HERRIMAN — For the second time in less than three years, the Utah Warriors rugby team will be without a permanent head coach.
Chris Latham, who took the head coaching job with Utah's professional rugby outfit in 2019, has resigned his position for personal reasons, effective immediately. Shawn Pittman will coach the team as interim manager for the 2021 season, the Warriors said.
Latham, a former Australian rugby star and World Cup veteran, took control of the club following the 2019 season and spent less than one year in charge as full-time manager. His lone season as head coach was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, which shuttered the league after less than two months and sent most of its players to their overseas homes — as well as Latham, who lives in Australia.
"Leaving the Warriors has not been an easy decision. I have the utmost respect for the organization, and I am proud of the progress the team has made in a short period of time," Latham said. "The roster for 2021 has the talent and experience to be the MLR Champions, and I have no doubt that's where the team will be at the end of the season with Shawn at the helm."
Pittman was hired as an assistant coach with the Warriors in 2019 following a 12-year professional playing and coaching career overseas, including with London Welsh RFC in the English Premiership and with USA Rugby through the 2019 World Cup. He coached briefly in Seattle during Major League Rugby's inaugural season in 2018, leading the Seattle Seawolves to the competition's first-ever title.
Now he'll be asked to build on the culture established by Latham, and that of inaugural head coach Alf Daniels, who led the team from its inception and through the first two seasons.
"I am grateful for what Chris did for the Warriors as our head coach. He dramatically changed the culture of the team during his short tenure," said Kimball Kjar, CEO and general manager of the Utah Warriors. "Under Chris' leadership, we began to change the culture and attitude of this program and I believe, culminating with a hallmark win over the two-time MLR Champion Seattle Seawolves, typified this passion and pursuit of excellence that Chris was building within this team."
"We are extremely fortunate to have the depth of experience and talent in our coaching staff to be able to promote Shawn Pittman to interim head coach," Kjar added. "Shawn's experience as one of America's top homegrown players and coaches, along with his relationships with our players and the respect he commands in international circles, makes him the perfect choice to lead the Warriors, as we transition and continue to build on the foundation Chris helped us build with an eye towards becoming an MLR Championship team."
The Warriors will open the fourth season of Major League Rugby on Sunday, March 21, against the San Diego Legion. The 13-team league will play a four-month, two-conference schedule with the top two seeds from each conference qualifying for the postseason en route to the Aug. 1 championship game.
The team's home opener is scheduled for March 27 against the New England Free Jacks at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman.
Matches will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network and FS2, in addition to local providers.