New FSU Coach Successful At Each Stop.
He led Franklin Pierce to two Division II national championships.
He helped the University of Hartford earn four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, including a trip to the Elite Eight.
He was named the Women’s United Soccer Association’s Coach of the Year in 2002 with the Philadelphia Charge.
And just last year he helped the Under-19 U.S. Women’s National team earn a bronze medal at the FIFA Women’s World Championship.
Krikorian’s commitment to excellence was one of the characteristics Florida State University was looking for in a new women’s soccer coach.
That’s why the Seminoles tabbed Krikorian to be their new coach last month. Krikorian takes over for Patrick Baker, who left Tallahassee, Fla., in December 2004 to take the head coaching job at the University of Georgia.
“He is a great fit for us,” said Florida State Senior Associate Athletic Director Kim Record, who directed the coaching searches for Baker and Krikorian. “We were at a different point in our program. We were looking for a very different type of coach from when we hired Patrick. Then we were looking for builder. I did a lot of research and Mark’s name came up early, but I wasn’t sure if he was interested in getting back to the college game.
“What Mark did that made him stand out in that pool was he has a var iety of experience. He had three different levels of coaching very, very good players.”
Record said she didn’t have to convince Krikorian that FSU was the right fit for him. She said Krikorian did plenty of research about the school. What he found on the soccer side was a program that went from a 9-10-1 (0-6-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) record in Baker’s first year in 1999 to a program that in 2003 advanced to the Women’s College Cup.
Under Baker, the Seminoles advanced to five straight NCAA tournaments, including Sweet 16 appearances in 2000 and 2002.
Krikorian, who coached at the University of Hartford from 1996-2000, said FSU’s commitment to excellence in all phases of its athletic department attracted him to the job. He said he had considered several college head coaching positions after in his final season with the WUSA in 2003, but he said he never found the right fit.
Krikorian didn’t have to look too long to see FSU was for him.
“One of the hardest things in sport is to maintain a level of success. That’s why we hold (North) Carolina in such high esteem because they do it year after year after year,” Krikorian said. “The next challenge at Florida State I face is to maintain the level Patrick and his staff created. I imagine if he would have stayed it would have been a challenge for him. Once you are in the top 20 continuously, that is an admirable step, but the next step is how to continue and to improve on that and how do we get back to the College Cup.”
FSU went 12-5-2 this past season, but injuries to a handful of players, including senior midfielder Camie Bybee and junior forward Leah Gallegos, contributed to the team’s loss to Boston College in penalty kicks in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Krikorian said he hopes to get the Seminoles back to the College Cup with a possession-oriented attack. He said the system won’t be drastically different from Baker’s, but he said he wants to help players better read the play, improve their technique and help them better understand nuances of the game, like passing angles and passing distances. He said the opportunity to coach in the ACC, arguably the best women’s soccer conference in the nation, was intriguing, and he said he welcomes the opportunity to play against the best teams every match.
Krikorian, a former player at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., coached at Division II Franklin Pierce from 1990-96. The former New England Indoor Soccer League All-Star coached the team to two national titles before moving on to the Division I level at Hartford. Krikorian’s ability to find talent, particularly foreign players, enabled the Hawks to remain a regional and a national power.
He said his task at FSU would be to find the best student-athletes. He said his ability to attract the top U.S. players would be easier at FSU than at Hartford simply because of the school’s resources and facilities.
Krikorian also hopes his experience with the U.S. Women’s National team will help him on and off the field. He served as a scout for the U.S. Women’s National team in 2003 and then took over the U-19 program from Tracy Leone in February 2004. He helped the U.S. team win a bronze medal at the FIFA World Championship in November in Thailand and was exposed to a variety of strategies and systems that he feels will help him at FSU.
“I learned that there are many, many different ways to do things,” said Krikorian, who recently hired U-17 coach Erica Walsh to be one of his assistant coaches. “I said a couple of times that coaching in the U-19 World Cup is like a soccer lab. You could watch the Koreans one day, the Brazilians one day, the Italians the next day and the Germans the next day and all of them had slightly different styles and different ways they played. I wanted to try to take little pieces of them and put them in the back of my mind, and as we start to create the team here, look at the strengths and weaknesses and maybe if I saw something from the Spanish team, incorporate it to our team.”
U.S. Women’s National team coach April Heinrichs said Krikorian’s hard work and knowledge of the game would serve him well at FSU.
“The first thing that comes to mind is Mark’s work ethic is unparalleled,” Heinrichs said. “He has a great eye for talent, and he will leave no stone unturned, at home and overseas, trying to find the best players for Florida State.”
Heinrichs agreed with Record that Krikorian would be a great fit in Tallahassee. She said his ability to meld talent into a cohesive unit at the college and at the professional level would help him succeed at FSU.
Record feels Krikorian will be able to help the women’s soccer program take the next step.
“I had such a good relationship with Patrick Baker and I hired Patrick,” Record said. “I knew we had to find somebody special to build on the foundation he had built, but it was not someone who was exactly like Patrick. The people you bring in have to share the vision and share the values and want the same thing. Mark does that.
“One of his strengths is his ability to look at a situation analytically to see what the needs are and put the pieces of the puzzle together.”