New University at Buffalo men's soccer head coach Davie Carmichael has an advantage over most first-time Division I head coaches. He's intimately familiar with the culture he's inheriting after spending the last two years with the Bulls as an assistant, and the Scot has filled out his staff with two fellow holdovers in Matt Brown and Blair Stevenson.
In other words, the change in Amherst won't be extreme.
Still, like any transition between head coaches, expect subtle changes between the UB sides that nearly knocked off superpower Akron in the Mid-American Conference title game the last two years and the product on the pitch in 2017.
In a phone call late last week, BN Soccer caught up with Carmichael to discuss his playing philosophy and how he plans to deal with the graduation of star attacker Russell Cicerone.
BN Soccer: What was your message to the group of returning players?
Carmichael: It was that our aim is to continue with the same structure we have had in place over the last couple of years. We will play probably a little different style of soccer - the vision will be the same, to keep building upon the success we've had, but I think we'll try to be a little more possession-based next year.
Q: Do you think the change in style will be a big adjustment?
A: It's going to be a big change in terms of who we're bringing in. We're looking to blend my style of recruit with the recruits we currently have here. I think we're going to see a different product on the field next year.
Obviously we're losing a lot of guys, too, so stitching that together and easing through that transition and hoping the guys we have currently learn quick and the guys coming in will mesh well with that and learn quick as well.
[RELATED: See who UB has brought in via the BN Soccer Recruiting Tracker]
Q: Will you have to relate to players a little differently as a head coach compared to as an assistant?
A: Absolutely. I've been in the position of head coach before. From my perspective, it's figuring out what motivates each player and how we can get the most out of each player. As an assistant, you have a different relationship where things can get a little bit more relaxed.
There will be that tough transition, sure, but there's an overwhelming response from the players with me getting this position, and there's been a lot of positivity with them, so I don't see anything to hold us back.
Q: What should soccer fans expect from Davie Carmichael's team as opposed to Stu Riddle's team?
A: I think we worked very well together, Stu and I, so there will be a lot of the same elements. I think we will look to be as defensively sound and compact as we've been in previous years.
I think from an attacking standpoint we obviously had Russell [Cicerone] last year, and a lot of our attack and product on the field came through Russell, so I think next year the aim for me to recruit guys who can give us a different dimension to our attack, and maybe make us a little bit less one-dimensional and add layers to our offensive play and our movement up top. That's our aim, but we obviously have to recruit guys who fit that mold.
Q: Russell [Cicerone] was so successful and so central to the attack and the program. Is there anything else you want to add in how you plan to replace his production?
A: When you have a guy like Russell who's been so productive in numbers, and we may never have someone to supersede that in terms of statistics, but this is college soccer, and there are guys out there that we're going to bring in that may not have the same style as Russell, but hopefully we'll get a similar productivity.
We have to rely on other guys to chip in and start to pick up goals and assists. Like I said earlier, Russell occasionally made us one-dimensional because everything goes through him - which is to be expected when you have a guy of that caliber - but we'll be looking for a more balanced attack, where we're bringing in guys who can help us on the right, on the left, through the middle, and hopefully we'll have more dimensions in our attacking play now.
Q: One of the reasons Stu Riddle took the job at Northern Kentucky was because of the resources there. Do you feel like you're well equipped from a resources standpoint to go back to the MAC title and dethrone Akron?
A: I come from a different environment previously [as a D2 head coach at Lake Erie College], and everything I need we have here, and the administration is very supportive in getting us what we need. I have no concerns about any budgetary stuff - everything we need is here already.
I don't really want to comment on Stu moving on - it's his decision and something he felt he had to do. Losing so many guys - it's going to be tough to replace, but we just have to learn quickly on the field and make sure our working habits are good and that we develop as quickly as we can.
Q: Given those graduations, it seems like 2017 might be a rebuilding year. Do you think that's a fair or unfair assessment?
A: I don't know if I want to use the word "rebuilding" because we do have some quality here and we do have a good platform to work with, and we'll be really competitive in recruiting - for which we don't have a ton of time right now - but we've highlighted and identified some quality that we hopefully can come in and transition quickly.
I think what we'll be tasked with as a coaching staff is that we blend those guys quickly and early. It's going to be a good challenge, and we'll attempt to remain competitive - that's our goal right now.
Q: What are one or two things that you'd want the local soccer community to know about you personally?
A: I work with a lot of integrity, I'm passionate, I'm driven, I'm competitive, and I love a style of soccer that's possession-based. Hopefully in future years we can be a little bit more expansive than we've been in previous years, and cement our label on the game, put our stamp on things a little bit more than we have.
Q: Is there something you'd want your Bulls teams to be known for? A trait, like a Diego Simeone team that you don't want to play against because they're tough as nails.
A: I don't think it's one specific thing - I want our team to be known for defensively structured and organized, and then direct in the transition game - but good possession of the ball, too.
Q: Is there anything I haven't asked that you'd like to add?
A: I think part of my vision for the program here is that we have to make a stronger network in New York State - we have to look for more in-state, local guys to add balance to the international guys we have.
We're looking for the best players in the global market but also the best guys in state, and we're going to be making strong connections and looking more at the development academies within the state of New York.
Q: What's your perspective on the growing number of premier academies in Western New York and beyond?
A: I think it's beneficial for us as a division I program, the flagship institution of New York, and we've not really been into those academies as much as we could have been in the past, and my goal is to start creating the relationship with those directors here, and identify more of the quality players in-state.
*Personnel note: Carmichael confirmed that starting goalkeeper Joseph Kuta would pursue academic endeavors and not return to the Bulls for his senior season. The new Bulls coach spoke highly of backup Cameron Hogg and the coaching ability of assistant Matt Brown as two tools that will help fill the void.
Email Ben Tsujimoto at email@example.com