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Gladiators grow tired of falling on own sword

Just a month into the season, Gladiators general manager Sam Jankovich started to call weekly meetings with a select group of players.

It wasn’t a good sign for coach Danton Barto, especially so early in the season.

“I was concerned,” Jankovich said Monday.

That concern reached a breaking point Sunday when Jankovich — after consulting with owner Jim Ferraro — dismissed Barto and his staff, effective at the end of the season.

Barto downplayed the weekly meetings between the GM and players, saying they weren’t limited to strategy. Still, it’s doubtful Jankovich would have taken such a step if there weren’t problems. Of course, there are many for the 1-10 Gladiators, who have lost nine in a row.

“It’s not like Sam hid anything from me,” Barto said. “I knew what was going on in those meetings. I think it was just a step for the whole organization to try to get better.”

Wide receiver Thabiti Davis said the meetings produced positive changes, even if they didn’t result in wins.

“It gave Sam the opportunity to get a perspective of how things were going from the players,” Davis said. “We definitely saw improvements from within the bloodline of the team. We saw some improvements with regard to our preparation.”

Jankovich said he wants to make considerable upgrades throughout the organization in order to lure top free agents.

Hiring Barto’s replacement will be at the top of the priority list, and Jankovich said he already has begun compiling a list of candidates.

He will be searching for the club’s fourth coach since the Arena Football League team moved here from New Jersey before the 2003 season.

”This will be one of the more important decisions that I’ve made in my lifetime, and I’m not going to take it lightly,” Jankovich said. ”I’m going to use all the resources that are available, and this has to be the right decision this time. … We have to stop the swinging door. We have to get this thing with some real stability, which we’re going to do.”

Las Vegas has clinched its second straight losing season, and has never finished with a winning record since the team moved here. Its lone playoff appearance was in 2003.

When Barto was hired last June, Ferraro said, “He showed me he’s got what it takes.”

However, some troubling signs emerged early for Jankovich. He didn’t like the idea that Barto not only was the head coach, but also served as the offensive, defensive and special teams coordinator. Jankovich said the next staff will look much different.

Also, Jankovich said he thought the move from af2 to the AFL might have been a bigger leap than Barto imagined.

Barto has said in the past he handled the coordinator duties with great success while with the Memphis Xplorers, and Monday he downplayed the difference between the AFL and af2.

Regardless, a 1-3 start prompted Jankovich to start meeting every Thursday with some players. That decision occurred after a 68-41 loss at Arizona on March 23, when then-quarterback Shaun King criticized his coaches and teammates, saying they’ve “got to make a commitment.”

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