O'Brien Earns Promotion to Associate Head Coach
June 2, 2014
CHICAGO – After five seasons of helping build DePaul women’s soccer into an NCAA tournament program, Michele O’Brien has been rewarded with a promotion to associate head coach.
O’Brien had been an assistant coach since 2009 and teamed with head coach Erin Chastain in leading the Blue Demons to the BIG EAST Conference tournament in four of the last five seasons. Last fall, DePaul advanced to its first BIG EAST title game and earned an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.
“When Erin told me the good news, I felt honored and excited,” O’Brien said. “It can be difficult at times to be at a program you really like and it’s hard to move up. I’m grateful to Erin that she is willing to share her responsibility and title. This was her idea. She has allowed me to grow as a coach and is now sharing this with me.
“I also want to thank Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto and Associate Athletics Director Kathryn Statz for being on board with this promotion.”
O’Brien is ready to help keep this rising program moving upward.
“Anytime you’re given a higher title, you feel more responsibility to continue its success," O'Brien said. "How does the team view this? We’ve already told the players and they’re really excited for me.
“Last season was an exciting time for our program, advancing to the NCAA tournament. Coming off that is when successful things start to follow.”
Chastain is confident O’Brien will only continue to get better and better as a coach.
“I couldn’t be more excited or any happier about Michele’s promotion,” Chastain said. “She has been an integral part of every decision and everything we do with DePaul women’s soccer.
“She is an outstanding coach, and our team responds really well to her. It was time to recognize the influence she has on our program and the key contributions she makes every day.
“Assistant coaches tend to bounce around, and I am fortunate Michele has been here as long as she has. That has lent stability to the program and been a huge part of our success. It’s a no-brainer that she gets this promotion.
“I’d like her to stay forever.”
O'Brien was an assistant coach at Columbia University from 2005-07 and an assistant at New York University from 2004-05. She played collegiately at Florida International University from 1998-2001 and was a two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. She also earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors twice and was a two-time All-Sun Belt Tournament selection. O'Brien graduated as FIU's all-time leader in shots (288), goals (58) and points (134) and second in assists (18).
She retired two years ago after playing internationally for 10 years and competed on Ireland’s national team. O’Brien played for Ireland in the European Championships and in two World Cup qualifiers and with the United Kingdom for the Arsenal Ladies Football Club, the most successful team in the U.K.
She also competed in the United Soccer Leagues W-League for the Long Island Rough Riders and the New Jersey Sky Blue.
“I have nothing but good things to say about my time here and all the support I’ve received,” O’Brien said. “When I first arrived, I was still playing international soccer. The administration and Erin allowed me to continue traveling to Europe and competing, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
“Erin and I work really well together, and we both have the same vision for the program. It helps that our team sees the chemistry between us.”
It’s a winning chemistry that has DePaul pointed in the right direction.
“This was in recognition of her leadership and the level of confidence Erin has in her,” Statz said. “It also stems from the significance of her day-to-day contributions to our women’s soccer program.
“We have seen a quite maturation in Michele. She has a great world view and is a terrific role model for our kids. She is rock-solid and probably ready to be a head coach, but we want her to be our associate head coach.
“It wasn’t just about advancing to the NCAA tournament. It’s also her exemplary level of professionalism and the way she relates to our student-athletes.”
O’Brien’s international soccer experience helped the Blue Demons land two key players.
“I made some good connections with all my trips over there and that led to the successful recruitment of Ashleigh Goddard from England,” O’Brien said. “That was a really exciting time for me and the DePaul program, getting our first international player. And then to have Rachel Pitman follow Ash over here from England was really great.
“I’m going to maintain my connections in Europe and see what happens.”