With the future of its longtime coach suddenly in question, the Nike Oregon Project today appointed a replacement.
Umberto Santiago, a bearded man apparently little known in the running community, takes command of the training group effective immediately. The announcement was made at an impromptu news conference at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency earlier this week hit the program’s previous coach, former elite marathoner Alberto Salazar, with a four-year ban for doping violations.
“The Nike Oregon Project needs new blood,” said Billy Gibbons, a company spokesman who appeared alongside Santiago. “Fresh, untainted blood. And Mr. Santiago is here to inject it.”
Santiago said little during the news conference, even when reporters asked him questions directly. When he did reply, he did so in one or two words and in heavily accented English.
“Forgive me, but I’ve never heard your name,” one reporter told Santiago. “Do you have a lot of experience training elite runners, and if so, where?”
Clutching his beard, Santiago leaned slowly toward the microphone and cleared his throat before answering.
“Si,” he said.
“Where, exactly?” the reporter asked.
Santiago and Gibbons exchanged a glance before Gibbons smiled and ended the news conference.
“Thank you all for coming!” he said, ushering Santiago from the room. “Dream crazy!”
“Gracias,” said Santiago, again clutching his beard.
Nike did not return Dumb Runner’s calls for comment, because we never made any.