Tony Ochrimenko retires as Kean men's coach
|Tony Ochrimenko began coaching at Kean in 1976.|
Tony Ochrimenko, the Hall of Fame head coach of the Kean University men’s soccer program, announced he will be retiring in 2014 after a legendary career that spanned five decades and delivered the first NCAA Division III national championship in Kean history. He will end his 38-year head coaching career with a 468-248-56 record and a winning percentage of .642.
“On behalf of our department and institution, I want to thank Tony for his many years of service to Kean University,” stated athletic director Chris Morgan. “He’s had a positive influence on so many lives, both on and off the soccer field, and will be missed by all. We wish him all the best in his retirement.”
Ochrimenko began his life at Kean as a student-athlete in 1971. He was a two-time all-conference sweeper for the men’s soccer program and won the 1974 D’Angola Award as Kean’s Outstanding Male Student-Athlete. After leading the Squires (as Kean’s teams were then known) to their first-ever conference title as team captain, he transitioned to the sidelines for a one-year stint as an assistant before becoming Kean’s eighth head coach in 15 years in 1976. With Tony O at the helm, Kean has not had to conduct another head coaching search since.
It did not take long for success to start under his tutelage. In 1978, the Cougars captured the first of seven NJAC titles they would eventually win under Ochrimenko with an 11-3-2 record, and the program began to build. In the next 25 years, Kean never had a losing season.
In 1983, Kean made an impression on the national scene with a trip to the NCAA Final Four, the beginning of a stretch that produced 10 NCAA Tournament berths in 12 years. The ’83 team had a record of 15-5-1 and won the second of three consecutive NJAC titles.
"Tony O. will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most successful coaches in the history of the NJAC in any sport,” said NJAC commissioner Terry Small. “But to me personally, he will be remembered first and foremost as a gentleman, as a great ambassador for the sport of soccer, and as an outstanding representative of both Kean University and the New Jersey Athletic Conference."
Of course, the apex of that run was reached in 1992, when the Cougars won the NCAA Division III national championship. Though the team actually missed out on the conference title that season, the Cougars ended the year on a 10-match winning streak, defeating Elizabethtown College in the regional final and Rochester Institute of Technology in the national semis. Kean hosted the national championship game against perennial power Ohio Wesleyan on the East Campus, making the 3-1 crowning victory even sweeter in that it was shared in front of family and friends.
“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play and work for Tony O. He is a legendary coach recognized nationally because of the success he had on the field. He is so passionate about the game and always got the most out of his teams. He has reached many milestones as a coach that will be difficult to match but the one that stands out to me the most won’t show up in the record books. That is how much he cared about the players in his program and how many he pushed to graduate. Tony refused to ever give up on a player whether it is on the field or in the classroom. I learned a lot from him but this was by far the most valuable. I know that is what makes him loved by so many alumni. Tony O is an institution at Kean and will be missed greatly!” – Kevin East, starting goalkeeper on 1992 National Championship Team, former assistant coach at Kean, Kean Benisch Hall of Fame Inductee ’04, current head coach at Rutgers-Newark
Kean rode the wave of success over the next decade, making a total of 20 consecutive postseason appearances while averaging more than 15 victories a year. In total, the 468 matches Ochrimenko has won as the head coach of the Cougars are nearly six times as many as the seven previous Kean coaches combined.
The 1997 team was the first Kean squad to reach the 20-win plateau and still owns the record for victories in a season. The following year, the Cougars again went unbeaten and untied in the NJAC (9-0-0) and did not allow a single goal against any conference rival.
In 2010, Ochrimenko pulled off a final great coaching moment as he guided the sixth-seeded Cougars to upsets over the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds in the NJAC tournament. The program captured its first conference title in over a decade while becoming the first No. 6 seed to win an NJAC crown in any sport.
Currently, Ochrimenko is in the NCAA record books as the 14th-winningest coach (across all three divisions) in NCAA history and the active coach with the seventh-most victories. Among his peers in Division III, only six other coaches in history have had more wins than Tony O.
"To say Kean University men’s soccer will never be the same when Tony Ochrimenko retires this spring is an understatement, as his name is synonymous with the university, the NJAC, ECAC and NCAA collegiate soccer! He has been the mainstay of the program for so many years and his accomplishments are plentiful. Capturing numerous NJAC titles, ECAC and NCAA wins and appearances as well as being named “NJAC Coach of the Year” so many times by his peers is simply a reflection of how great a coach, person and friend ‘Tony O’ is. He has touched the lives of every player he has coached and served as a mentor for many including myself.” – Kim Culligan, former associate athletic director at Kean, current associate athletic director at Vassar
Ochrimenko has been named the NJAC Coach of the Year seven times, the College Soccer Association of New Jersey Coach of the Year five times and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Mid-Atlantic Coach of the Year twice. His teams have also captured a pair of Eastern College Athletic Conference titles in five appearances in that tournament.
He was honored by his alma mater as a member of the Benisch Hall of Fame Class of 1982 – just the second group of inductees ever chosen for the Hall. Only five years removed from playing at the time, his induction was based on his accomplishments as a player on the soccer pitch. But there is no debate that if it were possible to re-immortalize the same person as a coach and a student-athlete, Tony O would be the first Cougar candidate.
Ochrimenko earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in recreation administration from Kean in 1975. He enrolled as a freshman in 1971 and has been a part of the fabric of campus ever since – 43 remarkable seasons. By the time this year’s freshmen were born, Ochrimenko already had 256 wins and a national championship. As the unquestioned leader of one of the most successful programs in the country, the influence of Ochrimenko will be felt as long as soccer is played at Kean.
A national search will begin to replace the longest tenured coach in department history.