Two-time Arena Football League Coach of the Year Ron James will be the head coach of the new AFL franchise in Atlantic City.
The team, which has not yet been named, will make its AFL debut in April. Home games will be played at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.
James, 54, has been an AFL head coach with five other franchises, winning the AFL Coach of the Year in 2012 with the Utah Blaze, and in 2017 with the Tampa Bay Storm.
“We couldn’t be more excited than to have landed Ron James to lead our team on the field in Atlantic City,” Ron Jaworski, chairman of the AFL Executive Committee and owner of Trifecta Sports & Entertainment, which operates the Atlantic City team, said in a statement. “Ron is a football guy who has excelled everywhere he has coached, and we expect his success to continue and thrive in Atlantic City.”
James began his head-coaching career in the AFL in 2005 with the Las Vegas Gladiators and served as their coach for two seasons before joining the staff of the Utah Blaze in 2007. He was the Blaze’s head coach for five seasons (2009-13), as well as the Pittsburgh Power (2014), Portland Steel (2016) and Tampa Bay Storm (2017).
He guided the Storm to a 10-4 record and a berth in the AFL championship game (ArenaBowl), which it lost to the Philadelphia Soul.
Including the regular season and playoffs, he has a 72-73 career record.
“I am thrilled, not only to make my return to the new Arena Football League, but especially to become the inaugural head coach of the Atlantic City team,” James said in a statement. “I am excited to get going and I embrace the challenge of starting up a new franchise and all that it entails.
“My staff and I are dedicated to winning and most importantly, we will also be dedicated to our community. We will work tirelessly to put a winning product on the field and make an impact in our community off the field. I can’t wait to get started.”
In addition, the Atlantic City franchise also hired Shane Stafford as offensive coordinator, Sergio Gilliam as defensive coordinator, Caesar Rayford as defensive line and linebackers coach, and Brandon Lang as director of player personnel.
Stafford is a former AFL quarterback with Tampa Bay and was James’ offensive assistant there in 2016-17. Stafford spent last season as an offensive assistant with the ArenaBowl champion Washington Valor.
Gilliam played for several indoor football teams and had his best season in 2011, when he registered nine interceptions for the Kansas City Command. Gilliam began his coaching career in 2016 as co-defensive coordinator the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles of the Indoor Football League and spent last season as defensive backs coach for the Massachusetts Pirates fo the National Arena League.
Rayford played for the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys in 2013 before finding himself playing for James in Tampa Bay at the end of 2016.
Lang also played in the NFL as a defensive end with the San Diego Chargers in 2010.
“The caliber of the coaching staff that we have put in place in Atlantic City will put this team in immediate contention for an Arena Bowl championship,” George Mania, president and chief operating officer of the Atlantic City franchise and Trifecta, said in a statement. “The last time Coach James stepped on an AFL field was in an Arena Bowl championship game and the expectation is that he will lead this team right back there.”
Notes: Fans can sign up for season tickets for the team by calling 609-783-9494 or going to AtlanticCityAFL.com. A $50 deposit is required. Those who submit the deposit will be contacted by the team within the next two weeks to select their specific seats.
The team also ran a contest on its web site to select a name for the franchise. Voting is closed, and the team name will be announced in February.