A new soccer head coach
Jaylen Carr – Sports Editor
The university welcomed Owls alum and former All-American and NCAA Division II Champion Kevin Anderson as their fourth men’s soccer head coach in program history.
After the retirement of former head coach Tom Lang on March 1, the athletic department had been searching for his predecessor. Lang spent 25 years as the all-time winning coach in the program’s history and helped lead the Owls to two NCAA Division II National Championships in 1998 and 1999.
“It’s over been the across of about two months; it’s a national search,” Director of Athletics Chris Barker said. “We had roughly 70 applicants that applied, which was very competitive. Our search committee did a good job narrowing it down and ultimately finding Kevin Anderson as our next head coach.”
Barker said Anderson’s proven track record with developing athletes and developing them as people was crucial to his hiring.
“It’s been a very exciting first week,” Anderson said. “To come in and know the history of the coaches that sat here before, it’s kind of serial.”
While at the university, Anderson was a 1992 First Team All-American and played a pivotal art in the 1992 NCAA Division II National Championship. He even has records that stand today.
According to the universities athletic website, in 1992, “his 13 assists were the second-most in a single season in program history, a mark that stands at sixth place today.”
“When the opportunity presents itself, it’s always flattering to be wanted. Through the process of talking to Chris Barker, the search committee and the players on the team and our Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Tyree, it reminded me of my journey here,” Anderson said.
During his time at Columbia University, he learned that it is more than just a soccer program but is about building a community, Anderson said. “Trying to create a journey for kids to love their path and to feel as grateful as I did. My journey here was really special and really unique.”
Anderson said leaving Columbia University was a tough decision because he’s been there for 14 years, but he knew coming to the university would be a fantastic opportunity.
After many years of coaching, Anderson brings his experience and values to this year’s team.
“For me, it’s about being truthful, it’s about having empathy, having gratitude, understanding that the choices and decisions you make are truly choices, your choice to act and behave in a certain way,” Anderson said. “Those are the ones that I will try to instill in this group.”
Anderson said he spoke with the players on March 30 about being grateful for the people who help the team be their best.
“It’s going to take sweat which is hard work and courage,” Anderson said to the team. “The only thing I’ve told them is that I want them to tell their truth.”
Barker said Anderson would bring a different perspective to the team, and because he’s an alumnus, he will be able to connect with the players.
“For Kevin to come in here and just have a different lens, whether it be tactically, whether it be recruiting region, and I think all those are important,” Barker said.
Barker said Anderson was right for the job because he would help the players. “We are very fortunate to have him and excited to watch him grow.”
At Columbia, Anderson led their program to the most wins in program history, with 13 in 2016, and his team earned NSCAA Team Academic Awards for 14 straight years.
According to the United Soccer Coaches, “The Team Academic Award was created to recognize student athletes’ commitment to excellence in the classroom. For a team to be considered for the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award, it must have a composite team grade point average of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) for all team members who appear on the official.”
Anderson said there are a lot of international and transfer students on the team.
“For me, the journey is a four-year investment for the next 40 years of their lives,” Anderson said. “How can we help them get to a point in their career here where they have choices again? The choice would be that they can be a professional in their field of study, or maybe they are going the next guy who sits on the wall signs with a pro club and continues that part of our tradition, but my hope would be that they have both choices.”
Some players heard about Anderson’s hiring a few days before his introductory press conference on March 23.
Forward Leroy Best, a sophomore, said, “we got notified by Chris Barker, the athletic director, that Kev was going be the guy. He would be the guy that would take over the program, and the next day we came in to introduce himself with his wife and two daughters.”
Best said the team was excited to hear they will have a new head coach and curious about what Anderson has stored for the team.
“I think our process has been great so far in one and half weeks working with them,” Best said.
Anderson is open and willing to talk to the players on a personal level, Best said. “I think most have had a one-on-one conversation at least out on the field, if not in his office, and it was good. He is a guy that cares that really cares about the person and not just you as a player.”
During that press conference, Anderson noted that he forgot to thank his sister, who has always been there for him. Anderson said his sister had played a considerable role by always supporting him and his brother. “She’s the best of all three kids, for sure.”
Anderson said the interaction with the players has been significant so far, and the players have been receptive.
Anderson is not worried about any exceptions heading to the season that starts in the fall but is instead focused on building relationships on campus.
During the introductory press conference, Anderson said, “It’s always going to be our family versus their team.”