Towson's Olszewski in elite company Coach in line to pass Minnegan for career wins

October 23, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Doc Minnegan and Frank Olszewski are tied for the most career wins in Towson men's soccer, but one has his name on the football stadium and the other doesn't.

The one who doesn't, Olszewski, 42, is likely to surpass the National Soccer Hall of Famer Minnegan with his 157th career win at New Hampshire today.

"As strange as this may sound," Olszewski says, "[the record] has not been anywhere near the focus of myself or this team.

"Doc Minnegan is a legend, in the qualities he evoked. In that regard, I'm very proud. But in the middle of the season, you tend to focus on that group in that particular year."

The coach is not unique in that regard. Other than track sprinters and Mark McGwire, few break records by concentrating on the record rather than the tasks leading up to it. His team (9-5, 5-1) is tied with Drexel for first place in the America East conference.

Olszewski had his first win on the afternoon of Sept. 8, 1982, as an interim coach filling in for Rich Bartos. The Tigers won, 3-0, against Brooklyn College. Later that day, Olszewski found out that his mentor, Bartos, had died after a lengthy battle with leukemia.

Bartos had been the coach at Patapsco High, where Olszewski played before going to Johns Hopkins, where he led the Blue Jays to the semifinals of the NCAA Division III playoffs in 1975. After graduating in 1978, he planned to play pro soccer for a New York indoor team, but it folded five days before its inaugural season.

That year, Bartos got the Towson job and recruited Olszewski as his assistant. "I was more interested in attending grad school," Olszewski said. "I never envisioned that this would be my life's work."

After compiling a respectable 38-32-3 record, Bartos became sick at the end of the fourth season, and his assistant stepped in.

Olszewski went 8-9-1 that first year, putting him a mere 148 games behind Minnegan, who coached from 1927 to 1940 and from 1952 to 1966.

Pressing tasks beckoned, such as making the transition in his players' eyes from being a buffer to being the boss. That done, he went about leading the school by 1995 to a 14-4 record and top 20 ranking.

Uncle Richard Stacharowski, an all-American at the University of Baltimore, introduced soccer to young Frank.

"I tagged along with my uncles as they went to referee [soccer games]," Olszewski says, recognizing a role reversal with the job he now holds. "I was on the other side defending the referees, and I was sure he made the right call. Now, I'm often sure [the referee] didn't make the right call."

He stayed with the game because it was somewhat exotic. Searching for news, he learned other languages to read of the sport in foreign journals.

Now, soccer is as common as creamed corn. But the game that was so economically accessible to Olszewski -- growing up in Dundalk as the son of a Bethlehem Steel machinist and homemaker getting his uniforms from Simon Harris sporting goods -- is seen as the province of sons and daughters of the white-collar, middle and upper classes.

"My children are playing, and there's never a thought that it's $50 for a child [for registration], each child," Olszewski said. "My parents couldn't afford anything. Soccer was played because it wasn't expensive. Now, if you don't have a brand name for that part of soccer, I feel bad, because it's important to know where you're coming from."

Pub Date: 10/23/98

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