He calls the shots for Towson State soccer Olszewski, 36, nears 100 wins

October 24, 1992|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

The classic pose of the soccer coach is on the bench, arms crossed, while he grimly surveys action that he can little affect.

And now, for something completely different, we offer Frank Olszewski, who is in his 10th year as the hands-on director at Towson State. He shouts more instructions before a single restart than others will utter during 90 minutes. The soccer crowd likes to talk about a player's work rate, but during a game, no coach goes at it harder than Olszewski.

"I'm going to adjust to the personality of a team," Olszewski said. "This team is kind of laid-back, very hard to read."

Until the Tigers learn to better communicate, Olszewski will talk for them. His will has turned a program that for several decades was a model of mediocrity into a three-time champion of the East Coast Conference, the greatest soccer success the university has enjoyed since Doc Minnegan guided the Tigers to a 38-game unbeaten streak from 1933-36.

With a 10-year record of 98-77-18, Olszewski, 36, is two victories away from becoming the latest to reach 100 coaching victories in the history of NCAA soccer in Maryland. The milestone could come as early as tomorrow, the second day of the Towson State Invitational, in which the Tigers will meet NAIA power West Virginia Wesleyan (1:30 p.m.) and Howard will play Oneonta (11 a.m.) in today's semifinals.

Of course, the Tigers might have to wait until 1993 to get Olszewski career victory No. 100. It has been that kind of fall for Towson State, which, after three years atop the ECC, saw a move to the stronger Big South coincide with the departure of some of the best goal-scorers in school history.

"There are natural finishers," Olszewski said, explaining a series of 1-0 losses that have the Tigers with an uncharacteristic 7-6-1 record. "Sometimes you have them, sometimes you don't."

Towson State had finishers such as Ed McCue and Joe Layfield during the past four years, when it compiled a 48-21-9 record. Ask Olszewski why Towson State suddenly became a dominant team in the ECC, and he points outward.

He was handed the job 10 years ago, after the death of his mentor, Rich Bartos. At the time, the Tigers' total scholarship money wouldn't have paid one player's way for a semester. Now, he has the equivalent of approximately four scholarships, and while that's still less than half the maximum allowed by the NCAA, Olszewski isn't complaining.

"Some may look at that as a negative, but it's a dramatic improvement over where we were a decade ago," Olszewski said. "I hate it to sound as a slight to the players from the first couple of years, because those guys are the base we built on, but the reason we started winning was better players. As a group, they've gotten better technically and they're more disciplined."

Even with more recruiting money, it's not like Parade All-Americans are banging down Towson State's door. Olszewski takes some accomplished prospects and sleepers, and turns out solid teams. He gets his players' attention early.

"His teams are well-disciplined, and that's an extension of Frank," UMBC coach Pete Caringi said. "His philosophy is to defend first, and if you ever saw him play, he was a very aggressive sweeper. In a lot of ways, he's very conservative. I've roomed with him at conventions, and it's all business. He's out the door at 6 a.m., going for a run."

Caringi has been competing against Olszewski since the 1960s.

Frank Olszewski Sr. was a Steelworker at Sparrows Point, and the family moved from Fleet Street, south of Patterson Park, to Dundalk when Frank Jr. was 6. He starred for Bartos at Patapsco High, just before the Patriots emerged as a state 4A power, then helped Johns Hopkins University to the Division III semifinals in 1975.

Olszewski has a psychology degree from Hopkins and a Master's in counseling from Maryland, but he scrambled to make a living before Towson State made him a full-time employee in 1985. He was a substitute teacher, sold sporting goods and did chores at an indoor soccer facility.

"I reffed, broke up fights, and had to clean the place when they were done playing at 3 a.m.," Olszewski said. "Used to have stop guys hitting golf balls from the parking lot across Pulaski Highway."

He was 26 and Bartos' assistant when the coach died of leukemia.

"I thought I was ready for the job. It took some time to learn the ins and outs of being in charge of a team every day, and you're forced to grow. You just don't get rewarded in soccer by standing still."

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