Last Saturday, the Brandeis University men’s soccer team delivered head coach Mike Coven his 500th career victory by defeating Babson College in double-overtime by a score of 1-0.
Coven, who has paced the Brandeis sidelines for 43 seasons, became the sixth NCAA Division III head coach to reach the 500-win mark. He is the 11th NCAA coach to reach the milestone and is the second-longest active head coach in college athletics behind Division II Rockhurst College’s Tony Tocco – he is currently in his 44th season.
“It was great for the team, it was great for me personally, but now you have to forget about it and move forward,” said Coven in a phone interview earlier this week.
Noontime Sports caught up with Coven earlier this week to discuss his 500th career victory on the sidelines and below is our conversation with the tenured coach.
Noontime Sports: Tell us a little more about this victory. Your team needed double-overtime to defeat Babson, so it must have been an exciting feeling when Jake Picard headed-in the game-winning goal?
Mike Coven: “It all worked out. Years and years ago before there were conferences and everybody played everybody we played Division I schools, Division II schools and (Division) III schools, but the premiere Division III matchup every year – not just regionally, but nationally – was the Brandeis-Babson game. In 1975 they won a national championship and in 1976 we won the national championship, and we used to recruit out of the same areas, so a lot of the guys on both teams had played against each other in high school and club. There were even times when we each had one brother (playing on each team) so it was a great, great rivalry. (Babson head coach) Jon Anderson actually played on the first couple of Babson teams that I coached against and we remain very close today. Our families socialize and everything, so it kind of came full-circle (in winning my 500th game). It was a home game; it was a Saturday night game where we get very good crowds and (we were playing) Babson. It was a typical Brandeis-Babson game, which goes back-and-forth and it goes into sudden death overtime. We were fortunate to win it, but the whole scenario was great.”
NS: What was the build-up like going into the Brandeis-Babson game? Did you know a win would provide you with 500 victories?
MC: “I knew I was coming up to my 500th victory, but I didn’t know (when it would be) or kept track, but my wife (did), so she really knew when it was going to happen. (The athletic department) built up the excitement with win number 498 and 499, but I was just more concerned with how we played, so I was more concerned about winning the game because Babson is a good team.”
NS: Has the past 43 years on the sidelines gone by fast?
MC: “It has gone by (fast), it is hard to believe that I have been (at Brandeis) for 43 years. I have a freshman forward name Andrew Allen on my team and his dad played here, so I have had two situations where I have coached both the dad and the son. I can remember recruiting (Andrew’s) father, but now I am recruiting his son, so it has gone by so fast and it is unbelievable with how fast it went.”
NS: What do you remember about that first national championship victory in 1976? What memories remain from that exciting overtime win over Brockport?
MC: “I can still see the (game-winning) goal and it building up and even before we scored I saw the (play develop), so at that point I knew we were going to win. At this point (in the match) it was like two seconds before the ball went into the back of the net. I will remember (that game-winning goal) forever. When you win a national championship as a team – the team stays very, very close (afterward). One of the captains, Rob Muller, who lives in New York, calls me on the anniversary of the national championship. I don’t remember the date – I think it was November 20 – but he calls me every day on that date. Murray Greenberg, who was the goalie on the national championship team, he started as a freshman my first-year here (in 1973), so he was the goalie of my first victory at Brandeis. Michael Shannon, who was one of the captains on the national championship team, lives in Houston and we had just played at Trinity in San Antonio over the weekend, and he came to the game and we made him honorary captain, so he went out for the coin toss.”
NS: What makes playing soccer for Brandeis so special?
MC: “There is no football here, so the university has always appreciated a good soccer team and has pushed for a good soccer team, so the student body follows us pretty well, we have good fan support and the administration certainly follows us as well and supports us well. Our conference – the University Athletic Association (UAA) – we travel all over the country and two weekends ago we went to Texas for four days to play, so not many schools emphasize the game as much as we do. Since I have been here we have joined the UAA, we got a new soccer facility, the gym is not new, but it newer than the one when I first started, so it is a great place to work and they treat me very well here.”
NS: Last question, Coach. Would it be the ideal storybook ending to win a championship the same year you earned your 500th career win?
MC: “I would like to. Last year’s team could have won (it all). We went to the (elite) eight and lost to SUNY Oneonta. Tufts University won it all and we had beaten Tufts (last season), 2-0. So, you look at the (landscape of Division III men’s soccer) and say, ‘hey, it can really happen.’ That is our goal, we want to win a national championship and I think Brandeis will win a national championship again soon. It is very possible, we’re not that far away right now.”