Pat Lam’s wife interviewed Bristol’s chairman and chief executive before her husband agreed to leave Connacht at the end of this season.
The news has naturally come as a hammer blow to the Irish province as their head coach has opted to takeover a side rock bottom of the Aviva Premiership and without a win all season. Bristol’s chairman, Chris Booy, understands the disappointment in Ireland over Lam’s departure but insists this was not a decision which the Connacht coach has taken lightly.
“The process has been a two-way street. We had a number of applicants for this job, but we identified him very early as a man who fits our profile,” said Booy.
“Obviously he has done a very good job and he is doing very well with Connacht, so I can understand why they are concerned at him leaving.
“But we have spent about 10 days to-ing and fro-ing over this. We have even been interviewed by his wife, which is quite a new experience for me. But I obviously succeeded, along with [CEO] Steve Gorvett, and she is a delightful lady. Pat is very much a family man and we like to see ourselves as a family club.”
Given Bristol’s current plight at the bottom of the Aviva Premiership, it had been thought they may bring in a head coach to take over immediately to steer them clear of relegation and Booy admits he would have loved Lam to start now.
However, the Connacht boss was set on seeing out his current contract until the end of the season and Booy believes he will be worth the wait.
“Clearly it would have been great if Pat had been available, but the reality is the best people are not usually available,” Booy added.
“But it is much more important to get the person who can take us to where we want to be. We wanted someone for three to five years — and maybe even longer — who can make sure we establish ourselves in the top of the Premiership and in Europe. Pat is an extremely honourable man, which I am very attracted too. He has a contract with Connacht, he is going to honour that contract and I respect that.”
Former England and Bath coach Andy Robinson joined Bristol in 2013 with the express brief to drive the club back into the English Premiership.
Robinson finally achieved that aim in the summer and even signed a new three-year deal in August, but was unseated just three months later.
Bristol have lost 10 from 10 Premiership matches so far this term, but will keep Mark Tainton as acting head coach for the remainder of their top-flight survival battle.
Confirming Bristol will seek to appoint an operations director, Booy continued: “We like that approach to let the head coach concentrate on the team coaching and take away as much of the administration and recruitment of players.
“We have just started to think of that process; we are not in a rush to do that.”
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