When you think of Cal men’s soccer, you think of Kevin Grimes. After retiring in February, the now-former head coach left a gaping vacancy for the first time in 22 years.
Enter Leonard Griffin. On Thursday, March 31, Jim Knowlton, Cal’s athletic director, announced Griffin’s hiring.
The former professional soccer player and coach brings a breadth of experience to the blue and gold. Most recently, he served as the head coach for Grand Canyon, leading the Antelopes to an overall record of 15-4-1 in 2021. Before his time in Arizona, he coached at the helm of the University of San Francisco.
“It’s a true honor and privilege to lead the men’s soccer program at the most elite school in the country,” Griffin said to Cal Athletics. “To come back to my home state in California is a lot, and there’s no better place than the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a place where my family wants to settle.”
From 2013-2014, Griffin spent time in Berkeley as an assistant coach for Cal men’s soccer. Under the tutelage of Grimes, Griffin helped elevate the program to a momentary No. 1 national ranking and the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He later moved to UCLA’s coaching staff, then Portland from 2014-2019.
Touted for cultivating a “team-first” atmosphere, Griffin knows what it’s like to be a soccer player himself. He was a part of the Bruins’ national championship team in 2002 and was named an NCAA All-American defender one year later. In the 2004 MLS SuperDraft, he was the 11th overall pick and appeared in uniform for professional teams such as the Chicago Fire, the Portland Timbers and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
As Cal men’s soccer gears up for the 2022 season, it looks to make its mark in a competitive Pac-12 conference. All eyes will be on Griffin to see how he’s able to recruit the next generation of Bears and lead the program beyond its previous 1-6-1 conference record in 2021.