More than wins to coach's career

Soccer: Severna Park boys coach Don Gregg is retiring with an enviable record, but he'll reflect on more than the numbers at his new home in Florida.

High Schools

October 24, 2003|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

For Don Gregg, the Severna Park boys soccer coach, the numbers that have come with 30 years of success are staggering.

There have been 316 career wins, 14 county championships and nine state championship-game appearances that produced a share of one crown and an outright title in 2001.

But as Gregg gets his No. 15 Falcons ready for another go in the Class 3A South region playoffs - his final go-round before he retires to Florida with his wife, Barbara - it's obvious the rewards go far beyond the math.

"It's not just the winning," said Gregg, a Glen Burnie and Penn State graduate who also has taught physical education at Severna Park. "It's when a player comes back and says thanks or when you get an e-mail from another just to see how things are going.

"You coach for so many years and then kids come back and you see they're successful and their lives are together - that's what it is."

Chris Delpi, a 1984 graduate who now lives in Bel Air with his family, hasn't played much soccer since his college days, but made a point to get the shoes out for the Falcons' annual alumni game a couple of weekends ago. Playing was secondary to an hour-long conversation that followed with his former coach and mentor.

"He made an impact at an impressionable time," said Delpi. "Everything with him was positive. I'm not saying he never got upset or was Superman, but he didn't project negativity. I think that's definitely one of his biggest strengths. And the other big one was that he had this history of winning."

Gregg, who became Maryland's first public school coach to surpass 300 career boys soccer wins last season, will tell you it's been a steady stream of talent from the Green Hornets' feeder program that has helped produce all the winning. And the hard-working assistant coaches that have come and gone. And even getting lucky from time to time.

But the one constant has been Gregg, who has stayed step for step with the game as it has changed over the past 30 years, always with an eagerness to keep learning.

"With Coach Gregg, he definitely has the knowledge and has been through every situation that a coach can possibly go through," said senior co-captain Brett Kirkland. "He's won counties, lost counties, won states, lost states - so he knows what it's like and what it takes to prepare us for anything."

Over the course of 80 minutes of play, Gregg does not show much emotion on the sideline. His players have been prepared, it's their time and he focuses on any necessary adjustments.

"What he sees, you and I may probably not see when watching the same game," said Bob Thomas, an assistant to Gregg the past four years.

"A lot of people can give a generic answer like Team A is not playing well because they're not scoring. He's looking at it and saying, `They're not scoring because they're not making enough overlapping runs.' He just breaks the game down so well from a technical standpoint and knows exactly what to look for."

So many players. So many teams, wins, losses and memories for Gregg, high among them a 5-4 victory over Southern "years ago" after the Falcons trailed 3-0 and the 1988 team that allowed only six goals all season. And then there was the 2001 state title team.

"Yeah, that was a good one," he said. "It's great seeing a team develop and pull it all together like that team did."

Around Thanksgiving, Gregg and his wife will head for Crawfordville, Fla., about 25 miles south of Tallahassee and even closer to his daughter, Leslie, and family. He's looking forward to watching his grandson, Zachary, 13, play soccer and may even do some coaching there.

Traveling will be a must, including plenty of trips to Maryland to visit son Bryan and his family.

There's still some work left at Severna Park, where Gregg, 60, is hoping for an extended playoff run that ends with a win. The Falcons (9-3-2) open the region playoffs with a bye, waiting for the winner of the first-round game between Chopticon and Calvert.

Gregg said five wins would be the ideal send-off. His overall record is 316-110-16.

"He's been saying all along that he's a senior, too, so let's go out and win our last game," said senior Greg Waugh.

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