Walk into UConn men’s soccer coach Ray Reid’s office and you will find walls strewn with jerseys from former standout players, trophies, awards and other accolades.
But what Reid holds closest to him is not something that can be hung on a wall or displayed in a trophy case.
“I think we’re most proud of the connections we have with our players after they leave and how they all come back,” Reid said. “We go to a lot of their weddings. I’m closer with these guys after they graduate than when they’re here and that makes me real happy.”
Chris Gbandi, Mike Mordocco and Mansour Ndiaye are just a few of those players who remain in contact with Reid. All three were members of UConn’s 2000 national championship team and agreed that the lessons Reid taught them did not fully click until after graduation.
“He is so passionate about what you do, sometimes you can misconstrue that as, this guy is a little bit, I don’t know if crazy is the word, but yeah, a little bit too intense for me,” Gbandi said. “I think once you leave there and you are on the outside looking in you are like, ‘oh, I get it now.’”
Reid kicked off his coaching career at Southern Connecticut State University, where he played under Bob Dikranian. After six years as an assistant, he took over the program and won three Division II national championships. He left Southern for the UConn job in 1997, where he holds a 299-113-60 record.
Reid’s time at Southern also taught him a fundamental of coaching that’s rarely talked about: fundraising.
At UConn, he fundraises to take his team on foreign tours to Europe and for the construction of the new stadium. Reid said the program would get by without fundraising, but it would not flourish as it has.
“[Players] think that all comes from UConn, it doesn’t,” Mordocco, who is now the head coach at LIU Post, said. “It comes from a lot of Ray’s fundraisers and he makes sure these guys are as professional as possible.”
On the field, Reid’s ability to motivate and recruit talented players that fit his coaching style is what separates him from his counterparts, said Ndiaye.
“The commitment and approach to every day because you know, these kids, they get tired,” Mordocco said. “You got to make sure that the level sustains itself throughout a season or throughout the year, even in the spring. There is no doubt about it, that his approach every day, is first class and high spirited and high energy. He thrives off that.”
Prior to the team’s national championship against Creighton, Reid found the perfect way to motivate one of his best players.
“I said in front of the whole team, ‘Mansour, you are probably going to work on Wall Street and make millions, plenty of money. But you will not be able to buy a national championship ring or trophy.’
“And when we won, [Ndiaye] was hugging the trophy in the locker room after the game and he said, ‘Coach I don’t have to buy one, I don’t have to buy one.’ I said, ‘Mansour, you’re right, you don’t have to buy one now.’ I remember that like it was yesterday,” Reid said.
Reid does tend to remember everything, detail for detail and tick for tack. It’s a talent that amazes his players.
“He has this great ability to capture anything. He doesn’t forget anything,” Ndiaye said. “That’s why if you promise something to him, you better make sure you deliver because he will make sure to remind you of that. He’s just a great guy on and off the field. That doesn’t mean he is easy because he has to push his players every single day.”
Reid can recall plays and scores from nearly every game of that 2000 national championship season, especially the games during the tournament.
“The ironic part was in the whole tournament run, five games we had five shutouts [in regulation]. Defense wins championships,” Reid said.
As meticulous as he is on the pitch, Reid is equally obsessive about the hardwood.
The soccer coach is an avid basketball fan and a die-hard Knicks fan, able to recall plays and scores from games in the 90s. Especially the game when Reggie Miller scored eight points in nine seconds during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against his team.
He jokes that if he was not a soccer coach, he would be a coach in the NBA.
His love for basketball stemmed from his childhood on Long Island, where he was coached by former Los Angeles Lakers general manager and current Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak.
At UConn, Reid said he has a terrific relationship with UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma and men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley. He attends practices and picks their brains during the offseason.
Reid’s relationship with the fiery UConn men’s basketball coach began when Hurley was the head coach at St. Benedict’s high school. When Reid was out recruiting players at St. Benedict’s, he would chat with Hurley.
“Danny Hurley is going to get us a national championship,” Reid said. “It might take a few years, but Danny Hurley is going to win a national championship here. On the record, Danny Hurley is good enough, he will win a championship. He is a very good coach, he will get it done. It is not pressure, that’s fact. I have great respect for him.”
It is that energy and confidence that has carried Reid throughout his career, allowing him to be the second-winningest active coach in the NCAA, with a 74 percent winning percentage.
“Ultimately when you have guys that are fighting and kicking for you, they have to know and ultimately feel like you care about them,” Gbandi said. “He’s done that with our group and I think he’s done that over the years with so many other groups.”
Back in his office, Reid sits surrounded by wedding invitations, photos with his players and MLS jerseys signed by former players such as Jake Nerwinski, Sergio Campbell and Carlos Alvarez. Each jersey shares a common theme. They all say, “Thank you for everything.” It is a reminder that Reid has done right by his players and it is something he does not take for granted.
“I can’t thank the people who hired me enough for giving me the opportunity,” Reid said. “I’m blessed to be here and I cherish every moment of it.”
Michael Logan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.