For a university only in its 55th year, there are a surprising number of personnel who’ve been around for a good percentage of that time. So while Anthony Adams’ 25 years as assistant and then associate head soccer coach might have college sports observers and coaching aficionados scratching their heads, to those inside of #RetrieverNation, it’s just another “Hilltop Circle Tale.”
Throughout the nation, UMBC’s associate head coach is just one of two reported program assistants whose current NCAA Division I coaching tenures have reached the quarter-century mark.
If that distinction isn’t enough, Adams ’97, history, works under his college coach, Head Soccer Coach Pete Caringi Jr. and alongside Pete Caringi III, a UMBC All American, who was born during Adams’ freshman playing season.
“I am unbelievably thankful for all the things that have happened here,” said Adams. “I got a chance to play and then coach Division I soccer when I was 22 years old.”
The Early Years
Adams prepped at Calvert Hall—coincidentally (or not), the Caringis’ alma mater—and attended UMBC as part of his future mentor’s first full recruiting class in the fall of 1992. Nicknamed “Tank,” the Dundalk, Maryland, native was the consummate steady defender who started every game in 1994 and 1995.
While at Calvert Hall and early in his playing career at UMBC, Adams had coached his younger brother’s team and a youth team that would feature future Retrievers such as Billy Nelson ’01 and P.J. Wakefield ’02. But the history major planned on going the teaching route and was student-teaching when he got “the call” from Caringi Jr. in the spring of 1997.
Adams served as an assistant coach from 1997-99, earning a first-year salary of $8,000. Caringi put him on a plane for England in that first year and he came back with defender Andrew Wells ’02 and midfielder James Hamilton ’02. The duo were key cogs on a team that would earn the program’s first NCAA Division I Championship appearance in 1999.
Wells would go on to earn all-league honors in the Northeast Conference during all four years on Hilltop Circle and a UMBC Hall of Fame selection.
“When I met Anthony in May 1998 in a hotel in Blackpool, England, I met a quiet, unassuming guy with a determination in his eye,” said Wells, who currently works for Capstone ISG, Inc. in Hunt Valley, Maryland, as a regional claims manager. “I put all of my trust in him when he sold me on coming to UMBC and I have never regretted for a moment that decision.”
Wells adds, “over the past 23 years, I have watched Anthony grow into one of the top college soccer coaches in America and while he is not as quiet and unassuming as he used to be, that determination in his eyes is still there. It was a pleasure to be a part of Anthony’s journey as a coach and even more of a pleasure to now call him a friend.”
All About the Family
Adams earned the program’s first full-time assistant coaching gig in the fall of 2000.
“I was fortunate to realize it was my passion,” said Adams, recalling those early years. “As hard as it was, it didn’t seem like work. I had really supportive parents. Without their support, I wouldn’t have started it.”
The Retrievers continued to experience success in the first decade of the 2000s and Adams earned accolades as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches. He was a finalist for several head coaching positions, but he met the former Stephanie Pippin, who had joined UMBC’s sports medicine staff in 2001. They were married four years later, and celebrated the additions of Isabella and Caroline in 2007 and 2010, respectively.
“Once we got married and had our first child, I didn’t seriously consider any job offers after that,” said Adams about other coaching positions.“I’m in a really good situation here. Do I have that itch to be a head coach? Yes, I have for about 20 years. But, at a certain point, it stopped being about me and it started to be about my family.”
The Retriever Way
Under Caringi Jr., Adams and long-time volunteer assistant coach Sam DeBone, the Retrievers built a program that won a Northeast Conference title in 1999 and earned a Top 20 ranking in 2000. The move to the tougher America East Conference in 2003 provided a greater challenge, but by 2010, “The Retriever Way” of mixing primarily local players along with a few international standouts again paid dividends. UMBC won four of five America East titles from 2010-2014, concluding with the remarkable College Cup (national semi-finals) appearance in 2014.
“I definitely got emotional when UMBC made the penalty kick at Creighton,” said Adams of the shot that sent the Retrievers to Cary, North Carolina, for the College Cup. “It was a tribute to all those players that came before, the Steve Zerhusens, the Woodard brothers, the Bobby Wagners and so many more. It was also a message to those people over all of the years that said it couldn’t be done by UMBC.”
And the success carries on as, despite a small venue in the cozy Retriever Soccer Park, UMBC ranks amongst the nation’s Top 25 in attendance nearly every fall.
Bigger than a Job
Adams gives his mentor full credit for the success of the program. “He always preaches family but that’s what it is. Being at UMBC is bigger than the job for me. The relationships are more important to me than anything.”
“Anthony has given his heart and soul to the program,” said Caringi Jr., at his own UMBC Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2019. “I really do believe that we are a great combination. I know you [Adams] always have my back and I always have your back and we have one goal, to make UMBC a great program.”
“I am amazed at what this place has turned into,” said Adams.
I wish to dedicate this article to the memory of one of my mentors, Jeff Seidel, ‘84. A frequent contributor to UMBC Magazine, Jeff asked me for a potential topic and we agreed that an article featuring Coach Adams would be highly appropriate. Like Coach Adams, Jeff bled black and gold, but, being a true professional, he always wrote objectively when covering the Retrievers for The Baltimore Sun.
Thirty-six years ago, Jeff passed the baton to me when I became sports editor of The Retriever. I didn’t drop it then and I will not drop it now. I miss my friend.
— Steve Levy, ‘85
Header image: Associate Head Coach Anthony Adams directs his defense in a 2012 game.