Before he coached the Cleveland Gladiators, Ron Selesky was the director of football operations for the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL). The league seemed to do well until it folded all of a sudden in 2015. He was also a full-time US scout for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League (CFL).
There were some solid franchises with committed owners. There just weren’t enough of them,” Selesky said. “One of the owners ran two teams and he just couldn’t afford to keep doing it.”
Selesky went on to become the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Gladiators. After head coach Steve Thonn’s contract was not renewed following the 2016 season, Selesky was named their coach for the 2017 season. After just one week of training camp, the team cut quarterback Arvell Nelson. He had been the leader of the team in the 2016 season.
“At the time the other two quarterbacks [Shane Boyd and Tanner Marsh] were progressing well and Arvell was struggling,” Selesky said on that decision. “I was running our defense and I entrusted our offensive coordinator [Siaha Burley] to give me his objective assessment. Hindsight is always 20/20.”
After two weeks in which both Boyd and Marsh had started and gotten injured, Selesky decided to bring Nelson back. Despite him coming back to lead the team, Cleveland got off to a 1-6 start to the season. Had it not been for the expansion Washington Valor having the same record, Cleveland would have been in jeopardy of missing the postseason.
On May 22, Cleveland traded both Boyd and wide receiver Brandon Thompkins to the other expansion franchise in the Baltimore Brigade. Cleveland got former defensive back Brandon Stephens, who Baltimore drafted in the AFL Dispersal Draft. They also acquired KC Obi, who went on to record 6.5 tackles and a sack.
“Baltimore asked for Boyd and Marsh was getting healthy,” Selesky explained why he traded Boyd. “With Thompkins, he’s a great player, but we felt like we had other wide receivers that fit what we were doing offensively a little better.”
Cleveland overcame their very slow start to the season and after a win in Washington at the end of July, they clinched a playoff spot. In the final week of the season, Baltimore lost, which meant that Cleveland would get the three seed.
Unfortunately for them, they fell one game short of the ArenaBowl for the second consecutive season.
Now, the focus is on 2018. Selesky knows exactly how him and the team will prepare for next season.
“Consistency. Starting from day one. Stick to the plan and execute it,” he said. “Injuries hit us hard but we’ll be better prepared. We found our offensive identity [in] the second half of the season so we’ll build off of that.”
The Philadelphia Soul defeated the Tampa Bay Storm in ArenaBowl XXX on Aug. 26. Philadelphia had to overcome a 13-point deficit to win, the largest comeback in ArenaBowl history.