BERKELEY - Kevin Grimes enters his 15th season at the helm of the Golden Bears men’s soccer program after coaching Cal to arguably its best season in program history last year. The Bears were ranked number one in the country by the NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America) for six consecutive weeks for the first time in the program history, and closed out their 2013 campaign with a 14-5-2 overall mark and an appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals. Through 14 years at Cal, Grimes has led the Golden Bears to three conference titles and 10 NCAA Tournament runs, including three quarterfinal appearances. Last year, Grimes eclipsed the 150-career win mark and is just the second coach in program history to accomplish the feat.
With the men’s soccer season right around the corner, Grimes sat down with CalBears.com for this week’s Coaches Corner. CalBears.com: What is the most rewarding part of being a college coach? Kevin Grimes: The best part about being a college coach is that you get to work with kids age 18-22, and in some cases ages 17-23. It is a critical time frame for their life development. It is a tender age and you have to take that responsibility as a coach that you will be able to provide them with the nurturing and guidance that they need to make that next step into adulthood. Some of them get here and they are a little further along, and some of them aren’t as far along, so we have to make sure that we recognize that to be able to continue to develop their character and responsibility to the team on and off the field. Hopefully they pick up on a lot of things in regard to accountability, leadership, and other facets they can take from being a student-athlete.
CB: Talk about the benefits of coaching a premiere program at a top-tier university. KG: When somebody asks you what you do for a living and you tell him or her you work at Cal – whatever you are doing – when people know you work at an institute like Cal, you are looked upon with so much respect because of what Cal represents. It has meant so much to so many people over the years. There is so much great history here, like the freedom of speech movement. There are so many wonderful facets of the university and the community itself. It is one of the most unique places in the world to live, without question. It is so dynamic and so diverse, and I think it is a great honor to anybody that has the chance to work here.
CB: What do you expect from the newcomers? KG: They are all very talented. You can put any one of them on the field and you wouldn’t miss a beat. I think they just need to get experience playing at the college level in real games. The only one that has that right now is Trevor Haberkorn, he played every game at Furman as a freshman. The other guys will need to gain that experience over time – It could be this year, it could be next year, or it might be a little bit further down the road. All in all, they all have great talent.
CB: What do you expect from the veteran group? KG: I think they are just going to carry the baton that was handed to them from last year’s group of seniors. They obviously did a fantastic job leading the team to an unprecedented season. They are just going to try to take the leadership and competitive edge that was handed to them from last year’s seniors and continue on to become part of the culture and fabric of our group.
CB: What is the highlight of your coaching year? KG: Certainly being ranked No. 1 in the country doesn’t happen all that often. Other than last season, it has never happened in the 108 years of Cal soccer. That just goes to show you how few and far between that actually happens for a program. We were ranked No. 1 for six weeks, which is half a regular season and was longer than any other team in the country. I think that was something we will all remember for a long time. It really meant so much to the whole athletic department, our community, and our alumni. It was so special for everyone.
Catch the Golden Bears in action when they head to North Carolina to kick off their season against No. 22 North Carolina on Friday, Aug. 29, and No. 11 Wake Forest on Sunday, Aug. 31. Both kick off times are scheduled for 4 p.m. PT.