After 26 years at the helm, 322 victories and three NCAA Championships, local soccer icon Derek Armstrong retired as head coach of the UC San Diego men’s soccer team during the middle of the 2007 season. A national search for his replacement resulted in the naming of 33-year-old Jon Pascale as the new head coach of the Tritons. A player at and graduate of American University in Washington, DC, Pascale spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach at Stanford, following coaching stints at the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown. With a spring season behind him and just a month remaining until the opening of fall workouts, Pascale took time to talk about his background, his first few months in San Diego and the future of the UCSD men’s soccer program.
Q As someone who had played and coached exclusively at the NCAA Division I level, what made the UC San Diego head coaching position appealing to you?
Pascale My entire career I have been coaching at elite academic schools and it was important to continue working in this environment. UC San Diego offered the opportunity to do so. Southern California is arguably the most talent rich area of the country. Being located in La Jolla, I knew I would be able to recruit top players to the university.
Q What are some of your early impressions about UC San Diego in general and the Triton men’s soccer program in particular?
Pascale The first thing that stands out to me about UC San Diego is how hard the coaches and administrators work. We work just as hard and are as committed to winning as any of the other universities I have been a part of. The student-athletes are similar. They are here because they love UCSD and take a lot of pride in representing the school.
Q How does it feel to be replacing someone with the national reputation and winning legacy of Derek Armstrong?
Pascale It is an honor to take over for Coach Armstrong. He has accomplished so much here at UCSD and in the world of soccer. He has done things I want to do and that keeps me motivated.
Q Describe your coaching philosophy and tell us what we can expect to see from a Jon Pascale-coached team.
Pascale I believe hard-working cohesive teams that fight for one another will win championships. You can expect my teams to be organized, attack with quick ball movement, committed to scoring goals, and most of all passionate about winning.
Q How competitive do you feel your first UCSD team can be in the CCAA?
Pascale I have not seen too many of our opponents but have heard great things about the CCAA. If the team puts in the work over the summer and we stay healthy, I think we will have a very good team.
Q You played soccer at American University in Washington, DC. How would you describe your collegiate soccer career?
Pascale I had a great college soccer experience. I played for great coaches who created an extremely competitive environment. I was always the guy who was just in the lineup or just left out of the lineup. The days I was left out were tough times but they always motivated me to push myself in training. I took away so many life lessons and made great friendships.
Q What led you to get into coaching? Who have been your coaching mentors?
Pascale I have been really lucky to play for some great coaches who have pushed me to get things out of myself that I never knew existed. Having the opportunity to create an environment that can do that for others was very appealing to me. I always planned on teaching and coaching on the side.
I am very thankful to Rudy Fuller at the University of Pennsylvania for giving me an opportunity to coach at the collegiate level straight out of college. He was certainly a mentor of mine. I also owe a lot to Keith Tabatznik at Georgetown and Bret Simon at Stanford. They were both great coaches who I learned quite a bit from and I model my program after many of the things they taught me.
My college coaches, Bob Jenkins, Jim Barlow and Todd West are still extremely important to me. They are coaching at a level I strive for.
Q When you’re watching soccer, who are your favorite teams and players?
Pascale I love watching soccer on all levels but can’t take my eyes off the screen when Barcelona and Arsenal are playing. I love teams that are creative in the attack and score goals off quick combinations and no one does it better then those two clubs.
I have a long list of favorite players. Soccer is not the same without Zinedine Zidane. He was always a step ahead and made things look so easy. Thierry Henry while playing for Arsenal was magical to watch. He was a true artist. I love the passion of Gennaro Gattuso of AC Milan. He is a guy you would love to have on your team. Finally, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s ability to run at defenders is at a new level. I have no idea how they do the things they do with a soccer ball.
Q What do you like to do away from the soccer?
Pascale The little time away from soccer I like to spend time with my girlfriend and brother doing something relaxing. I like to read and try and stay relatively in shape. I also love skiing and snowboarding when I can get away.
Q Is there anything new you’ve enjoyed since moving to San Diego?
Pascale Since moving to San Diego I have learned to surf and I’m officially hooked.
Q What are your long term goals for UCSD Men’s Soccer?
Pascale The sky is the limit. I envision the program competing for an NCAA Division II national championship, all our athletes maintaining over a 3.0 GPA, and playing an active role in the community.
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Casey Ryan (Men's Track and Field and Men's Basketball) May 21, 2008
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Eric Leserman (Men's Volleyball) April 9, 2008
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Melissa Ward (Softball) February 20, 2008
Cameron Sprowles (Fencing) February 13, 2008
Kim Hockett (Women's Water Polo) February 6, 2008
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Jordan Lawley (Men's Basketball) January 23, 2008
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Alexis Gaskin (Women's Basketball) December 17, 2007
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Amanda Burkhardt (Women's Cross Country) September 10, 2007
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