Head coach Richard Agar stepped down yesterday, after almost three years in charge.
Jamie Jones-Buchanan has been appointed as his interim successor, working with another of Agar’s former assistants Sean Long and performance director Richard Hunwicks.
Last Friday’s 26-12 defeat at Salford Red Devils was Rhinos’ fifth in six games this year.
They are third from bottom in Betfred Super League and Hetherington admitted: “We didn’t expect to find ourselves in this position.”
He said: “It will be a pretty exhaustive search and there are no red lines, we start with a blank piece of paper.
“We are looking for somebody to come in and take over the current squad of players and create an impact within the club.”
Hetherington described the role as a “pretty demanding job”.
“Any head coach’s job in Super League is pretty demanding, even more so at a club like Leeds Rhinos,” he stated.
“It needs a person with special qualities, ability, desire and determination – all the facets you look for.
“There is no timescale on when it needs to be concluded by. Jamie Jones-Buchanan will step up from assistant-coach and take on the responsibilities of interim head coach and I don’t know for how long.
“I am pretty sure he has got the personality and character to make a difference.
“We have got a very strong playing squad and results are capable of being turned around.”
Jones-Buchanan played 421 games for Leeds from 1999-2019 and joined the backroom staff after hanging up his boots.
Hetherington described his step up as an “opportunity to impose his personality, character and ideas on the role”.
He said: “It will be interesting to see how Jamie goes.
“I personally think he will go extremely well.
“The most important thing is the identification of the next head coach, whoever that might be.
“We will be exhaustive in our process because we’ll be bringing in somebody we believe could be here for the long-term and become part and parcel of our organisation.
“It is a big decision for the club to make and therefore not one we will be rushed into.”
Hetherington conceded finding the right person for the role in the long-term is “a challenge”, but stressed: “It is one we need to get right.”
Despite his sudden departure and Rhinos’ poor form this year, Hetherington paid tribute to the “terrific job” done by Agar since he took over from the sacked Dave Furner in May, 2019.
Having avoided relegation in his first season as boss, Agar led Rhinos to a Challenge Cup final win at Wembley and back-to-back fifth-place finishes in Super League.
“Normally when a team has lost five out of six games you can pin-point specific reasons,” Hetherington said.
“It is much more difficult to do that in our situation.
“Richard has done a terrific job as head coach from where we were three years ago to where we are today.
“I don’t believe we have a coaching problem, I think the team are extremely well prepared going into every game and the players will tell you it has been extremely professional and no stone has been unturned.
“But, of course, results and performances are what coaches define themselves on.
“Richard has taken this decision and in many ways put the club before himself.
“We are only six games into the season, which is a pretty short spell and we had pretty high expectations of ourselves at the outset.
“We have not met them at this stage of the season.”