Since arriving at Coker College in 2009, Paul Leese and the Cobras are now synonymous with conference championships. Winning the conference tournament in his very first year, Leese’s Coker squad has now won 4 conference titles in 4 years, including back to back Conference Carolinas Regular Season Championships in 2011 and 2012. As the men’s soccer team and Coker College are set to join the South Atlantic Conference in 2013, Leese and his Cobras will depart at the top.
Boasting a 12-3-1 record, Leese’s 2012 Conference Carolinas Championship squad included five 1st Team All Conference selections and two 3rd Team All Conference selections. The Cobras also claimed the top conference honors with Player of the Year, Niko Tirkkonen, Defensive Player of the Year, James Sweeney; and for the second consecutive year Leese collected the Coach of the Year honor. Along with their on field success, Leese’s squad also placed six players on the Academic All-Conference team in 2012 and claimed the NSCAA Team Academic Award for the first time on program history.
In just three years Leese had led the Coker men’s soccer program from the bottom of Conference Carolinas to the top of the NCAA National Rankings. Fulfilling its potential in 2011, Coker secured the #1 ranking in the Southeast Region alongside the #5 ranking in the Nation. Leese’s young squad has now finished in the Top Ten in the South East regional rankings in each of the last three seasons, capturing two regular season conference championships and two tournament conference championships along the way.
In 2011, Leese’s Cobras won the first regular season conference title in program history and their second conference tournament championship. Leese led the Cobras to an 18-3 record and hosted the first ever NCAA Regional Championship in program and school history. More impressive is the fact that Leese’s squad achieved all this without a single senior on the roster. With such a young group achieving national success, the future is proving incredibly bright for the Coker men’s soccer program.
Leese has established a formidable reputation as a head coach, deservedly winning the Conference Carolinas Coach of the Year honor in 2011. Leese’s players have also developed under his guidance at Coker. Five players earned 1st Team All Conference honors in 2011, including Conference Carolinas Player of the Year Carlos Recinos, with an additional Cobra selected to the All Conference 2nd Team. Five players additionally earned NSCAA 1st Team All Southeast Region honors with freshman defender Fernando Bedoya also recognized as an NSCAA All American.
Leese’s squad also excels in the classroom. His team has improved in each of his four years at the helm and currently carries a cumulative team GPA of 3.09. Two players were selected to the Capital One All America Team in 2011 with junior goalkeeper James Sweeney selected as as the Conference Carolinas Scholar-Athlete of the Year and an NSCAA Academic All American.
Leese has proven himself to be an excellent recruiter and an exceptional coach. His Coker teams have frequently found themselves at the top of the NCAA Statistical records – his 2011 squad were ranked #4 in the nation for goals conceded and had the 2nd best winning percentage in the nation. The Cobras have competed for a Conference Carolinas Title each year that Leese has been head coach, winning two Regular Season Championships and two Tournament Championships and displaying the kind of progress that promises greater success.
Breaking records has become a habit for Leese and his Coker squads. 2012 marked the first time in program history that Coker has won back to back Conference Carolinas Championships. With a 1-0 win over Lees McRae in the 2011 Conference Tournament final, Coker achieved the conference double for the first time. 2011 also saw the best ever record in program history (18-3), the first ever #1 Region Ranking and the highest ever National Ranking (#5). Coker hosted the first ever NCAA Regional Championship in school history as the men’s soccer team received a bye through to the 2nd Round of the NCAA National Tournament.
In 2010 Leese led the men's soccer team to back to back Conference finals and for the first time in program history the men's soccer team was ranked in the top ten of the NCAA Southeast region at the end of the season. Upon his arrival as head coach in 2009, Leese brought instant success to the Coker men’s soccer program. Inheriting a team that finished the 2008 season 7-12-1 and 9th in conference, Leese delivered the first winning season in over 20 years along with the first ever Conference Championship in Coker men’s soccer history.
Many more records were broken in Leese’s inaugural season, including best ever start (7-0), highest ever Regional ranking (#3 in Southeast), first ever National ranking (#21 in Nation), most wins in a season (13), first ever Conference Tournament win (2-1 over nationally ranked #13 Anderson University) and first ever Conference semi-final win (1-0 over nationally ranked #1 Lees McRae). Leese was then able to win Coker’s first ever Conference Championship by beating Belmont Abbey at home in a thrilling 6-5 shootout win.
As assistant coach at Coastal Carolina University from 2006-09, Leese was in charge of all phases of the men’s soccer program, including team coaching, player recruitment, budget management and travel coordination. Prior to Coastal Carolina, Leese served as an assistant coach at his alma mater Furman University. From 2003-06 he oversaw all phases of the men’s soccer program, coaching U.S. National Team member and Tottenham Hotspur F.C. player Clint Dempsey, along with current MLS players Jon Leathers of Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Shea Salinas of the San Jose Earthquakes.
Leese earned his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Furman University in 2001, while receiving a Masters in Business Administration from Elon University in 2003. Leese was named Big South Rookie of the Year in 1997 while at Charleston Southern University. He then transferred to Furman University where he was part of the best finish in school history, 21-2-1 and helped lead the Paladins to an NCAA Quarterfinal appearance in 1999.
Born in Liverpool England, Leese graduated high school in Spain from Aloha College and played for C.D. Cultural de Marbella under the coaching tutelage of Jaime Molina. Leese was also a member of the 1999 British University National Team and enjoyed a professional career in the United Soccer League (USL) with the Greenville Lions and Carolina Dynamo.
Leese has guided academy players in the School of Excellence at Chester F.C. in the English 2nd Division and represented Major League Soccer Camps as a coach throughout the United States. Leese was color commentator for the Furman Sports Network broadcast of the NCAA Southern Conference Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships in 2000 and has coached at the high school and youth levels in North and South Carolina.
Leese continues to develop youth players in an educational environment as founder and director of ESB Soccer (Eat, Sleep, Breathe Soccer), hosting camps and clinics for high school and club organizations. Leese holds the NSCAA Premier Diploma, USSF Coaching License and the English F.A. Coaching Badge.
Leese, his wife Janeane and son Aiden reside in Hartsville.