HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Coker College men's soccer coach Paul Leese announced his resignation today after five years with the college. Leese has accepted the head coaching position at The University of Texas-Pan American, where he will become the new men's soccer coach of a program that will begin competition in 2015.
"I am excited about the opportunity at UTPA and the challenge of building a soccer program from the ground up," said Leese. "It is also with great sadness that I leave Coker as I have enjoyed the best five years of my professional and personal life. As a head coach, I won my first-ever conference championship here at Coker, had my first-ever NCAA tournament appearance, and had my first-ever graduating senior class. My wife and I have loved living in Hartsville and were fortunate to have our two sons born here. It will be tough saying goodbye to so many good friends, but Coker will always have a special place in my heart.
"I am tremendously grateful to President Wyatt and Dr. Griffin for their unwavering support during the last five years; the success achieved by the men's soccer team would not have been possible without them. I am extremely proud of every student-athlete that I have coached at Coker, and they all know how grateful I am for their dedication and commitment. I will be a keen follower of Coker's continued growth and I am certain the men's soccer program will enjoy further success with Dr. Griffin leading Coker athletics."
Leese arrived at Coker in 2009 and turned the program into a Division II powerhouse. Throughout his five years, Leese consistently had the Cobras ranked within the Southeast region and, at times, nationally. He leaves Coker with a record of 58-24-12.
"I would like to personally thank Paul for his dedication and service to Coker over the past five years," said Vice President for Athletics and Facilities Lynn Griffin. "Paul took our men's soccer program to unprecedented heights, and we are forever grateful for his accomplishments here. We wish him well as he moves to the next phase of his career."
Leese led Coker to a Conference Carolinas tournament championship his first year – a first for the program – and posted the first winning season for the program in 20 years. The highest achievement the team earned under Leese was its first bid to the NCAA tournament, hosting the second round in 2012.
Coker won four total conference titles (two regular-season, two tournament) in Conference Carolinas under Leese before the school joined the South Atlantic Conference in 2013. Leese's squad went 9-5-3 overall with a 6-4-1 mark in the SAC this past season.
During his tenure, Leese coached two All-Americans, an academic All-American, two conference players of the year, two conference scholar-athletes of the year and a conference defensive player of the year. He had 24 players named all-conference, 17 all-region and two all-district during his five seasons. The 2012 team earned an academic award from the NSCAA, recognizing a team GPA of over 3.0. In addition, Leese was the Conference Carolinas coach of the year twice, in 2011 and 2012.
Leese coached Daniel Jackson, who, in January, became the first men's soccer player to be drafted in program history. Jackson was selected in the fourth round (70th overall) by Real Salt Lake in the 2014 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
James Sweeney, who was part of Leese's first recruiting class at Coker, became arguably the best men's soccer player in program history. Sweeney, a goalkeeper, won the Murphy Osborne Award in 2012, an award given by Conference Carolinas each year to the top senior in any sport. He was the first student-athlete from Coker to receive the award since 1995. Along with the Murphy Osborne Award, Sweeney was an All-American, scholar All-American, conference defensive player of the year and scholar-athlete of the year, and was featured in a segment of NCAA On Campus.
Prior to joining Coker, Leese was an assistant coach at Coastal Carolina University from 2006-09. Before that he was an assistant coach at Furman University from 2003-06.
Originally from Liverpool, England, Leese holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Furman and an MBA from Elon University. Leese played collegiate soccer at Furman, where he was part of a team that went 21-2-1 and reached the NCAA quarterfinals.
Leese will be moving with his wife, Janeane, and two sons, Aiden (2) and Keiran (11 months).
A national search for a head men's soccer coach will begin immediately. Interested applicants can click here to submit a resume.
Coker College readies undergraduates for personal and professional success through a distinctive four-year program that emphasizes a practical application of the liberal arts as well as hands-on and discussion-based learning within and beyond the classroom. Coker is ranked among the "Best Colleges" in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review. Located in Hartsville, S.C., Coker is within two hours of the cultural, financial and recreational resources of Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.