MORGANTOWN, W. Va – Announced earlier this week, former Mountaineer Dan Stratford will be making his return to Morgantown as the 10th head coach of the WVU men’s soccer program.
Stratford played at WVU from 2004-07, helping the team reach three national tournaments. After a brief stint playing professionally, Stratford began his coaching career as a WVU assistant from 2011-13. Most recently Stratford spent the previous three seasons as the head coach of the University of Charleston, where he won division-II national championships in 2017 and 2019.
During his introductory press conference Saturday morning, Stratford said he plans on developing a player-center program that focused on more than just soccer.
“I think the biggest piece of my philosophy is that it’s player-centered, it’s about their holistic development,” Stratford said. “The soccer aspect of what we get to do is such a small piece of how we get to impact them.”
West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons announced Stratford’s hiring on Monday and said Saturday that his name was the one that stuck out the most during the athletic department’s nation-wide search.
“We started this about a month ago when the opening became available and we indicated that we were going to do a national search,” Lyons said. “Throughout that search one name just kept coming to the top, and that name was ‘Dan Stratford’.”
Stratford said his previous experience with West Virginia will only help him connect to the student-athletes he will be coaching.
“When I refer to my student-athlete experience it wasn’t somewhere else, it was here,” Stratford said. “I’ve been a player here when we’ve had some success as a program, I’ve been a coach when we had some success as well. My core values, my philosophy, the environment I want to create, it all stems from my time here as a player. It’s so deeply rooted in what I did here as a student-athlete. I look back, quite frankly, on my experience as the best four years of my life. If I can do anything for my student-athletes, it’s create the same vision for them as well.”
Former WVU head coach Marlon LeBlanc resigned effective Dec. 30 following two straight seasons of making the NCAA tournament. Stratford said the recent success the team has enjoyed makes his job easier coming in.
“There’s a lot of quality. The program, collectively, isn’t broken and needing fixing.”
In terms of recruiting, Stratford, a London, England native, said he views it as a global market, where how a players fits with the program is more important than how talented a player may be.
“It would be narrow-minded to not look at this as a global market. It’s the most popular sport in the world,” Stratford said. “Whether they’re domestic or international, it’s about taking that diverse group and making it as inclusive as possible.”
Stratford also announced that he will be retaining assistant coaches Andy Wright and Nick Noble, both of whom he played with at WVU.
This past season the Mountaineers went 10-9-2, winning the MAC conference and making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.