Duncan out as Bulls’ assistant

USF men’s soccer assistant coach Mike Duncan’s resignation from USF was announced Monday.

The Lakeland-based coach, who had served as assistant coach for three seasons, announced via a statement issued by the USF Athletics Department that his resignation was to enable him to pursue other career options.

Duncan, who unsuccessfully applied for the head coaching position vacated by John Hackworth in July, had previously announced his decision to the players and head coach George Kiefer. Duncan could not be reached for comment.

Kiefer was philosophical about the loss of his assistant, saying ambitious people will always be likely to seek other positions. The coach said Duncan’s ambition was a testament to the recruiting abilities of Hackworth, who is now coaching the U-17 national team.

“I think it says something about Coach Hackworth when you have good people here that want to move on and do other things,” said Kiefer. “He did a lot of the recruits for Coach Hackworth. He had a real good idea of the game.”

With the Bulls’ season just completed, Kiefer, who confirmed that he will be replacing Duncan, will have ample time to appoint a new assistant to work alongside his remaining assistant, Jim Felix. The head coach said he did not try to persuade Duncan to reconsider his decision, saying his policy when either players or assistants express a preference to leave is not to stand in their way.

“When you have someone that’s looking to do other things, I think you’re better off not talking them into something they don’t want to do,” Kiefer said.

Retiring senior midfielder Jeff Thwaites said throughout Duncan’s three years with the Bulls his empathy for the players and his personal approach to coaching had always been appreciated by the team.

“He tried to reach his players and be a mediator between the players and the head coach,” Thwaites said. “He’s been an ally to the players as well as the coach. He’s been a friend to us and helped us on and off the field.”

Freshman striker Hunter West, who despite his brief time with the departing coach forged an understanding with Duncan, said the coach’s motivational skills would be greatly missed.

“It’s a great loss. I’ve been able to build a relationship with him,” West said. “He’s been a great motivator on the field.”

Duncan joined USF under Hackworth in 2000. A graduate of Lynn University, Duncan began coaching for the Team Boca Gunners, who, under his guidance, won successive Florida State club championships. For the past five years, Duncan has been a member of the Florida Olympic Development Program. At USF, Duncan worked with Kiefer attracting new recruits and was responsible for day-to-day business activities including academics, marketing and community relations.

Duncan, Thwaites said, would be missed as much for his personality as for his ability as a coach.

“He brought a good spirit to the team. He was a fun guy to be around,” he said.