Davie Carmichael had every intention of staying at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and the splendor of Southern California beyond the early months of 2018.
But that all changed when he saw a job opening at Southern Oregon University and started to do a little research on the Rogue Valley and everything it has to offer.
It was the area that got him interested. It was the people he now works alongside that sealed the deal.
“It was the athletic director, the administrative staff, the coaching staff and then when I met the team I really felt a sense of unity and it seemed like there’s a bunch that hold each other accountable in a positive way,” Carmichael said. “That was a big part of it, the people here at Southern Oregon.”
The Raiders’ new men’s soccer coach, equipped with his distinct Scottish accent and love for his hometown Rangers FC in Glasgow, has been officially on the job for a month now after being named as the man to replace Biniam Afenegus on April 10.
It’s been an interesting road to get to this point, with Carmichael taking jobs in Ohio, New York and California over the last five years before landing at Southern Oregon.
His first head collegiate coaching job was in Ohio at Lake Erie College, which plays at the NCAA Division II level. There, Carmichael turned around what was a 1-16-1 team the year before he got there into an 11-win squad that next season.
Carmichael moved to the University of Buffalo in 2015, spending one year as an assistant before being promoted to head coach in January 2017. Three months after getting his first NCAA Division I head coaching job, the university decided to drop the program along with three other sports.
Cal Poly was his most recent stop, spending the 2017 season working as an assistant under former United States Men’s National Team coach Steve Sampson on the Mustangs’ coaching staff.
“As a young head coach, I didn’t really know everything I thought I knew,” Carmichael said. “The evolution for me as a coach has been to learn from people who have been there and done it, and I feel like I’m a better coach today because of it.”
On top of being appreciative of the people he now works with, Carmichael is also well aware of just what Afenegus was able to build in the first three years that SOU fielded a men’s soccer program.
The most notable of that was SOU capturing the Cascade Conference title last fall, leading to the Raiders’ first-ever appearance in the NAIA National Tournament.
“I believe Biniam has left a good structure behind. He did most of the recruiting, so the guys coming in are mostly his,” Carmichael said. “We’re still working with a couple of guys that would be my recruits, but I don’t see any reason to take a step back and I think we have that vision of building forward and building atop that foundation. There’s no reason why we can’t.”
While Carmichael might have had previous jobs where he needs to build a team back up after a tough season, that’s not the case in Ashland.
The cupboard that Afenegus left behind is far from being a barren one. And, with a recruiting class that has seen every commitment stay on board through the coaching change, Carmichael knows that expectations will be to continue the program’s upward trajectory.
“I think defensively the team is very, very well-organized, it’s very well-structured,” Carmichael said when asked about his initial evaluation of the team he now coaches. “I think becoming a little more dynamic in the final third, becoming a little more confident in the final third and having some different movements and layers to our attack is necessary. Having a really strong defense can be something to build a good offense from, and I feel like that’s one area we have to recruit towards and get more of those guys that are in those positions at the moment.”
The transition from one head coach to another has been pretty smooth, Carmichael says. “Everyone’s on board and it’s a positive camp right now,” he added, with the Raiders concluding spring workouts last week so that the focus can be put on the soon-to-be-concluded spring quarter.
Luckily for the players, Carmichael said that he and Afenegus have a lot of the same characteristics as coaches.
“I think (the players) see a lot of similarities between myself and Biniam,” Carmichael said. “It’s been really positive and there’s been no resistance from anyone.”
Carmichael envisions his team as one that tries to possess the ball more often than not and has the ability to build its attack from the back
From the goalkeeper to the strikers, the plan is to get everybody involved.
“I’ve said that even if Biniam was still here, there has to be a process of evolution for every team,” Carmichael said. “I’ve always found success as a coach in having a very possession-based team. That’s one area I think we can improve on is keeping the ball with a purpose, looking to have everybody break down low-sitting defenses and how to retain the ball and really just rest in possession.”
And not only does Carmichael want his team to build something on a game-to-game basis, but he wants to continue to build upon what Afenegus started three years ago in Ashland.
As much as Carmichael might not have planned on leaving Cal Poly five or six months ago, now that he’s arrived in the Rogue Valley, he doesn’t have any kind of desire that involves a short-term stay.
What Afenegus started, Carmichael only wants to see taken to another level.
“When I selected Southern Oregon, it was somewhere I believed I could be for the next 10-plus years,” Carmichael said. “The one thing that I’ve made clear and that’s important to me and should be important to the players is that now you’re champions you have the target on your back and people will probably prepare differently now to come play against us. We can’t have any slip-ups, so we have to make sure the things that we can control are done correctly and any setbacks we do have we have to get over those moments quickly.”
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.