Jason O’Keefe, a 16-year coaching veteran, has been named the 12th head coach in Appalachian State University men’s soccer history, Appalachian State director of athletics Doug Gillin announced on Wednesday.
“We’re pleased and excited to welcome Jason O’Keefe to the Appalachian family as the 12th head coach in Mountaineer men’s soccer history,” Gillin said. “I first want to thank the members of the search committee, chaired by associate athletics director Brittney Whiteside, for their efforts in identifying the right person to lead our men’s soccer program. As many of our most passionate supporters remember, Appalachian State once fielded one of the nation’s very best men’s soccer programs and, at every stop of his career, Coach O’Keefe has helped his teams achieve success on a national level. I am confident that he can lead Appalachian back into the upper echelon of NCAA Division I men’s soccer while also mentoring student-athletes that will represent the University with class on the field, in the classroom and in the community.”
O’Keefe’s 16 years of coaching experience includes stints with some of the nation’s most successful men’s soccer programs, including North Carolina, Saint Louis and Wake Forest.
O’Keefe spent the past two seasons (2014-15) at North Carolina, where he helped the Tar Heels to a pair of top-10 finishes (No. 5 and No. 9 in the final National Soccer Coaches Association of America polls in 2014 and 2015, respectively). UNC earned NCAA Tournament berths both seasons that O’Keefe was on the Heels’ coaching staff and fell just one win short of advancing to the 2014 College Cup, falling to No. 2 seed UCLA on penalty kicks in the national quarterfinals.
As North Carolina’s recruiting coordinator, O’Keefe helped the Tar Heels land back-to-back top-10 signing classes, including what is currently ranked as the nation’s No. 1 class for 2016, according to TopDrawerSoccer.com.
Prior to his two seasons at UNC, O’Keefe was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Saint Louis for four seasons (2010-13). With O’Keefe on staff, SLU won two Atlantic 10 Conference championships (2012 tournament, 2013 regular season), earned a No. 8 seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and were ranked No. 1 in the NSCAA Mid-Atlantic Region in both 2012 and 2013.
For his efforts at Saint Louis, O’Keefe was named the NSCAA’s Mid-Atlantic Assistant Coach of the Year in 2012 and, in 2013, he was tabbed as one of the nation’s top 15 assistant coaches by CollegeSoccerNews.com.
O’Keefe’s successful time at SLU was preceded by three seasons (2007-09) at Elon, where he coached in the same conference (Southern) as Appalachian State. He was an assistant coach for his first two seasons at Elon before being promoted to associate head coach for his final campaign with the Phoenix. His promotion to associate head coach came after he helped lead Elon to the first regular-season SoCon championship in school history in 2008.
During his three years at Elon, O’Keefe recruited and/or coached four SoCon Players of the Year, including 2009 SoCon Freshman of the Year and 2010 and 2012 SoCon Player of the Year Chris Thomas.
Prior to his three seasons at Elon, O’Keefe helped lead Cincinnati to the first Big East Conference championship in school history and an NCAA Tournament berth in his lone season with the Bearcats (2006).
O’Keefe’s first opportunity as a Division I coach came at Wake Forest, where he helped lead the Demon Deacons to three NCAA Tournament appearances in three seasons (2003-05). WFU won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship and earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2004. All three of O’Keefe’s Demon Deacon squads won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the third round in both 2004 and 2005.
At Wake Forest, O’Keefe coached the ACC’s 2003 and 2004 Offensive Players of the Year and the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year.
O’Keefe’s began his coaching career with three seasons (2000-02) at his alma mater, Greensboro College. During his three-season coaching stint at Greensboro, the Pride won three-consecutive Dixie Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships.
As a student-athlete at Greensboro, he helped the Pride to three NCAA Division III Tournament appearances, the 1996 South Region championship and the 1994 Dixie Conference title.
In addition to his collegiate coaching experience, O’Keefe has also served as a scout for the US Soccer Development Academy (2012-16), a head coach in the North Carolina Olympic Development program (2007-10), director of coaching for the Burlington Soccer Club in Burlington, N.C. (2007-10) and assistant director of coaching for the Twin City Soccer Association in Winston-Salem (2003-06).
