Jan. 19, 2012
Jeremy Gunn is in the early stages putting his mark on the Stanford men's soccer program. The native of England and graduate of Cal-State Bakersfield, Gunn comes to Stanford from UNC Charlotte where he led the 49ers to the 2011 national title game, narrowly falling to North Carolina, 1-0. After the season, Gunn was named the NSCAA National Coach of the Year, joining Paul Ratcliffe who earned the same award for the women. The duo now share the same suite inside of the Arrillaga Family Sports Center as Gunn attempts to take his program to the same heights as the Cardinal women.
Gunn now embraces the challenge of returning Stanford to national prominence and more importantly developing great young soccer players and great young men. The 40-year-old proud Englishman, but adopted Californian took some time to talk with gostanford.com about his reasons to coming for Stanford, his past, his influences and much more.
What made you want to leave UNC Charlotte and come to Stanford?
The opportunity to work at one of the finest academic institutions in the world, within one of the nations premier athletic departments are two of many reasons why I wanted to come to Stanford. The university embodies success in every way. It's wonderfully manicured surroundings stimulate the senses from the very second you arrive on this storied campus, providing a backdrop to each and every architectural wonder this school has to offer. Put simply, Stanford University has sheer class written all over it. Around every corner you find students and staff members who are the definition of talent, passion and ambition. Even beyond this school walls you find an alumni excitedly enthusing about their days on campus, and the current legends within. So, faced with all this, there really wasn't a decision to be made. Let's face it, who wouldn't want to come to Stanford.
What style of soccer do you bring to Stanford? What is the vision you see this program becoming?
Although I believe a new coach's style is very often dictated by the strengths and weaknesses of his players, I do believe in playing an attractive style of football. All of my teams have been noted both for their very organized defenses, and also their ability to play incisive, flowing soccer. I like my teams to enjoy playing this game, and to be proud of their identities as people and as soccer players. In keeping with everything this school stands for, my team will always play with great pride in the shirt they wear, and have complete respect for themselves and their surroundings. Our objective will be to win with a style of soccer that excites and elevates Stanford men's soccer to a place it belongs, within the nations best.
How familiar are you with the current roster?
I have seen a few of the players while recruiting for my previous school. For the most part, however, I arrive at Stanford with no preconceptions as to how we are as individuals, and to what our identity is currently as a team. This evaluation period we are currently in is an exciting one for both the players and the coaching staff. As a group, we are going through that wonderful process where we begin to figure each other out. Typically, theses moments are filled with the kind of energy a clean slate can sometimes bring, and they oftentimes produce character defining moments which help provide that close-knit team dynamic that I love. The current group are extremely enthusiastic, and eager to learn. Their youthfulness may mean that we currently lack a bit of experience, but, it does also mean that there is a young foundation we can look to build on.
Have you set any team goals yet?
Right now, as we go through the 'figuring out' process, our immediate team goals have not been identified. As I said earlier, the most important thing for us to do as a staff is to assess where we feel we are currently at, before we set any bars. As a program, however, our ultimate goal will be to build a squad, which could be considered the nation's best. In this sense, our aim will be to reach a point where we are continually competing at the very highest level of college soccer. As we challenge our players to improve on a daily basis, our ultimate outcome goals will hopefully become inevitable.
What led to your success at UNC Charlotte?
There were so many different facets contributing to the success we had at Charlotte. It took time, patience, and discipline. We were working with a group of players who may not have been as decorated as some of their counterparts, but they were incredibly honest, and filled with a natural optimism and an eagerness to learn. They also had an insatiable drive and competitive spirit which helped us achieve our goals of continually moving forward as a program. Consequently, coming into my 2011 season, there was a sense that we had a group ready and capable of accomplishing great things. As the season began to unfold, it became apparent that the whole program knew just what they had to do to help us achieve the ultimate goal. Sometimes this meant players didn't get to play, while other players were asked to play roles they didn't prefer. At no time, however, was there ever any indication that self came before team. This overriding team spirit and belief became a huge driving force behind all of last year's accolades.
How much of an honor was it to win the NSCAA National Coach of the Year Award?
Receiving the national coach of the year award was an extremely emotional moment for me. It was the culmination of a journey which hadn't been travelled down the path of least resistance which some of the more fashionable schools oftentimes get to go down. It signified the recognition of the efforts of so many people. As a head coach you are reliant on a team of coaches, the support of an athletic department, and the sheer dedication of a squad of student-athletes. At Charlotte, we managed to bring together a staff and group of players who were filled with belief, desire and commitment. As time went on we made sure all our noses were pointing in the same direction, and we remained steadfast in our belief they were pointing the right way.
