UNC Greensboro announced in January 2019 that EJ O’Keeffe, a two-time Big South Coach of the Year, has been named the men’s soccer head coach after a national search. The move represents a homecoming for O’Keeffe, who played at UNCG for three seasons, serving as team captain and leading the Spartans to the 2008 Southern Conference championship and NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
“This is an exciting day for our men’s soccer program,” said Director of Athletics Kim Record. “EJ was chosen following an extensive national search and stood out with a proven track record of success and as an alum has the passion for what the history and tradition of UNCG soccer is all about. With his leadership and experience -- including a trip to the Sweet 16 as a player and his coaching success, we fully believe he is the right fit for our program. His intensity, enthusiasm and passion reflect our commitment to seeking excellence in all that we do. ”
The Greensboro native joins UNCG after spending the last nine years at High Point, including four seasons as head coach where he was twice named Big South Coach of the Year and had the Panthers ranked as high as No. 12 nationally last season. O’Keeffe is also an official US Soccer National Team Scout and is a member of the United Soccer Coaches National Ranking Committee, United Soccer Coaches Regional Ranking Committee and the NCAA Regional Ranking Committee along with being a MLS Combine Scout/Liaison.
Prior to his time with the Panthers, O’Keeffe was the Director of Recreation, Championships, Discipline and Appeals for the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association where he managed a yearly $900,000 budget.
“I’m excited to come home,” O’Keeffe said. “I’d like to thank Chancellor Gilliam, Kim and Sport Oversight Jody Smith. UNCG is close to my heart along with so many alums. There is a rich tradition at UNCG Soccer and I look to add to that. We have a lot of work to do but I’m excited and humbled to lead the program moving forward.”
A Record-Breaking Stint At High Point
O’Keeffe brought an unprecedented level of success to High Point’s men’s soccer program during his four seasons at the helm, collecting a 42-18-17 record and a final national top 30 ranking each of the last three years. His Panthers were Big South regular season champions during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Individually, O’Keeffe was named Big South Coach of the Year both seasons as well and his coaching staff was selected as the 2018 United Soccer Coaches Staff of the Year for the South Region.
The Panthers’ best season in program history came during a 2018 campaign in which High Point had its best single-season winning percentage (.844). High Point won its first four games of the season en route to a 13-3-2 record.
Despite falling to Campbell in the Big South Tournament, the Panthers were awarded an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament and hosted James Madison in the first round. It was the first time High Point made the NCAA Tournament and hosted a game.
O’Keeffe’s team was not only successful on the pitch, but in the classroom as well. His team had its highest-ever cumulative GPA during the 2017-18 academic year at 3.24.
During his nine total seasons at High Point, the Panthers earned 45 All-Big South selections and 18 United Soccer Coaches All-Region honors.
A Return To Where It All Started
O’Keeffe returns to UNCG where he was a member of the men’s soccer team for three seasons.
He was named to the All-Southern Conference team in 2008 and was a team captain in 2009. UNCG appeared in two Southern Conference Tournament Championship games during O’Keeffe’s days on the playing field. In 2008, the Spartans defeated the College of Charleston 2-1 to win the SoCon Tournament Championship before advancing to the Sweet 16 after knocking off Duke and Loyola (Md.) in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
O’Keeffe graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration in 2010.
What They’re Saying About O’Keeffe
“Congratulations to EJ. Being an alumni and a former player makes it very special for EJ. He is from Greensboro, grew up with UNCG and played club ball here, so that takes it to another level. Being the first former player to be named head coach, I know EJ has the love & passion to lead the soccer program. He is one of the up-and-coming young coaches in the country and I'm sure he can't wait to get started.”
Eddie Radwanski, UNCG Men’s Soccer Alum, former UNCG Women’s Head Soccer Coach and current Clemson Women’s Soccer Coach
“UNCG soccer has a great tradition and many successful years as a program. As a former Spartan, I look forward to watching EJ lead the program. EJ, both as a local Greensboro player and Triad coach, has had success and I anticipate he continues that as a Spartan again.”
Darren Powell, UNCG Men’s Soccer Alum and current San Antonio FC Head Coach
“I couldn't be more excited for both Coach O'Keeffe and the UNCG program. EJ is one of the best young coaches in America. He is a tireless worker and recruiter that cares greatly for his players. What he has accomplished in his time at High Point is incredible. I know he will bring that same success back to his alma mater.”
Bobby Muuss, Wake Forest Men’s Head Soccer Coach