Thirteen-year head coach declined to resign
The second-longest-tenured coach in the Goshen College athletic program is gone. After 13 seasons at the helm of the Maple Leafs, men’s soccer coach Tavi Mounsithiraj informed his team last week that he had been asked to resign. According to athletic director Tim Demant, the coach opted not to take that offer, and the separation proceeded accordingly.
Demant said, “I have nothing but respect for Tavi, who has been the face of Goshen soccer for many years, but I have to keep in mind the best interests of the soccer program moving forward.”
In the release announcing the coaching change, Demant spoke of a desire to take the program in a new direction. Contacted by phone Wednesday afternoon, he did not enumerate a full plan, but noted that accountability and training were two areas on which goal-setting was focused.
The Leafs finished 6-11-2 last fall, with a 3-4-2 mark in the Crossroads League good for fifth place. Mounsithiraj finishes his GC career with a 123-109-24 record; among the 29 coaches who have been at Goshen for longer than the four-year tenure of a student-athlete, he was one of only nine with a record above .500. Those 123 wins and 13 seasons are each the second-most in GC soccer history, trailing Dwain Hartzler’s 259 and 25 respectively.
Mounsithiraj was a three-year starter under Hartzler at Goshen, the school from which he graduated in 1994. Seven years later, he was tapped to replace Hartzler as the head coach, becoming the Leafs’ third head coach since 1966. That tenure began with three straight seventh-place conference finishes, but included Goshen finishing above .500 in eight of nine seasons between 2003 and 2011.
In the last four years, however, the Leafs totaled 27 wins, 42 losses and four draws: Goshen has neither hosted nor won a conference-tournament game since 2009, the end of a six-year streak in which both had occurred every season.
A 2006 appearance in the NAIA national championship highlights Mounsithiraj’s Maple Leaf resume: he was named NAIA Region VIII coach of the year as Goshen ended a 29-year national-tournament drought. Goshen advanced to the Region VIII tournament three times in four seasons between 2004 and 2007; in the one year during that span that the Leafs did not qualify, Mounsithiraj was named conference coach of the year in 2005.
Upon learning of their coach’s departure, Alejandro Davalos, a 2013 graduate, and Khavoir Graham, a senior, began a petition supporting Mounsithiraj; according to Graham, the petition had nearly 60 signatures from current and former players as of Tuesday night.
“There’s obviously loyalty to him, and I wouldn’t expect anything less,” said Demant. “I don’t hold [the petition] against them, but it probably won’t affect decisions going forward.”
Demant described the coaching change as two years in the making, the culmination of a series of annual evaluations involving the administration, the coach and the players. That comes as little consolation to the departing coaching staff. Mounsithiraj told the Goshen News, “I feel like I was fired,” while director of soccer operations Rob Ganger asserted in the same story that several disgruntled players spearheaded the change.
“The sense right now is that [changing coaches] won’t impact the current recruits who have indicated that they are coming,” said Demant. “It’s always possible that recruits find different connections to the new coach.” He also noted that some players may benefit from a proverbial clean sheet with the new coach if they hadn’t seen much action previously.
The status of Mounsithiraj’s coaching staff is in limbo; the athletic department website listed two assistants and two directors of soccer operations.
“Assistant coaches are completely at the discretion of the head coach,” Demant said Wednesday afternoon. It remains unclear who will coach the Leafs in their spring scrimmages – according to the athletic director, the first such game, scheduled for this weekend, was likely on the chopping block for purely weather-related reasons.
Mounsithiraj also served as executive director of the Goshen Youth Soccer Organization, a youth league that has provided local children with opportunities to play the game since the late 1980s. That season will begin with parent meetings next week.
Demant said the soccer coach position was independent of the GYSO position, and that the organization rents the fields not from the athletic department but from the college.
Among the 18 players who appeared in a majority of last season’s games, two-thirds will be eligible to return for Goshen’s ninth coach next spring. Only three seniors – forward Jordan Berkey and defenders Caleb Frey and Graham – started in more than half the games.
The new coach will face an abbreviated off-season. Fall athletes are due back on campus on August 16, with the season opener scheduled less than two weeks later. Demant said he had been contacted by several people who wished to apply or suggested applicants, but explained that the bulk of the application process is handled through the human resources office.
The athletic department hopes to name a new coach by the end of May term.