Knights CEO Philip Gardner conceded he and his board could have handled the departure of coach Nathan Brown better than they did.
The Knights announced on Tuesday that the decision has been made in conjunction with their coach of the last four years in the best interest of the club.
“I think in anything you do in life, you can handle it better. Certainly we’ll look back on this, and I’ll personally look back on this, to see if we could have done it better,” Gardner told a media conference outside the club’s Mayfield headquarters on Tuesday.
Kristian Woolf will take over as interim coach for the remainder of the 2019 season.
Brown's immediate exit comes a day after NRL.com reported that Adam O'Brien was expected to be unveiled as coach for 2020 and beyond by the end of this week.
The Knights and O'Brien's management are understood to have reached an agreement and are now sorting out the details of the deal.
Knights CEO addresses media
O'Brien has told Roosters officials of his intention to depart the Tricolours at the end of the year to link with the Knights.
It is understood he will remain as Trent Robinson's assistant for the remainder of the year.
Knights assistant Kristian Woolf, the Tongan Test coach and favourite to replace Gold Coast-bound Justin Holbrook at St Helens, will take the reins for Newcastle’s last two games against the Titans at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday and Panthers at Penrith eight days later.
Gardner and Knights management have been heavily criticised for the way they have dealt with Brown’s exit, making the announcement in the lead-up to a must-win game against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown last Saturday night.
Pearce: We let the coach down
Premiership-winning former Knights captain Andrew Johns said management had “sabotaged” the team’s finals hopes with the timing of the announcement and the activity that took place behind the scenes to sound out candidates as potential replacements.
“I think it was a fairly unique set of circumstances for us, but I think the answer to that is yes," Gardner said in reference to last week's announcement.
"I think that everything that we do could be done better. We’re just extremely lucky that we’ve had a person like Nathan Brown who is just such a quality individual.”
In the wake of that defeat, after initially knocking back Brown’s offer to step down immediately in the best interests of the club, Gardner agreed “that the club is better served in the short term with Kristian Woolf taking on the role as head coach for the next couple of weeks”.
“Nathan has just been exceptional in everything that he’s done for this club, and the way in which he’s conducted himself,” he said.
“He’s putting the club and the players and the town first, and not himself, and the way he’s handled himself is the benchmark for the way in which coaches in future should handle themselves.”
It has been widely reported that the Knights will announce Sydney Roosters and former Melbourne Storm assistant Adam O’Brien as Brown’s successor, possibly as early as the end of this week, but Gardner said the selection process was ongoing.
Knights set to announce O'Brien as new head coach
Gardner said Brown had played a role in that recruitment process, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of some of his potential successors.
“Certainly the board’s working their way through it, and we will go as fast as we possibly can because I know that the players and the town wants to know who the next coach is going to be,” Gardner said.
“It’s a very important announcement for us. We’ve got to get a person of the character that fits into the town … and we’ll take as much time as we need, but when the right person comes, we’ll announce it to the town as quickly as possible.
“We’re talking to everyone. Since last Monday, I’ve spoken to every … coaching agent in the town to work out who the right person is.
“We’ve got a short list … and certainly Adam O’Brien is on that list – I certainly think he is an exceptional coach – but there are other coaches that we want to talk to as well, and like everything in life, you’ve got to negotiate an acceptable outcome for the coach and the club.”