Starting out as a 25-year-old with a salary of a whopping $4,000, the native of Bristol, England, has made Queens, N.Y., his home and has built a program that over the past quarter-century has produced a host of successful players on the pitch and in the classroom.
With a career record of 227-181-50 heading into 2018, Stone has led St. John’s to three NCAA Tournament appearances in 2009, 2013 and 2015 and 17 postseason appearances overall. He has also twice been named Big East Coach of the Year (2009 and 2015)
On Friday, September 14, St. John’s will honor Stone prior to the team’s match vs. the University of Delaware, with a luncheon set for the following afternoon.
Recently, Stone spoke with SleterFC.com about his career milestone and reflected on the many players he has coached over the past 25 years, the changes to the game and what keeps him motivated each day.
SLETERFC.COM: What goes through your mind when you think about the past 25 years?
IAN STONE: The weird thing about it is that I really didn’t think about how long I had the job until I got to 20 years. Then I realized that it’s a long period of time. I recently celebrated my 50th birthday and my mother told me that I have been in this job for half my life. But I look back and the student/athletes I worked with, the coaches and administrators and there are so many fantastic memories here. So many of my former players have kept in contact going all the way back to my first year as coach. I’m also grateful that the administrators have kept me around for so long.
SFC.COM: You were 25 when you first started. Looking back, could you have imagined you would still be with St. John’s?
IS: Honestly, not really. When I first got the head coaching job it was a part-time position and there were no paid assistant coaches. While it could be viewed that a 25-year old getting this job is impressive, in reality not many people wanted it. But, for me, it was a great opportunity but I could not envision the position being what it is today. I have two full-time (paid) assistants and a director of operations. And we went from playing on some type of green concrete to now having a beautiful (Belson) stadium and are fully funded.
SFC.COM: When did you know that this program had become something special?
IS: In 1994 we had a historic season winning the Big East title, but I was doing that with players that someone else had recruited. Those players worked hard but had not been treated and coached the right way. Although I was getting much of the adulation, those players went through a lot. But it wasn’t until we qualified for the NCAAs in 2009 that it really hit me. Those were the players I had recruited and we did it. And then we went back in 2013 and 2015. But the ‘09 team really changed my thinking and we had the ability to be a success nationally.
SFC.COM: Recruiting is such a big part of a coach’s job. How has the process changed over the years?
IS: I think it is more difficult today. When I first started in 1994 and had my first full season that fall, I remember sitting in the office calling high school seniors that were in the spring of their senior year but had yet to commit to a college. Now we have to recruit a couple years out. We are done with 2019 and now looking at 2020 and 2021. It’s difficult enough to recruit juniors, but with freshmen or sophomores, you just don’t know how they will develop or if they will regress. We have also had some success attracting international players. New York City is a great draw for Europeans.
SFC.com: Over the years who are the players that stand out in your mind?
IS: I think back to the 2009 team when we had the Pasciolla twins, Amanda and Nicole, from New Jersey. One had a 4.0 GPA and was an academic All-American and the other the following year had a 3.97 GPA and was also an academic All-American. They did things right off the field, were on top of things nutritionally and were hard working. They were also focused on making the players around them better as well. The other would be Rachel Daly. She scored 50 goals over three years and when she was on the field we always felt we had a chance to win because she would score. I also think back to the 1994 team, which seems so far away. Cristin Burtis was a great player and would find ways to score and had 17 goals for us that season. In fact, Rachel broke her record with 23 goals in 2013.
SFC.com: How do you make sure the message of the balance between working hard on the pitch and in the classroom gets through to the players?
IS: When we bring in players we go through a presentation of what is expected of them. Sometimes the prospective student/athlete may not fully understand what is expected of them, but their parents understand. When people choose to send their daughter to St. John’s they want to make sure she is prepared to be successful after college.
SFC.com: What do you feel has been the key to your success over the years?
IS: I think the key to my longevity is my passion for the game of soccer, which drives me every day. This time of year (preseason) can be exhausting as it’s hot out and we have 12 new players to educate. It can get frustrating and you’re tired, but it’s also about the start of a new season when everyone is 0-0 and has a shot to win a national championship.
SFC.com: Any chance someone in 25 years will be talking with you about your 50th year as St. John’s head coach?
IS: I don’t imagine that is feasible. I will still have the love for the game but I’m not sure I would have the energy to do it.