TORONTO - Jason Bent has seen too many friends and colleagues pay the price for poor performance on the soccer field.
Bent was the last man standing when Toronto FC fired manager Ryan Nelsen and five other assistant coaches Sunday. New head coach Greg Vanney elected to retain Bent as an assistant.
"This is the fourth time I've been through it as a coach. I've been through it three times as a player and it always feels like a death in the family," Bent said Tuesday of the firings. "That's the best analogy I could probably give.
"You develop relationships with the people that you work with. In the end you spend so much time with them, you almost spend more time with them than you do with your own family, your missus."
Assistant coaches Fran O'Leary, Jim Brennan, Duncan Oughton, as well as goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr and strength and conditioning coach Adrian Lamb were all fired with Nelsen.
Brennan was the club's first signing and captain, as well as the first name on the franchise's Wall of Honour at BMO Field.
"It's not easy but you try to move on," said Bent. "I'm trying to move on, I'm trying to provide some continuity and help the players. Because the end goal is just to get to the playoffs, as simple as that."
While the 37-year-old Bent is happy to keep his job, he acknowledges it's hard to be the lone survivor.
"That would be the normal human reaction to wonder why am I being held on," he said. "I guess that's a question for the powers that be. I know from my standpoint, I work hard. I try to stay honest and loyal to every management that's been in place."
Bent, a former MLS and Canadian international midfielder, joined the team when Mo Johnston was in charge. He spent three seasons at the club academy before moving into coaching and working with Aron Winter, Paul Mariner and Nelsen. This is his fourth year as an assistant coach.
Vanney, the club's former assistant GM and still academy director, said he was impressed with Bent's "demeanour and calm presence."
"I think he's got a great coaching voice," said Vanney.
The other assistants on Vanney's newly formed staff are academy head goalie coach Jon Conway, under-14 coach Nick Theslof and Jim Liston, the academy's director of sports science.
Theslof spent time with Bayern Munich and the German national team. Conway spent 12 seasons in MLS with the Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes, New York Red Bulls, Chivas USA and Toronto FC.
Vanney said the staff had not been finalized yet.
A native of Brampton, Ont., Bent played for the Colorado Rapids as well as FSV Zwickau in Germany and Plymouth Argyle in England.
He is no stranger to tough times.
Bent endured racism while playing in Germany and after suffering a career-ending right knee injury playing for Canada against Ireland in 2003, he sued the insurance companies engaged by the Canadian Soccer Association at the time.