. women's head coach Patrick Riml could be a possible candidate, but Riml left open the possibility he might step down, too.
"We've got to go back for nationals, talk about it, and then we'll see," Riml said.
Riml is Austrian and McNichol would prefer an American as a replacement.
"I'm very proud of the fact that I've been able to develop an American staff. That wasn't the case when I started," McNichol said. "When you go and ask another country to show you how to be good in something, it perpetuates an undertone to the athletes that you have to learn from a Swiss, or you have to watch an Austrian.
"Nothing against foreign coaches. Patrick Riml is a tremendous coach. He's done great things. He's embraced the culture, which you have to. But you have to teach the athletes to believe in themselves."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press