Laskey retires as Cal U coach
It's time for Dennis Laskey to become a full-time grandfather.
The longtime California University of Pennsylvania men's soccer coach, Laskey announced his retirement Friday after 27 seasons at the helm.
Laskey, 62, a Fallowfield Township resident, racked up a 258-223-41 overall record and ranks second in PSAC history for career victories.
“The time involved in coaching, you're always on the road for games or recruiting and if you can't give 100 percent you can't do it,” Laskey said. “It's been weighing on me the past couple months.”
Laskey cited a desire to spend more time with family – namely four grandchildren: Jesse, Jude, Priya and Jaeda.
“His grandchildren call him ‘Coach',” sister Jane Laskey said, laughing. “We've known about this (retirement) for a while. … I said to him, ‘I can't imagine you not being involved in soccer.' He said, ‘I missed my kids growing up, I'm not going to miss these guys.'”
Laskey became the program's first head coach in 1984 and struggled through some lean seasons before the Vulcans became a legitimate PSAC contender. He guided the Vulcans to their first-ever league championship in 2008.
“I did all the (non-conference) scheduling and I never scheduled teams I thought we could beat, because it's better to swallow your ego as a coach and play teams that would challenge our players and make them better,” Laskey said. “In the early years, everybody wanted us for their homecoming game. After a while, schools were dropping us (from their schedule).”
Laskey did not stay at Cal U his entire coaching career. Citing frustration with the school's lack of progress in creating a women's program, he left to coach the Upper St. Clair girls' soccer team where he won back-to-back WPIAL championships in 1989 and 1990.
“One of the reasons I left is because I wanted them to create a women's team. I wanted the growth of our Mon Valley girls' programs to be able to extend to that college level,” he said. “I missed that speed and power of the men's game at the collegiate level.”
Laskey returned to Cal U in 1991 – where he took on both the men's program and the new women's program for the next decade.
“I was the only coach; there wasn't even an assistant coach,” Laskey said. “It was pretty tough to do that, but I was determined to get it done. That was kind of crazy, but soccer just wasn't regarded that highly, I guess you could say.”
Cal U found postseason success the past decade, qualifying for the NCAA Division II Tournament in 2004, 2008 and 2011. The Vulcans finished 11-6-2, losing on penalty kicks to Millersville in the PSAC quarterfinals.
Laskey said he did not want to leave on “a sour note”.
“What made my decision easy is I have a great assistant coach and everything is in place for us to continue to be successful,” Laskey said. “Some coaches leave at the right time when they see a down year coming, but I've never been like that. If we wouldn't have made the playoffs this year, I probably wouldn't have (retired).”
Laskey said he will remain active in the program as a volunteer assistant.
“It's a very good team coming back and I'm sure we'll have an excellent coach taking over for me,” Laskey said. “Every coach has a different style and it won't be how I would do it, but it will be just as good or better. It does not surpass the need for chemistry and keeping everyone moving in the same direction.”
To honor his legacy, the Dennis Laskey Soccer Scholarship has been created at The Foundation at Cal U to benefit both men's and women's soccer players. Anyone wanting to donate can make their check payable to The Foundation for California University of Pa. and send it to Foundation for California University of PA c/o Dennis Laskey Scholarship Fund, 250 University Ave., California, PA 15419.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-684-2635.