Leonard Griffin is introduced as the new men’s soccer coach at the University of San Francisco. (USF Athletics)

USF names Leonard Griffin as new head men’s soccer coach

Former Portland assistant and UCLA All-American becomes the sixth head coach in Dons history

The University of San Francisco has hired its next men’s soccer coach. Following the March resignation of Eddie Soto, the Dons have hired former UCLA defender and MLS player Leonard Griffin to lead the program, the school announced on Thursday.

Griffin, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant for Portland, becomes the sixth head coach in program history, following Soto, Erik Visser, Gus Donoghue, Bob Braghette and Stephen Negoesco.

“Our men’s soccer search was an exhaustive and thorough process,” said athletic director Joan McDermott. “We had many qualified candidates looking to become the next head coach of our storied program. In the end, Leonard Griffin was the obvious choice. His playing experience as both an All-American and as a professional player, along with his coaching experience at several very successful collegiate programs, makes him the ideal candidate to lead USF back to its lofty expectations. This is a program that has five national championships, and we feel that Leonard will help us compete for our sixth.”

Griffin, 36, brings eight years of Division I coaching experience to the Dons, but has never been a head coach.

“Thanks to Joan McDermott and Frank Allocco for trusting me in guiding the soccer program into the future,” he said in a statement. “I can’t wait to get started with this program that I truly believe can be competitive nationally and help restore USF to its championship pedigree.”

In his first season as the Pilots’ assistant coach, Griffin helped guide the team to a 2016 West Coast Conference Championship. He coached three Far West Region Team players and MLS players: Benji Michel (Orlando City), Paul Christensen (Atlanta United), Kris Reaves (FC Dallas) and Rey Ortiz (1st Team).

“Leonard and I developed a great relationship both on and off the field to build culture and a family environment,” said Portland head coach Nick Carlin-Voigt. “Leonard is a trusted colleague, good coach and even better human being. I thank him for believing in our blueprint here at Portland.”

Before joining Portland, he spent two years at his alma mater, during which the Bruins advanced to the NCAA College Cup finals in 2014. Griffin coached nine all-Pac-12 players, including 2014 MAC Hermann Trophy winner Leo Stoltz and 2015 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Jose Hernandez.

Griffin also spent 2013 coaching at nearby California, on a staff that guided the Golden Bears to an NCAA Quarterfinals appearance and a No. 4 ranking — the highest in program history. Before Berkeley, Griffin spent three seasons as an assistant at Saint Mary’s, where he led the Gaels to the NCAA Elite Eight and a WCC Championship in 2011.

“USF just hired an incredible coach and an even better person. Leonard is going to lead their program to great things and I couldn’t be prouder of him,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Adam Cooper.

Griffin attended UCLA from 2000-03, earning All-American honors in 2003 and leading the Bruins to an NCAA championship in 2002.From there, he spent six seasons in the professional ranks, including stops with the Chicago Fire (2004-06), the Columbus Crew (2007-08) and the Los Angeles Galaxy (2006) while also playing professionally for the Portland Timbers (2007-08).

The Dons

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