Pat Lam committed to Bristol even if they go down
Pat Lam will not even join Bristol as head coach until June, but has already committed his future to the Aviva Premiership relegation favourites.
Former Samoa flanker Lam led Connacht to the 2016 Guinness PRO12 title, but will now swap Galway for England's west country at the end of the season.
Bristol confirmed the 48-year-old's appointment on Monday, to replace former England and Scotland boss Andy Robinson, who was sacked last month after three years at the helm.
Bristol will seek an operations director to work alongside Lam, but insist they have not made an approach to Leinster and former England coach Stuart Lancaster.
"I'm committed to Bristol irrespective as to what happens in the short term," said Lam, unfazed by the prospect of coaching his new club in England's Championship.
"Everything is in place for the club to be a force in the future and I'm honoured to be invited to join the journey.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to coach and lead Bristol Rugby - a proud club with history, tradition and a bright future ahead.
"This has been one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make in my life as Connacht and Galway is such a special for myself and my family."
Former England and Bath coach Robinson joined Bristol in 2013 with the express brief to drive the club back into the Premiership.
Robinson finally achieved that aim in the summer and even signed a new three-year deal in August, but was unseated just three months later.
Bristol have lost 10 from 10 Premiership matches so far this term, but will keep Mark Tainton as acting head coach for the remainder of their top-flight survival battle.
Now chairman Chris Booy has hailed Lam's appointment as a real coup for Bristol and their ambitious plans of becoming a Premiership force.
Booy even revealed Lam's wife had grilled him on the club's long-term vision, before the ex-Northampton and Newcastle star agreed to join the club.
Former England boss Lancaster continues to be linked with a Bristol switch, but Booy insisted the club has not made any contact with the Leinster coach.
"Pat has been our number one target almost from the beginning, so we are very impressed that we have got him over the line," said Booy.
"We're very pleased to appoint an individual of his quality. The board has been patient in our approach to ensure we have the right man to take this club forward in the long term.
"Pat has transformed a Connacht team into PRO12 champions and we believe he can build a squad, a culture and an environment that can be successful in the Aviva Premiership.
"We've even been interviewed by his wife, which is a new experience for me, but I was obviously successful.
"Pat is very much a family man, and we like to see ourselves as a family club, and he has created that 'follow me' culture at Connacht."
Confirming Bristol will seek to appoint an operations director, Booy continued: "We like that approach to let the head coach concentrate on the team coaching and take away as much of the administration and recruitment of players.
"We have just started to think of that process; we are not in a rush to do that. And in response to the Stuart Lancaster rumours, I can assure you that we have not spoken Stuart Lancaster so we are a long way away from making an appointment."