November 28, 2012 9:49:22 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- For Aaron Gordon, transforming the Mississippi State University women's soccer program must seem like a been-there, done-that proposition.
Gordon's experience revamping programs is one reason MSU selected the 43-year-old associate head coach from Texas Tech University to be its new women's soccer coach. Gordon's charge is to revive a program that has never won a Southeastern Conference tournament game or qualified for the NCAA tournament in its 17-year history.
"The program at Texas Tech was nothing before we got there as a current staff and started turning it around," Gordon said. "The challenge and excitement of building something at a big level of collegiate soccer is not foreign to me, but the only difference is I'm the head coach of this operation not instead of being second in command to a great leader in (Texas Tech coach) Tom Stone.
Gordon, who doesn't have experience as a college head coach, established a reputation as one of the nation's top assistant coaches in his six years at Texas Tech. In 2012, Texas Tech made its first trip to the NCAA tournament after advancing to the semifinals of the Big 12 Conference tournament for the first time. Texas Tech also notched a school-record 16 victories, defeated the University of North Texas 2-0 in Lubbock, Texas, for its first NCAA tournament victory. It lost to Florida State University in overtime in the second round. FSU is in the Final Four with the University of North Carolina, Stanford University, and Penn State University.
"He's young, hungry, and experienced at so many different levels of soccer, so I think it'll be a perfect fit from what we're looking for," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said. "Charisma and that ability to sell has to be one of those traits we list. He has that tempo to him we look for in head coaches in this league in all sports."
Gordon spent three years as director of coaching for the second largest youth club program in north Texas with FC Dallas of Major League Soccer prior to his work at Texas Tech. He found himself in Lubbock, Texas, the home of Texas Tech, only because he convinced Stone, one of his best friends and his boss when he worked as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Beat of the Women's United Soccer Association, a former professional league, to interview for the job at Texas Tech.
"He called me one day about whether he should interview after getting some negative comments about Texas Tech and I said, 'Tom you have to do it' because it's one of the three big-time programs in the state of Texas," Gordon said. "I was telling him this as a club coach in Dallas that I would've fed him players. Suddenly I'm at Tech with him building this, but when I asked him about Mississippi State, he's the one who said I had to go visit the campus because I'd regret not looking at a Southeastern Conference head coaching job."
Gordon oversaw all facets of the Red Raiders' program, including recruiting, scouting, team training, and video match analysis.
"Coach Gordon has been an integral part of this Texas Tech soccer program from day one," Stone said in 2011 when he promoted Gordon.
"After three years in the WUSA together, I was thankful to be able to partner with Aaron and his wife, Ashley, in the process of building this team at Texas Tech"
Aaron Gordon said Ashley will come to Starkville and be a member of his coaching staff. She arrived at Texas Tech with Gordon, after leading Richland College to the National Junior College Athletics Association Division III National Championship in 2006. The championship earned Gordon National NJCAA Coach of the Tournament and National Coach of the Year honors.
The Gordons have two daughters, Addison, 11, and Avery, 7. They will be the only full-time married assistants in the same sport in the MSU athletics department.
Aaron Gordon replaces Neil Macdonald, who was relieved of his duties Oct. 29 after nine seasons as coach of the program. He had a 58-103-14 record. This past season, MSU finished 9-10-1 and 2-10-1 in the SEC. It started the season 7-0 and failed to qualify for the 10-team SEC tournament.
Gordon will inherit a roster MSU roster with just two returning players from the state of Mississippi, but one of his major objectives is to get a build a tradition of signing the state's top players.
Stricklin and Associate Athletics Director Duncan McKenzie identified Gordon early in the search process. Gordon was offered the job last weekend, and on Monday accepted the deal to become MSU's fourth head soccer coach.
"I had been through the coaching carousel last year and none of those opportunities I looked at and interviewed for were meant to be," Gordon said. "This just came so suddenly while we were in the NCAA tournament at Tech that I didn't really pay any attention to it until it got extremely serious from Scott himself."
In February, Texas Tech announced a 10-player signing class that was ranked one of the top classes in program history. The class included forward Janine Beckie, who was named the Big 12 Conference Rookie of the Year. She led the Red Raiders with 14 goals, including five game-winners.
"Mississippi State being in the Southeastern Conference makes it a legitimate program to recruit to immediately," Gordon said. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could bring the best talent in the region to this campus."
Gordon's contract must be approved by the state of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning board members. It calls for a significant pay raise from his reported $57,783 annual salary at Texas Tech.
Gordon comes from a program that has a state-of-the-art $5M soccer facility with a locker room and athletic training facilities that was dedicated prior to the 2008 season. It also has a 37,800-square foot indoor soccer complex that opened earlier this year. He said Tuesday he has seen artist renderings of potential additions to MSU's soccer facility, which doesn't have a team locker room or athletic training facilities on site, and that those possibilities intrigued him.
"We have had those conversations, and it's something I will push for immediately and as often as I need to for it to possibly happen one day," Gordon said. "There's two sides to that element. One is you obviously need the funds and donations, and that's on me, too. The second is after being in club (soccer) in Dallas for as long as I was, you have to realize the kids you're recruiting to have never had those things, so it's not the most important thing in the world to them. Quite frankly, most of the schools we'll be competing with for players don't have state-of-the-art soccer-only facilities either."