Ninth-year men's soccer head coach Jon Pascale was the recipient of UC San Diego's 2016-17 Excellence in Coaching Award. The recognition capped a year that saw the Triton men win both the CCAA regular-season and tournament championships before advancing all the way to the NCAA national semifinals. He's had an impact across the UCSD program. "Watching Jon has influenced the way I've tried to do things with our program," says Triton men's basketball coach Eric Olen, the 2015-16 Excellence in Coaching winner. "I feel like his approach and style are a perfect fit for UC San Diego and the type of student-athlete we have. It's not a surprise he's had the success he has." With the 2017 season less than three months away, Pascale took time to reflect on the award, look back at 2016, and talk about the impact of his family.
Q: At the recent UC San Diego Athletics Recognition Banquet, you were the winner of the annual Excellence in Coaching Award. What did receiving that honor mean to you?
PASCALE: Winning the award meant the world to me. Being recognized among so many great coaches is really special, especially since it was just a strong year for the athletic department as a whole.
Q: The 23 sports at UC San Diego have a set of largely-successful veteran coaches. What are some of the things that you have learned from your colleagues at UCSD that have benefited you as a coach?
PASCALE: Recruiting the right person for UCSD and for you as a coach. It is not always the best player that accomplishes the most in their time here. You need to be hard-working, disciplined, coachable and team-oriented. I have also learned you need to be accommodating to the academic rigors here. It is a challenging school and we have dedicated students. At certain times of the year, you just have to allow students more time to focus on school.
Q: Who are a few professional coaches, soccer or otherwise, who you admire?
PASCALE: Now that (Manchester United legend Sir) Alex Ferguson has retired, I can admit that I am a big fan of his. It has been amazing to watch how hard it has been to replace him. He always seemed to get his lineup selection and tactics right. His teams always pulled games out late and he seemed to buy and sell players at the right time.
Q: You were a collegiate soccer player at American University in Washington, D.C. How does Jon Pascale the athlete compare to Jon Pascale the coach?
PASCALE: I am hoping that I'm a bit stronger of a coach than an athlete. I was a pretty average player. I worked extremely hard and was very competitive, but was just too slow. I was the player who was either just in the lineup or just out of the lineup. I can relate to the players now who are not playing as much as they would like. It is a difficult task coming out to training every day when you are not playing in the games. I have a lot of respect for the players who handle that situation positively and just continue to work without sulking.
Q: Your team won 19 games, captured both the CCAA regular-season and tournament titles, and went to the NCAA Championship in Kansas City. When did you know 2016 might be a special year?
PASCALE: Honestly, I try really hard not to look ahead and keep everyone focused on the present.
Q: Of the three championships your squad won (CCAA regular season, CCAA Tournament and NCAA West Region), what stood out to you about each one?
PASCALE: The regular-season championship was won on the final day at Cal Poly Pomona, a great team and a really hard place to play. We won in dramatic fashion, scoring twice in the final four minutes. It was a really gutty effort from the team.
The CCAA Tournament was another great come-from-behind win in overtime. What stood out to me about that win was the opponent. Sonoma State is always such a good team and their coaching staff does an amazing job. When I first began coaching in the CCAA, they were the team that represented the top. Beating them in the final was very special.
The NCAA West Region was all about winning at home. Great, entertaining game, again against Cal Poly Pomona and again in front of a great crowd. It was such a special environment.
Q: When your team went back to Kansas City for the national semifinals in December, what was your favorite part of that experience?
PASCALE: I really enjoyed the community service project. It was a really fun afternoon and it took our minds off the game.
Q: What are the primary characteristics that you look for when you're recruiting a player?
PASCALE: I really put a lot of stock in a player's mentality. They need to be able to work hard for the team every day and deal with adversity in a positive manner.
Q: You talked a lot last year about the importance of having eight seniors on the roster. What is the correlation between that type of experience and success? Can experience trump talent?
PASCALE: Experience is so important in managing a season. Your players have seen situations before and understand the importance of getting the little details right. It allows you to overachieve, and when you have both experience and talent, you have a chance to make a great run.
Q: You figure to have eight seniors on the 2017 roster. What would it take to repeat last year's feats?
PASCALE: We definitely have the ability and experience to put together another great run. We need chemistry and the willingness of the seniors to lead by example.
Q: Your father, Jerry, is a fixture in the stands at Triton Soccer Stadium. What kind of influence has he had on you as a coach and a person?
PASCALE: My dad loves being in the mix and around the program. He has his opinions and doesn't mind sharing them with me. At the end of the day, he is a parent supporting his son in the game just like all the other parents in the stands. He values the relationships that come with being a part of a team. It is a nice reminder of the bigger picture.
Q: Speaking of family, you and your wife, Liza, have a pair of young daughters, Reagan and Paige. How have you balanced the hectic life of a collegiate coach, with your new family role?
PASCALE: It is definitely hectic. I need to be more efficient with time, which is not one of my stronger traits. I rely heavily on my wife and she has been amazing. She helps me keep things in perspective. She is a huge supporter of the team and always makes the effort to travel with the girls to see the team play. It means the world to see them in the stands.
Q: Is there a part of having children that has benefited you from a coaching perspective?
PASCALE: When you are home, you need to be home physically and mentally. It is easy to take coaching home with you and have it constantly be on your mind. I don't think it's healthy or productive to be constantly overanalyzing everything. It also really teaches you patience.
Q: If a young coach were to come to you today asking for insight, what's the one piece of professional advice you would give?
PASCALE: I would say, surround yourself with reliable people and do not be afraid to make hard decisions if they are best for the program.
Previous Triton Q&A Features
Gibb Anella (Men's Rowing) May 18, 2017
JD Hearn (Baseball) April 5, 2017
Britta Mosser (Women's Tennis) March 22, 2017
Michael Cohn (Men's Swimming & Diving) February 22, 2017
Dalayna Sampton (Women's Basketball) February 8, 2017
Milosh Stojcic (Men's Volleyball) January 27, 2017
Chris Hansen (Men's Basketball) December 26, 2016
Cassie MacLeod (Women's Basketball) December 16, 2016
Natalie Tang (Women's Swimming & Diving) November 18, 2016
Nolan Mac (Men's Soccer) October 13, 2016
Scott Acton (Men's Cross Country) October 6, 2016
Marie Paris (Women's Volleyball) September 16, 2016
Kiera Bocchino (Women's Soccer) September 2, 2016
Nick Alexander (Men's Water Polo) August 23, 2016
Karina Carstens (Women's Cross Country) August 8, 2016
Amanda Colla (Women's Volleyball) July 22, 2016
Palano Twins (Men's Soccer) July 13, 2016
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