SLIAC; Looking Back is a weekly interview series each Thursday this summer with former players and coaches who made an impact during their time in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC). We hope you enjoy a look back through time and how the SLIAC played a role in who they are today. Today we speak with former Greenville College men's and women's soccer head coach Brian "Mac" McMahon.
|Coach Brian McMahon|
Coach McMahon has seen success at every level he has coached at, and that success began in 2001 at Greenville College. McMahon took the reigns of the Panthers men's soccer team in 2001 and the women's soccer team the following year. In 12 years at Greenville he totaled 276 wins and is still the all-time wins leader for both programs. McMahon guided the men's team to three NCAA National Tournaments, including the first NCAA national tournament appearance by any Greenville athletic program. Following his tenure at Greenville he went on to coach two seasons at Belhaven University, making the NAIA National Tournament twice and winning the NAIA National Championship in 2012. McMahon then moved on to Palm Beach Atlantic University, where he is set to begin his third season as head coach. In his two seasons at Palm Beach Atlantic McMahon has already led his teams to 29 total wins, including a run into the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II National Tournament last fall. He currently serves as the National Chair of the NSCAA/NCAA DII committee and was named the 2015 NSCAA Coach of the Year.
What are some of the differences you have seen coaching at three different levels? (NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, and NAIA)
"Honestly, it's been a huge jump with various differences. The majority of players I coached at Greenville were local Midwest players who came from good clubs while during my time at Belhaven and Palm Beach Atlantic we have had a good amount of international players tied in with some very good academy level American players. At Belhaven, in 2012, we had 16 different nationalities on that team and at Palm Beach Atlantic we will have around eight with a 50/50 split of Americans to internationals. Obviously dealing with athletic scholarships has also been a curse and a blessing to work with as well. Each level has their own challenges for sure and as a coach I think you have to adapt to what strengths you have as a coach along with the strengths at the University you coach for and find a niche in recruiting."
You got your start coaching at Greenville and coached both the men's and women's teams. What was it like coaching two programs at the same time?
"Easier said than done but I read once that 'Women you have to lead, while men you have to drive.' I feel there is some truth in that statement. I really love the competitive nature in coaching the men's game, yet also really miss the relational aspect in coaching on the women's side. When I first took over both programs I was the youngest head coach in the country at any level (23) and it really was a couple years of trial and error moments for me which I'm grateful for now looking back in building my foundational coaching blocks. Despite not having the best record the first couple years they are also some of my most fond memories. We knew we were all striving together at Greenville to build something great and I feel before I left that's where I left both programs. The Greenville men went to a National Tournament five years in a row before I left while the women went 72-30 over my last three seasons with them. I of course had some great players and assistant coaches helping me along the way but it was really special to grow both programs and be a part of."
What are some of your most memorable moments during your time at Greenville?
"Wow, difficult question because so many things come to mind. Obviously the relationships with my staff and players are the first thing that come to mind and that's one thing that I feel some coaches at the NAIA, NCAA I and NCAA II levels miss out on. One of the great things about coaching DIII is that there are not athletic scholarships and everyone is there fighting together on the same level playing field. That leads to special relationships and I feel that some coaches miss out on in their programs. I feel fortunate to still bring that team chemistry concept with me coaching with my teams today and without coaching at the DIII level I would never have found that. In addition to that though I would have to say our 2008 men's team winning the SLIAC conference tournament in a come from behind win was a very special moment for myself and everyone involved. That win put us in the NCAA National Championship Tournament and it was the first time for any any sport in Greenville College history that a team advanced to the NCAA tournament. Oh, and of course I found my wife at Greenville College. How could I not mention that! She played soccer at Greenville under Bob Johnson so she really gets what it takes to be a coach's wife with so many ups and downs."
During your three men's coaching stops, you have guided each program to the National Tournament. What does it take to reach that level of success; for players, as a coach, as a team?
"I have been asked that question frequently through my coaching career. What is the secret of successful coaching? And there really isn't a substitute for hard work. Every coach will see the game differently and every coach will have their ideal way to train and play the game but having a coaching philosophy and building upon it I feel is key. Players need to have a vision, something to strive towards, and working together. It's providing that vision to your players I feel is what makes a successful coach."
Why did you want to get into coaching?
"My dad. My dad is the best coach I've ever seen or played for. Not because in any way he's a great coach of the technical or tactical side of coaching the game of soccer but because I spent the majority of my life growing up watching my dad unite people and take a bunch of guys and get the most out of them. My dad was inspirational to myself and others during my childhood and he still is today as he fights his battle with cancer. He's my hero."
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