Catching up with Coach Coven
Men’s head soccer coach reaches 500th career win in 43rd season
Although we are currently only seven games into the Brandeis Men’s soccer season, one man has paced the sidelines of each game for the past 43 years. Coach Michael Coven, the Judges’ head coach, celebrated his 500th career win milestone last Saturday as the Judges defeated their top rival, the Babson Beavers.
Coven became the sixth coach in Division III history and the second men’s coach in New England history to have 500 career wins. In his 43rd season, he is also the second longest tenured coach in the NCAA, behind Division II Coach Tony Tocca for Rockhurst College.
“I guess it makes me feel old,” Coven laughed when asked how it felt to reach the milestone in an interview over the phone with the Justice. “That’s how it makes me feel, but it’s fun,” he said.
The game last Saturday was a dramatic game for the Judges, because in addition to it being Coven’s 500th career winning game, it was also against long-term rival Babson College. The Judges defeated Babson 1-0, in double overtime.
After the game, Coven gave a heartfelt speech, which was later uploaded on YouTube, and the Athletics website. “It’s special. I think my role is minimal. I don’t score goals, and I don’t play defense, and I’m not a goalkeeper. The guys get out there, and they work real hard, and they have for 43 years,” Coven said about reaching his milestone.
MILESTONE MAN: Coven became the second men’s coach in New England history to earn 500 career wins.
A HEATED GAME: Coven intently watched from the sidelines as the Judges played the Babson Beavers last Saturday — the Judges won in double overtime and the win marked the first senior class to go undefeated against rivals Babson College.
Babson College in Wellesley, which is less than 10 miles away from Brandeis, has been a huge rival in New England since Coven began his coaching career. In 1975, Babson won the NCAA national championship, while in 1976, Brandeis won the NCAA national championship.
“In the past, both teams have had a lot of local guys that play against each other and with each other in high school. It’s just become a big, big rivalry. Well-played games, two good teams. I think a lot of respect between the teams … their coach is a good friend of mine and it makes it fun,” Coven said.
Coven explained that he himself played soccer throughout his whole life. “I had a decent career particularly in college … the game was a lot different then but I did okay,” Coven said. Coven attended and played soccer for American International College in Springfield, Mass.
Coven has seen the game change drastically. “When I played and in the first half of my coaching career, it was all based on athleticism and speed and size and aggressive nature … Now it’s really become more sophisticated, more technical, it’s not just solely based on athleticism — although, obviously, that plays a role — but it’s based more on skill and strategy and technique. So it’s come a long way, not just at Brandeis, but in the United States in general,” Coven explained.
In addition to seeing the game grow and develop throughout his career, Coven also coached the team when they won the 1976 national championship game in Elizabethtown, Pa. The Judges beat Elizabethtown in the semi-finals in sudden-death overtime and then beat Brock Port State from Upstate, NY in the finals in sudden-death overtime.
“It was pretty exciting. We were the best team in the country,” Coven said, explaining that the MVP of the game was Cleveland Lewis ’78, the brother of Olympic track athlete Carol Lewis. “Cleve was just unbelievable, he was the MVP of the whole NCAA tournament. He scored a lot of goals for us, and he was the hero of that game. He got the winning goal in overtime and that was that. That was our national championship.” Lewis would later go on to be the first Judges player to play soccer professionally.
When asked the secret to his longevity, Coven answered in a jocular manner, “Let me ask my wife.” He turned away from the phone — “What’s the secret to my longevity, Monica?”
“Monica says it’s my good-looks and charm, I think,” he said laughing. “No, this is [what] my wife [says]- ‘It’s my upbeat and caring attitude’ [quote] Monica Coven. I still like because it’s my good-look and charm, so you can put that in there too; she doesn’t believe me about that though.”
Coven credits his good fortune to the players he’s had and their passion for the game of soccer, explaining that it makes them a better team because they are a close-knit community off the field as well.
“I don’t know if I’ve done anything special, but I think every year the seniors sort of take it upon themselves to bring the team together and they’ve done a really nice job of it,” he said. “Some of my best friends right now are former players of mine from twenty, thirty, forty years ago,” he said.
This year the senior class is the first to go undefeated against Babson. One of the captains, defender Conor Lahanan ’16, described Coven as “dignified and resilient in the way he coaches.” Lanahan — a fourth-year player at center back — explained that Coven holds everybody on the team to a certain standard academically.
Lanahan reflects on Coven’s ability to connect with the teammates. “He always makes it a personal goal to know what people are doing outside of soccer, so if one of our teammates does something silly like, I can’t even come up with something right now, but something that people would joke about later on, Coven would always find out about it and broadcast it to the whole team in public fashion and then again before practice would start.”
Midfielder Jake Picard ’16, another senior captain on the team, described Coven as “a friend and mentor” who’s “very good at connecting with the players” in an interview with the Justice.
“Which I think is something that is very rare to find in a coach, especially at this level of play.”
Picard explained how it felt to win the game last week, “Playing Babson ... was a pretty amazing moment, to be able to be a member of the team that is experiencing the 500th win with Coach — after him coaching 43 teams — this group of guys are the guys that were there for his 500th win. That’s pretty special, because no one else is able to say that as long as they play for Brandeis and for Coach Coven ... I know I will always remember ... that we are the 32 guys that were part of his 500th win.”