Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Tale Of Two Soccer Coaches

TigerBlog saw a headline that read: "Bradley Resigns As U.S. Soccer Coach" and immediately thought he had resigned, not resigned.

Resigned, as in, "quit," rather than resigned, as in "put his signature on a contract extension."

Even now, TB is pretty sure that he's missing something as far as "resign" and "resign" are concerned. Is he spelling something wrong?

Anyway, the Bradley in question is Bob Bradley, who is the head coach of the U.S. men's national soccer team. Bradley, of course, is a Princeton grad and the former head coach of the Princeton men's team who took the Tigers to the 1993 NCAA Final Four.

Bradley was named interim coach of the U.S. team in 2006 and then was named permanent coach when Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German national coach, wouldn't agree to take the American job.

Bradley then led the U.S. to first place in the Concacaf group of World Cup qualifying. At the 2010 event in South Africa, the U.S. team won its group, finishing first against England, Slovenia and Algeria, before falling in the Round of 16 against Ghana.

Along the way, the American team generated considerable rooting interest among casual American sports fans, and Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria in the final seconds to give the Americans the group title and advance them to the knockout round is one of the great moments in sports this year.

When the team didn't advance any further, though, there was talk that Bradley might not be back for a run in 2014. In fact, it seemed like he might be headed to Aston Villa in the English Premiere League.

Instead, he's back with the U.S. team, even after Klinsmann's name surfaced again. Bradley's new contract is for four years, which would make him the second coach (along with Bruce Arena) to take the U.S. to two World Cups if he can navigate qualifying for the 2014 event in Brazil.

Bradley's "resigning" was national and international news in the soccer world. Unfortunately, he was not the only soccer coach with strong Mercer County roots to make news yesterday.

Brin Welsh, known to many as "Maynard," was the boys' soccer coach at West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School for nearly 30 years, with a record of 344-180-48. He was also a social studies teacher at the school.

TB, like so many who knew him well, were stunned by the news that he had taken his own life Sunday at the age of 51. There were many details that were in the various reports that can be read about his marital problems and other issues, all of which led him to the train tracks in Hamilton over the weekend.

TigerBlog, back in a previous life, coached freshman and jayvee baseball at West Windsor-Plainsboro, where he got to know Maynard, who got his nickname from Maynard G Krebs from the "Dobbie Gillis" TV show. Maynard G Krebs was played by Bob Denver, who was also Gilligan from "Gilligan's Island."

This Maynard, like that Maynard, was, as Rich Fisher wrote today, "a trip." When TB read Fish's piece on Maynard, he was looking for the story that both of them told about the time when they were high school kids that Maynard dumped a milk shake on Fish in a McDonald's.

While at WWP, Maynard sent several players to Princeton, including Scott and Shawn Pierson and Mike Nugent, and he coached against current Tiger head men's coach Jim Barlow when he was a player at Hightstown High and women's assistant coach Ron Celestin when he was the boys' coach at Princeton High.

Through the years, Maynard was a semi-regular at Princeton games, in soccer and other sports.

TigerBlog never saw Maynard when he wasn't smiling, wasn't laughing, wasn't telling stories, wasn't making everyone around him laugh. He was a completely engaging man, one you never got tired of seeing, one who always seemed to be having fun and helping everyone else around do the same. He told great stories, and everyone had great stories about Maynard.

When TB found out that he was gone, he was shocked at first, like everyone else must have been. But when he thought back to the Maynard he knew - and not the one who went through such a rough time at the end - TigerBlog couldn't help but smile and laugh as he remembered his old friend.

Even as he writes this, TigerBlog isn't sure if he should be laughing or crying, and he's pretty sure the Maynard he knew would come up to him, put his arm around him like he always would and say something like "it's okay to remember the fun parts."

When TigerBlog thinks back about Brian Welsh through the years, those fun parts are what he'll remember.

Two of TB's favorite soccer coaches made the news yesterday, one for all the best reasons and one for the worst of them all. Best of luck to Bob Bradley as he moves forward with the U.S. team; best wishes to the family and many, many friends of Brian Welsh.

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