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.”