Last month, the UChicago athletic department hired former UChicago assistant coach Pat Flinn as the new head coach of the men’s soccer team. Erin McDermott, University of Chicago director of athletics and recreation, said, “We had the opportunity in hiring Pat to bring an instrumental part of our team’s recent rise and consistent success back to UChicago as the leader of this program.” Could this homecoming be what the team needs to continue to grow and reach the goal of winning the national championship?
Many past players have come out in support of Flinn from his previous time at UChicago between 2014–2016. One of them was the leader of last year’s team, Nicco Capotosto, a fourth-year midfielder graduating in a few weeks. When asked about what difference Flinn made during his time at the school, Capotosto responded, “I think there are a handful of guys who have helped get the program to where it is, and Pat was one of the most important. Before he left, he helped morph us into a team that could press at the right moments, win the ball high up the field, and counter quickly. In his last year at Chicago, we had one of the best defensive records in the program’s history, and the tactical concepts and ideas he implemented played a huge role.”
The transformation of the team into a pressing team that limited the attacking possession of the other team was vitally important in the Maroons’ best ever defensive season in 2016. In addition to his tactical insight, Capotosto depicts Flinn as a coach that people want to play for: “As a coach, he’s one of those leaders that players absolutely love fighting for. He’s as passionate as anyone out there and has the desire to not just maintain the program’s status but to take it to the next level and win a national championship.” Players are excited to start off spring practice with their new head coach and put in the foundation for a successful season.
In a recent interview with Flinn, it was evident how excited he was about this program and the future that he envisions. When asked about coming back to Chicago, Flinn stated, “I had an unbelievably positive experience as an assistant at UChicago from ’14 to ’16. I was ready to lead a program, so it was a no-brainer when this position opened to go all-in trying to get it. I am just thankful that Erin McDermott gave me the opportunity to come back as head coach.”
Additionally, Flinn felt that the experience away from UChicago was extremely beneficial: “Babst and I have known each other for a long time, so going to Loyola was an opportunity for me to re-establish myself in a much less comfortable setting. This was great for my development; I feel like I have become much more efficient and organized as I re-established myself with a boss that I did not have a prior established relationship with. Recruiting at Loyola is a little harder too; there are more options similar to Loyola for good players, so building a strong team has more challenges in that way. Whereas UChicago is a little more unique and has less competition from very similar universities. In that regard, I think my ability to recruit has improved.”
When asked about the championship aspirations that the program has, Flinn didn’t think of it as a burden. Instead, it is “an amazing opportunity,” and he is “confident that as the current team gains experience throughout the season that we can again reach the NCAA tournament with a team good enough to beat anyone. If we keep giving ourselves a chance, we will eventually reach the finish line.” Overall, it is an exciting time for the program and its bright future. Flinn says it best: “Come out and support us! The team will play very hard and will proudly represent the University every time we compete.”