A Dean’s List student, O’Keefe graduated from Greensboro College in 1997 with a B.A. in history. He holds a United States Soccer Federation (USSF) “A” license and a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) advanced national diploma.
“I am humbled and honored to become the next head coach of the App State men’s soccer program,” O’Keefe said. “I am grateful to Dr. Sheri N. Everts and Doug Gillin for giving me this tremendous opportunity. I can’t wait to get started with the staff and team. We will work extremely hard every day to make everyone involved with App State — alumni, students, faculty, staff, community members and fans — proud of our program and our student-athletes on and off the field.”
A press conference to introduce Coach O’Keefe to the Appalachian State community will be held on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. in the Don and Pat Phillips VIP Club Lounge on the fifth floor of the Appalachian Athletics Center (at Kidd Brewer Stadium). The press conference is open to the public and will be streamed live atappstatesports.com.
O’KEEFE’S COACHING CAREER AT A GLANCE
2000-02 — Greensboro College (assistant coach)
2003-05 — Wake Forest (assistant coach — ACC championship, three NCAA Tournaments)
2006 — Cincinnati (assistant coach — Big East championship, NCAA Tournament)
2007-09 — Elon (assistant coach/associate head coach — Southern Conference championship)
2010-13 — Saint Louis (assistant coach — two Atlantic 10 championships, two NCAA Tournaments)
2014-15 — North Carolina (assistant coach — two NCAA Tournaments)
2016- — Appalachian State (head coach)
HONORS AND AWARDS
2012 — Mid-Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the Year – National Soccer Coaches Association of America
2013 — One of the nation’s top 15 assistant coaches – CollegeSoccerNews.com
2015 — Nation’s No. 7 recruiting class – TopDrawerSoccer.com
2016 — Nation’s No. 1 recruiting class (as of Jan. 7) – TopDrawerSoccer.com
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT O’KEEFE
“First of all, I would like to thank Coach Jason O’Keefe for his contributions to UNC athletics and our soccer program. Also, congratulations to Appalachian for a great hire. Coach O’Keefe is ready and motivated for this opportunity and we wish him well in his next coaching challenge.”
— Carlos Somoano (head coach, University of North Carolina)
“I was fortunate to work with Jason here at Saint Louis University. He was instrumental in establishing a professional and winning culture. He is an excellent hire and I am sure he will do well at Appalachian State.”
— Mike McGinty (head coach, Saint Louis University)
“I was fortunate to get to work with Jason early on in our professional careers and even more fortunate to be able to call him a great friend. Jason is one of the best recruiters in the country and has a proven track record of success. He knows the North Carolina soccer landscape as good as anyone and will be a perfect fit for Appalachian State and its athletics department.”
— Bobby Muuss (head coach, Wake Forest University)
“I’m very excited to see Coach O’Keefe get a solid job at a great school. During my time under Coach O’Keefe, I learned quite a bit about the game but much more about myself as a player. He is a very player-oriented coach and looks for the growth of each player, holistically, both on and off the field. I’m forward to hearing about all the great things he will do at App State. Wishing you all the best, Coach O’Keefe!”
— Kingsley Bryce (Saint Louis student-athlete, 2011-15; Chicago Fire, Major League Soccer)
“App State has made a great hire. Coach O’Keefe is not only a great coach but a great person. He invests in the development of his players not only on the field but off of it. I can’t wait to see what Coach O’Keefe accomplishes at Appalachian State.”
— Clint Irwin (Elon student-athlete, 2007-10; Toronto FC, Major League Soccer)
“Jason is a guy who allows you to reach the next level and push your self to becoming better everyday. On those days when you feel too lazy or just not giving it your all, not only was Coach there to back me up but he pushed me past limits I didn’t even know I had. If it wasn’t for him there is no way our team would of been as successful as we were. On top of all that, he became more that just a coach to me but a mentor. It was a sad day to see him go from us to UNC but, with his resume, he deserves this more than anyone.”
— Robert Kristo (Saint Louis student-athlete, 2011-15; Spezia Calcio FC, Serie B)