Jan. 17, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Chris Grassie entered his new office for the first time and gazed out of the windows at the pitch. Dusk had settled over Marshall's Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex, but it was the dawn of a new era.
"This is a dream come true," he said moments before he was introduced Jan. 10 as the new head men's soccer coach at Marshall. "I can look out and see the 18-yard box."
Grassie, 38, met the players in his new program in the locker room moments later.
"I think I'm still in that settling in process," he said. "There's a lot to take in."
Grassie was hired last week to replace legendary Marshall coach Bob Gray, who retired after the 2016 season. Grassie compiled a 99-20-8 record in six seasons at Division II University of Charleston, including a 61-7-3 in the last three seasons. UC, a member of the Mountain East Conference, made three consecutive Final Four appearances, including advancing to the championship game in 2014 and 2016.
It is why Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick and associate athletic director and chief of staff Jeff O'Malley targeted Grassie during a thorough coaching search. Now Grassie, who is originally from Newcastle upon Tyne in northeastern England, will try to replicate his successes at Marshall.
"Obviously we've got the beautiful stadium here," Grassie said. "Talking to Mike and Jeff and how much they support the program and how much they want to win. That's what I'm all about. I want the program to be a culture of excellence here. Having the ability to do that at the Division I level and Conference USA, I think we can make big noise."
Grassie promises an exciting brand of soccer.
"I was a big, big fan of top football and watching Pep Guardiola when he took over Barcelona and how they played the game and just how they took the game to the next evolution, and trying to replicate that at the college level has given me great joy," Grassie said. "When you're watching a team play they have to reflect the culture a little bit.
"I'm going to take my attacking football … I love that hard-nosed defense where we're pressing and trying to win it back early. I want to see that from the Marshall teams going forward. I want to see organization and discipline and pressing and I want to bring a style that's really difficult to play against, really dominant and that's really intelligent."
Charleston ranked No. 2 among all Division II teams in scoring in 2016 with 78 goals in 24 games - 3.25 goals per game. UC only allowed 20 goals, which ranked No. 21 nationally.
"Entertaining the fans is going to be a big part of it," Grassie said. "This is a sport. This is an entertainment venue. We need to be entertaining the fans. We need to have attackers who are going to go 1 vs. 1, we need some tricks, we need to see some guys who are going to get fans out of their seat and get fans excited.
"We're going to play a style of play that's going to win us games. I don't believe in the possession style because it's pretty -- it wins games. That's what I'm going to do."
Grassie spent six seasons at UC - where he won six consecutive conference championships - but more than a decade ago he made his Division I debut as a graduate assistant at Marshall. This is a homecoming, of sorts.
"After college I was playing back in England and I had the opportunity to come and work for Bobby Gray in 2004," he said. "It was my break in Division I coaching. I loved every minute of it. Marshall was such a nice place for me to land. It was the first time I really stopped; I was bouncing around from pro team to semi-pro team. Really, this became a home for me. To have the opportunity to come back as a head coach is a dream come true."