Dayton Flyers soccer coach Mike Tucker to retire

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Tucker has coached the UD women for 22 seasons.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Mike Tucker's statement on retirement: "For 25 years I have been afforded the opportunity to 'live a dream' as a coach of the women's soccer program at the University of Dayton. Being a staff member at this incredible university, having the privilege of interacting with hundreds of some of the finest young women imaginable, and being there firsthand to witness their growth into women making a positive difference in our world is a gift that I will always cherish.

“I was fortunate that very early in my career our then University president, Brother Ray Fitz gave me some great advice: ‘never forget that you are here to help these young women prepare for their lives after their college careers.’ I have strived to follow these words of wisdom and have been fortunate to have had so many truly remarkable student-athletes to work with over the years.

“Keeping the continued success and future growth of the Flyers soccer program as my goal, it has become apparent that this future is better served by me stepping down as head coach at the end of this season. I truly care for each of our current young women and for those who have committed to becoming student-athletes here in the years to come. I want no less than for them to have the opportunity to reach the highest levels of success. In the meantime, I hope to be the best coach possible in this, my final year as head coach of the Dayton Flyers!

“I cannot begin to thank enough the many administrators, staff, coaches and true friends who have supported me and our program over these 25 years. The beautiful game of soccer, the competitions, and the enduring friendships that I have enjoyed with a family of coaches nationally and internationally is a gift that is beyond belief.

“It’s not a stretch to say that my coaching career here has been somewhat of a ‘dream.’ When my daughter, Lori was recruited to become a student-athlete here, it was the start of my love affair with the University of Dayton. When my daughter, Traci, soon followed to UD it truly became a ‘family affair.’ And how many coaches have been so fortunate to have been able to coach their daughter (Lori), and now her daughter, Sidney, during their coaching tenure? What a tremendous ‘ride’ it has been! And it could not have occurred without the unconditional love and support of a most amazing woman, my wife, Chris. I am beyond thankful for the love of my life!”

Dayton Flyers women’s soccer coach Mike Tucker didn’t plan to tell his players about his impending retirement at halftime Sunday during a game against Ohio University in Athens. The news just came out.

“Look guys, this is my last go-around,” Tucker told them, hoping it would motivate them.

In a way, the ploy worked. The Flyers had a good second half, Tucker said, but didn’t get the job done, falling 2-1. On Tuesday, when Tucker made the news official – he’s retiring after this season, his 22nd — he said the timing was right for his Sunday announcement.

Tucker was more concerned about how his incoming recruits would take the news. The fair thing was to let them know as soon as possible. UD plans to conduct a national search for a coach after the season.

“It’s been great because every one of those kids I’ve talked to is still solidly on board,” Tucker said.

Tucker, 67, is Dayton’s all-time winningest women’s soccer coach and ranks fourth in victories (304-116-30) among coaches in all UD sports. He’s a five-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year. He has been UD’s only women’s soccer coach since the Flyers joined the A-10 in 1995, his first season.

Tucker’s granddaughter, Sidney LeRoy, is a junior midfielder on the team, and family is a big reason Tucker is calling it quits after this season. He has seven grandchildren.

“It’s been in the back of my mind for a little while,” Tucker said in his office at the Frericks Center on Tuesday. “I’ve discussed it (with UD administration). We thought going through this season would make sense. I’ve got grandkids who aren’t getting younger, and I’ve missed a lot of what they’ve done, and my wife (Chris) and I like to travel and we haven’t had much of a chance to do that.”

UD will honor Tucker on Sunday at a noon game against Kent State at Baujan Field. The first 150 fans receive “Tucker Nation” T-shirts. On Oct. 9, before a home game against Virginia Commonwealth, UD will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tucker’s first A-10 title, which came in his first season. At his last regular-season home match on Oct. 30, the first 400 fans receive Tucker bobblehead dolls.

If the attention is unexpected for Tucker, so is his entire career. He coached a club team in Cincinnati for nine years before becoming an assistant coach at UD in 1991 when his daughter, Lori, Sidney’s mom, played for the Flyers.

Tucker worked at his family boat building and repair business, Tucker Marine on the Ohio River in Cincinnati, and never planned to become a full-time coach.

“I would come up and watch training,” Tucker said. “One day the coach finally said, ‘If you’re hanging around here, I’m going to put you to work.’ Tom Schindler gave me my start. I was a part-time assistant. I would work in the boat shop and drive up here. My wife has a halo to put up with that.”

Of all the memories, Tucker’s first A-10 championship stands out because it was so unexpected. His team is the A-10 favorite this season for the eighth straight year. In 1995, they finished 9-9-1 and beat a Massachusetts team that finished 14-4-2 in the final.

“We only had two goalkeepers,” Tucker said. “One of them got hurt halfway through the year. The other one got hurt the night before we left for the championship. She was walking down the hall and fell over and broke her ankle. We had a little freshman defender named Tiffany King. I remember the morning we left, I handed her a pair of gloves. I’m not going to tell you what she said later about that. She was scared to death. But we went up there and said we’ll just go up and outscore people. No one gave us a prayer against UMass. I’ve never seen such a gutty performance.”