How did you decide on the rest of the coaching staff? What were your previous relationships with John Smith and Mike Graczyk like?
John was an individual that I met when we were both playing professionally in Nashville. He was an exceptional soccer player that played at the very highest levels in England and also in the United States. We have always been involved in soccer together since then, through our friendship. We have competed against each other as coaches and have always shared ideas. He's a tremendous soccer brain and an outstanding, class individual. He is also someone that I very much respect and trust. I am very excited that he accepted the offer to come and coach here. I know that we will have a great working relationship. Between the entire staff, we will be able to offer all sorts of insight and ways to support the players. When you create a coaching staff, you don't want clones of each other. You want people that add different things to the environment. John will be a great addition to the group. He is someone that players will really enjoy.
Mike is actually someone I tried to recruit out of high school. I actually tried to recruit his sister as well (to Cal-State Bakersfield). So, I have known Mike since he was in high school and seen him develop. I coached against him when he was in college and watched his success as he moved onto the MLS. He was coached by coaches that I trust and respect, people I know. I have heard many great things about him as a coach before I came out here on the interview process. Since I came out here, he has truly impressed me with his confidence and great insight into the game. He will be a tremendous goalkeeper coach, which is an important role within the staff. I feel really happy with the group of coaches we have and also with Jason Quan, the sports performance coach. He has already shown me a lot. He has a passion for what he does and will help improve the team. We have a great staff and one that is well-rounded think tank. It is three very driven individuals and three very competitive individuals as well. Hopefully, it will develop the culture that makes Stanford soccer something that is truly respected.
How did your love of soccer begin and how did it take you from England to the United States?
Growing up in England, and in particular Yorkshire, you can't help but find yourself loving sport. I primarily focused on soccer, rugby, and cricket as I went through high school. Although I did actually become very good at cricket, and was fortunate enough to represent England at youth level, it became obvious to me that soccer was the logical path. There were over a dozen professional clubs within a 30 mile radius of where I lived, so there were always opportunities to watch professional athletes perform. It was during my time playing both club and high school soccer in England that I was approached and asked to play college soccer in California, at CSU Bakersfield. The opportunity to play the sport I love in the MUCH warmer climate afforded Californians, and particularly those living in Bakersfield, was just too good to turn down.
Is there anyone you can credit for your coaching style?
I think, as coaches, we are all blessed with a certain personality specific to you. Therefore, it becomes difficult to emulate a coach who's style is centered around a personality trait which you don't possess. Consequently, I like to take note from successful people in all walks of life. Every once in a while, however, your path crosses an individual who helps you define the coach you will ultimately become. Andy McDermid was one of those individuals. Unfortunately Andy passed away a couple of years ago. He gained a phenomenal reputation while working under Arsene Wenger within the Arsenal youth academies, and I was fortunate enough to have him share his philosophies with me as he came to work with my teams. Working with Andy was the single most humbling experience of my coaching life. Andy taught me how to look at things in different ways, and to make everything I was doing be both applicable, and worthwhile. He had an on-field demeanor which was both engaging and electrifying at the same time. A great deal of what I do is attributed to what I extracted from those moments spent on the training fields with Andy.
I was also fortunate to have met Dr. Dan Freigang who has worked with all of my programs for the last ten years now. He is a tremendous sports psychologist who has worked with the US national teams at all levels. He has also worked with Jurgen Klinsmann during his spell with Bayern Munich. Similar to Andy's soccer perspective, Dr Dan would always ask me to look at player personalities in a way to ultimately enhance their overall chance for success. He has taught me the importance of finding different ways to inspire, educate, and support my players to best prepare them for the emotional rigors of performing at an extremely high level.
What has been your greatest moment in coaching so far?
It really is difficult to answer that one. There have been so many memorable moments for me over the course of the years, and not all of them had anything to do with wins and accolades. I think the national championship with fort Lewis still remains my greatest moment, not only because of the joy of being considered the nations best, but mainly because of the journey which lead us to that moment. Having previously lost two championships in sudden death overtime, it is hard to describe the sheer elation I felt when the final whistle went to conclude our championship winning year. At the same time, I would describe UNC Charlotte's College Cup final appearance as an equally memorable moment. To be able to watch my team line up with the Tar Heels in preparation for the national anthem before that game, it was amazing to think that the program was ranked 150th in the nation when I arrived. It is a moment I won't ever forget.
There is never a direct route to success, but we have everything here. I am just looking forward to an incredible journey with Stanford. I am excited for a new era in my career.