After the celebration wound down in Tampa, Fla.— and the 2008 Cal State Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) men’s soccer team walked off the field with a Division II NCAA National Championship—the coaching staff made its way back out.
“We didn’t know when we would be back. We wanted to take in the moment, and it was a really good one,” said Joe Flanagan, head coach of the CSUDH men’s soccer team, who explained that walking back on the field is among his most memorable moments as coach. “We had won 3-0, and every player got into the game. We just wanted to soak it in.”
The 2008 title was the second of the team’s two national championships under Flanagan—the first was in 2000. But as significant as those titles have been for Flanagan, the team and the university, they are just a glimpse of the impact that he has had on the team in his 22-year coaching career at CSUDH. And it doesn’t appear that he’s ready to hang up his hat.
This past season the team took its eighth California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) conference title—the seventh with Flanagan as coach—and Flanagan was named CCAA Coach of the Year, for the fifth time. He also reached and surpassed a milestone 300th win as head coach, adding even more luster to his legacy as the winningest coach in CSUDH history.
“My 300th win this season felt great,” said Flanagan, a 48-year-old father of four who lives in Palos Verdes. “It was like ‘Wow!—I’ve really have been here a long time.’”
A Storied Career
The winning really began nearly 30 years ago when in 1986 Flanagan enrolled as a political science student at CSUDH, and joined the men’s soccer team.
While on the team, he added some significant ink to the men’s soccer record book. He currently stands as CSUDH’s all-time leading scorer with 38 goals and holds the record for most goals scored in one game with four. He is also tied for second for the most overall points in school history with 89.
After he graduated in 1989, Flanagan launched an impressive stint in the pros, while serving as an assistant coach at CSUDH. He played for LA United, the LA Heat, and in 1994—the year he became head coach of men’s soccer squad—he was named Rookie of the Year by the United States Independent Soccer League playing for the Los Angeles Salsa.
“I’ve been on campus in some capacity since the day I became a student,” said Flanagan. “As an assistant coach, we played against teams, such as UCLA, with very good soccer traditions. I always felt I could create something like that here—something that we, and the university, could be proud of. We could create a tradition that when players graduated they could look back and take pride.”
Winning didn’t come immediately. The team didn’t see its first title under his leadership until 1999.
“It showed our team and program [in 1999] that we could win. That was important, and a huge pillar that we had to knock down. We had ended up in big games before, but weren’t lucky enough to win them,” Flanagan said. “All the kids who came back in 2000 suddenly had this belief that they could do it—that they could win a big game. We went on to win our first national title that year.”
That year, they also took home the CCAA Tournament Championship and the NCAA Far West Championship titles.
The men’s soccer team continued their success and “had a great run” from 1999 to 2010, making it to the playoffs or the conference finals nearly every year, according to Flanagan.
Several of the CSUDH ballers Flanagan coached during that time have gone on to play professional soccer, and some still play today. Toro All-American Kei Kamara, a forward with the Columbus Crew, is currently ranked 14th by Major League Soccer, and Alejandro Covarrubias is a midfielder for the LA Galaxy II squad.
As the titles pile up for the team over the years, so did the accolades for Flanagan. In his second year as head coach, he had been honored with his first of the five CCAA Coach of the Year honors, and grabbed his second in that storied 2000 season.
In 2001, he nabbed both CCAA and NCAA II West Region Coach of the Year recognitions.
A year later, Flanagan and his coaching staff doubled down, adding CSUDH’s women’s soccer team to their duties, which they managed for 12 years. Under Flanagan’s guidance, the women’s team took one NCAA West Region crown, one CCAA championship, and made seven CCAA and six NCAA postseason appearances.
In 2009, the year the Toros reached the NCAA Championship game, Flanagan again earned a familiar distinction: Women’s Soccer All-Region Coach of the Year from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
Flanagan has also been coaching youth soccer since the late 1990s, which he continues today.
“Working on the youth side has done a lot to bring exposure to the university,” he said. “Today, we are also working to contact and gather our alumni players. They are getting back in sync with the campus.”
Flanagan has been working side-by-side with associate head coach, Jeff Tuttle, since he became head coach two decades ago. In 2006, they were joined by assistant coach, Drew Rea.
“Our program for the past 20 years—ever since we took over—has been competitive, and we’ve had a couple of excellent runs in the past,” said Flanagan. “That’s why this year’s Coach of the Year honor was so memorable—because it’s been a while for us. It’s always been about all of us.”