The Charlotte 49ers were hungry for more. More conference titles. More NCAA appearances. Enter Jeremy Gunn. The accomplished coach brought an energy and passion matched by his soccer knowledge and desire. He was just as hungry.
In his first four seasons, the 49ers have earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1997, returned not only to the national rankings but to the top 10 and averaged over 11 wins per season. Heading into this season, the 49ers were ranked in the preseason top 25 for the second straight year.
The transition was quick and immediate. And absolutely what Gunn expected.
Gunn became the sixth coach in the program's history, Dec. 26, 2006. In those four short seasons the 49ers have put together 48 wins, including an impressive 26-4-6 record at Transamerica Field. In 2007, they reached the A-10 Championship game. Twelve different 49ers have earned all-Atlantic 10 honors, including 2008 A-10 Offensive Player of the Year Chris Salvaggione, 2010 A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Charles Rodriguez and 2010 A-10 Midfielder and Rookie of the Year Tyler Gibson.
In 2007, his first season with the 49ers, he guided Charlotte to their first-ever appearance in the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship game. The 49ers won 12 games which tied Gunn with Frank Kohlenstein (1989) for the best record by a first-year coach in the program's history. The 49ers reached the A-10 Tournament title game after topping #12 Saint Louis on penalty kicks in the A-10 semifinals.
In his second season at Charlotte, he again guided the 49ers to 12 wins and their first national ranking since 1998. They captured three regular-season tournament titles and started the season by winning nine of their first ten games.
In his third season at Charlotte, Gunn guided the 49ers to their best season in over a decade with an NCAA Tournament appearance and a top-ten national ranking. The 49ers defeated #3 Wake Forest on the road stopping Wake Forest's nation's best 46-game unbeaten streak against non-conference opponents. At one stretch of the season, the 49ers enjoyed a 13-game unbeaten streak. Charlotte also posted an unbeaten home record which included victories over CSU-Bakersfield and Winthrop to capture their second consecutive Charlotte Nike Invitational title.
In his fourth season at Charlotte, Gunn guided the 49ers to eight Atlantic 10 wins to earn the program's first Atlantic 10 regular-season title. The 49ers defeated #11 Wake Forest for the second straight season. Charlotte also was nationally-ranked for a majority of the season.
Gunn has been coaching in the United States Soccer Federation's newly formed academy system which serves a feeder for the youth national teams. In 2009, he was named Atlantic Division Head Coach of the Year having led after leading Charlotte Soccer Academy to a conference championship. In November 2008, Gunn was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Coach of the Century for his work at Fort Lewis College.
At Fort Lewis College...
Before taking over the reins of the 49ers men's soccer program, Gunn spent eight years as head coach at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. He guided the Skyhawks to three NCAA Division II Championship games in those eight years, including each of the last two years. Fort Lewis won the 2005 NCAA National Championship and finished as the NCAA runner-up in 2006 and 1999. Gunn was named Div. II National Coach of the Year in 2005 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) after leading the Skyhawks to the National Championship and an unbeaten 22-0-1 season.
A 1993 graduate of California State University-Bakersfield, Gunn had been head coach at Fort Lewis for eight years, winning six Rocky Mountain Conference (RMAC) championships, three NCAA Mid-West Regional titles and advancing to the NCAA National Championship game three times. He was named the 2005 NSCAA Div. II National Coach of the Year and the Mid-West Region Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2005. He boasts an eight-year record of 123-35-17 and led the Skyhawks to the RMAC Championship in each of the last three years.
In 2006, the Skyhawks posted a 21-2-1 record, finishing second in the 2006 NCAA Tournament and second in the NSCAA national poll. The Skyhawks were led by Daktronics Div. II National Player of the Year John Cunliffe, who scored a school record 29 goals. The three-time all-America scored 75 goals in his four-year career.
A five-time RMAC Coach of the Year, Gunn began his coaching career at his alma mater as an assistant coach in 1993. He served as an assistant coach with California State-Bakersfield's men's and women's soccer programs from 1993-1999. Cal-State Bakersfield won the 1997 NCAA Div. II National Championship and advanced to the 1995 NCAA Final Four. While serving as the men's assistant coach, Gunn also performed duties as the acting Head Women's coach during the women's program's first two seasons. Gunn was named CCAA conference women's coach of the year having led the Roadrunner women to a conference championship and national ranking in only their second season.
Gunn attributes much of his success to the great mentors that he has had during his coaching career. At Califormia State-Bakersfield he spent ten years with a former NSCAA coach of the year, Simon Tobin.
"When I arrived as a player at Cal-State the team had struggled to survive - Coach Tobin had inherited a team that had been 1-59 in conference," Gunn said. "Ten years later we had won five conference titles and a National Championship. I had the invaluable experience of being a part of something growing from start to finish. I learned the value of immense hard work, dedication and a sheer desire and ambition to be the best."
Moving on to Fort Lewis College, Gunn found U.S. National Staff Sports Psychologist, Dr. Dan Friegang as a mentor.
"Dano was incredible in helping me to mature as a leader and communicator, as well as teaching our players how to make the most of their abilities," Gunn said. "Coaches often emphasize and understand the physical training of athletes, but I felt our players benefited so much more from becoming mentally strong preparing for and coping with the stress and excitement of high level competition. Our work with Dano not only enhanced our performance on the field, but also translated into our student-athletes being successful, happy, confident people in general."
The biggest coaching influence on Gunn's career came recently working for three years with former Arsenal Football Club of England Youth Coach, Andy McDermid.
"It was quite humbling working with someone who has coached at one of the biggest professional clubs in the world," Gunn said. "Andy's knowledge and experience in the game are second to none in the United States, and so I couldn't have wished for a better education in coaching. Through Andy's guidance I really felt we created a far superior training environment than what most collegiate players experience."
Gunn also draws experience from a highly successful playing career. Growing up in England he was a youth player at Grimsby Town F.C. and Scunthorpe United F.C., while representing the North Region as an English Schoolboy. A first team all-American at Cal-State Bakersfield, Gunn played professionally from 1993-95 with the Chico Rooks Pro Soccer Club in Chico, Calif., the North Bay Breakers in Rohnert Park, Calif.; and in 1998 with the Nashville (Tenn.) Metros and the Charleston (S.C.) Battery of what is now called the United Soccer League (formerly the A-League).
Gunn has already shown a great commitment to developing youth soccer in the Charlotte area. The team is very visible with coaching camps and youth clinics, while Gunn and his staff are all involved in the United States National Academy Program.
"Our commitment to youth soccer is important for a number of reasons," Gunn said. "We want our student-athletes to be quality role models, and hope that in turn we will gain greater community support. At the older ages I feel it is important that we share the "Charlotte Way" so that college prospects can judge the excitement surrounding our program for themselves."
Now, at Charlotte, Gunn is excited to put his wealth of experience into practice in a new environment with new challenges. The opponents and the geography have changed for Gunn, but the philosophies that have taken him to five final fours will stay the same.
"Many players and coaches feel that you have to make the choice between being a hard working winner or just having fun and enjoying yourself," Gunn said. "It is my job as a head coach to allow players to train and play in an environment where they can do both."
The Harrogate, England native graduated from CSU-Bakersfield with a degree in Business Administration, Management Information Systems. He earned a Master's Degree in Business Administration, Management Information Systems, in 1999 from CSU-Bakersfield.