Stafford, players react to Anagnost departure
Two seasons after joining the Central Michigan women’s soccer team as an assistant coach, Neil Stafford finds himself steering the ship.
Stafford was named interim head coach Wednesday following the resignation of Tom Anagnost, who accepted the vacant head coaching position at the University of Miami.
Anagnost’s departure marks the second time in three seasons the women’s soccer program has had to deal with a coaching change.
“It’s been a whirlwind, so to speak,” Stafford said. “Not much sleep. Having to recharge my cell phone three times a day. Obviously a lot of different emotions are going through players and staff.”
Stafford spent his first official day as coach meeting with Marcy Weston, senior associate athletic director, to coordinate short term plans for the team and program. The Chippewas are coming off a 16-5-1 record and second consecutive Mid-American Conference tournament championship and NCAA tournament appearance.
“You’re going to have a full gambit of emotions,” Stafford said. “Young women at that age don’t understand the decisions made from what’s in their best interest professionally and personally. Once the dust settles, the ladies will start to understand a bit more.”
CMU will immediately begin a search to replace Anagnost, who was named head coach in 2009 after serving as interim head coach for the second half of the 2008 season.
Stafford, who has head coaching experience, has to be considered one of the top candidates for the job. He spent eight seasons as head coach at Assumption College (Worchester, Mass.), going 72-61-5.
“I think Tom knows I want to be head coach again,” Stafford said of the possibility of following Anagnost to Miami. “We talked about the possibilities of what was my best option to accomplish my goals. If I’m lucky enough to get this opportunity, fantastic. If not, I’ll move on.”
Anagnost sent an e-mail to the team Tuesday night, informing them of his decision to step down and take the job at Miami.
He also sent a text message to junior defender Liesel Toth, asking her to inform the rest of the team about the e-mail.
“Things happen quickly and it was kind of a shocker,” Toth said Thursday afternoon from her home in New York. “I kind of wish we could have had a personal goodbye to him and ‘thank you’ kind of thing.
“We had some of the girls check up on the freshmen and even some of the girls coming in. We’re going to be alright.”
Toth finished second on the team in points (11) and will be one of three players to return for their senior season without Anagnost, who joined the program in 2007 as an assistant coach. Freshmen and sophomores comprised of three fourths of the team’s roster in 2010.
“This is just a rut in the road right now but I think a lot of our maturity level is going to show having to deal with this,” she said. “A lot of us know that what he did was the right thing.”
None of the freshmen were made available for comment.