SAINT LEO, Fla. – A lion of Saint Leo soccer is coming home.
Tony Paris, a former European professional club coach, past assistant coach with Saint Leo men's soccer, founding coach of the Saint Leo's women's soccer program, and the holder of "A" coaching licenses in both Europe and North America, will be returning to University Campus as the new head coach for Saint Leo men's soccer.
However the "new" part might be a misnomer.
Tony Paris will be stepping into a new role at Saint Leo– but his 20-year connection with the University and the Tampa Bay area, coupled with playing and coaching experience that spans over 40 years, make him anything but new to the institution and the region.
And the depth of his coaching resume ensures he is more than prepared for the challenge of keeping Saint Leo men's soccer among the elite of the Sunshine State Conference.
"It is great to welcome Tony Paris back into the fold at Saint Leo. He is the right man for the job and I know he will develop a complete program. His passion for the game, but equally for this institution, make him the perfect fit," said Francis X. Reidy, Saint Leo's director of athletics. "Tony may be the only collegiate coach who has a UEFA "A" license, and has been a head coach in a European Champions League match. Our young men have a great leader and tactician taking over the reins of the program."
Paris' coaching journey has taken him to two of the sport's most hallowed tournaments.
He has coached in the UEFA Cup and into UEFA Champions League qualification, when he guided the KÍ Klaksvík football club in the Faroe Islands to a league and cup championship in 1999-2000. Paris' team was honored with a FIFA Fair Play Award for its exemplary behavior on the field.
Throughout that time, Paris continued to serve as the assistant coach for Saint Leo men's soccer – a role he first stepped into in 1996. His role on the touchline alongside then-head coach Fran Reidy immediately helped the then-Monarchs climb to as high as No. 5 in the nation in the Division II polls.
Paris took on an additional mantle in 2000 as the first head coach for Saint Leo women's soccer. In four years, Paris guided the nascent program from just four wins over its first two seasons to a 12-6-2 mark in 2003. He was named the 2003 Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year for that impressive turnaround, and guided the Lions to winning records in each of the next two seasons.
Paris returned to the Faroe Islands and KÍ Klaksvík as the head coach in 2006, while also serving as the tactical advisor for the Faroe Islands Men's National Team. He eventually returned to the Tampa Bay area the following year, and has served as the executive director and later CEO of the St. Petersburg Raiders Soccer Club ever since.
"I'm excited to be returning to Saint Leo as a head coach after an absence of 11-plus years," said Paris. "On my departure to coach professionally in Scandinavia back in 2006, it was framed in the media as 'Paris leaves one love for another' on returning to my old club KÍ. So now I am thrilled to be returning home to my first love!"
As a player, Paris' career has included stops with Ipswich Town FC, Brighton, Hove Albion FC, and Leyton Orient FC, as well as with clubs in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa. It's a playing career that began in 1972 with Brighton FC, and first took Paris to the Faroe Islands in 1977 as a player-manager with KÍ Klaksvík and head coach of the Faroe Islands Men's National Team,
Along the way, Paris has continued to share his tactical expertise. He was as a technical consultant for Trinity College men's soccer in 2014, and previously served as head coach for the Clearwater Galactic of the Women's Professional Soccer League (WPSL) in 2009.
Paris is one of the few collegiate coaches in North America to hold a coveted UEFA "A" coaching license, the highest coaching license available shy of the Pro license currently required to coach in the top European leagues. He also holds the USSF and NSCAA "A" licenses, has attended numerous USSF coaching symposia, and completed the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) Coaching and Advanced Coaching courses offered in the United States in partnership with US Soccer in 2000 and 2001.
"I know things have changed both at Saint Leo and the Sunshine State Conference in my time away, however I have kept abreast of the program and will maintain its tradition of excellence while taking it to even greater heights. I would like to thank Mr. Reidy for his belief in me and allowing me to be the next head men's soccer coach at Saint Leo. I consider it a great honor and privilege," said Paris.
Paris will spend the next few weeks acclimating to the new Saint Leo, and getting the current squad of players ready for their spring season.
For the latest news, updates, and information on the Saint Leo men's soccer team, visit SaintLeoLions.com. Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Lions news by following Saint Leo Athletics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.