The 2022 season will mark Pete Caringi’s 32nd as the head coach of the UMBC men’s soccer program. Caringi won the 300th game of his Retrievers career in February 2021, and his record at the school now stands at 310-198-79. Caringi took UMBC to the College Cup in 2014, when the Retrievers won four consecutive road games in the NCAA Tournament to earn a trip to Cary, N.C.
Former UMBC players Giuliano Celenza (1999-2000), Jason Dieter (1990-1991) and Pete Eibner (1990-91) spoke to PressBox’s Luke Jackson about what makes Caringi so successful. Dieter and Eibner played for Caringi at Essex Community College (now CCBC Essex) in 1988 and 1989, then played for Caringi again in the coach’s first year at UMBC in 1991.
PressBox: What makes Caringi special? Why has he been so successful at UMBC?
Jason Dieter: He’s like a true players’ coach. He was a phenomenal player in his own right at Calvert Hall and the University of Baltimore. He was a great player himself, so I think from that regard he [became] a true players’ coach. He understands what his players go through and the challenges of just becoming better and what goes on [under] pressure and what it takes to be a great player. I think he understands that because he was there himself. To me, he’s a true players’ coach.
Pete Eibner: Pete Caringi is such a special coach because No. 1, he has extensive knowledge of the game he coaches. I’ve played for a lot of coaches, but I’ve never played for anyone who’s had the in-game knowledge that he has, but it goes much deeper than that. His success comes from his ability to customarily motivate his players, and he doesn’t motivate everyone the same way. I think the key word there is customarily. He will press the buttons of every player differently. He challenges you to be your best. He reinforces good work habits in you. He does that differently for every person. Some people, it’s just praise. Some people, it’s a kick in the tail. Some people, it’s through discipline. Some people, it’s through encouragement when you’re down. It all changes depending on the situation and he’s a master at that.
PressBox: How has Caringi stood the test of time throughout his career?
Giuliano Celenza: I honestly think that he’s just a steady coach that knows the game very well. If it makes sense, he knows what buttons to push for his players, how to get them motivated and get them ready for games. I don’t really think there was much change in him from the ’90s to today. I think he’s one of those coaches that just knows how to get to best out of his players, to perform and do well on the field. And obviously recruiting local talent, he goes out there and gets local talent. People hearing about how good of a coach he is makes some kids want to play for him.
Pete Eibner: How has he evolved? He’s changed his messaging rather than his message. When I played for him at Essex in [1988 and] 1989 and UMBC in 1991, he could flat-out tell you how you were doing and not sugarcoat it. Now I think he’s a little more delicate with how he says things to people. But the message stays the same. The message is, “You’re going to give your best, you’re going to put your whole heart in and we’re going to have success because of it.” And he gets those people to buy in. The message is the same.
PressBox: How did you develop such a special relationship with Caringi?
Giuliano Celenza: I’ve known Coach since I was a kid. We both grew up in Highlandtown. … Just being in the neighborhood and as a young kid, I knew exactly who he was. Over the years growing up, he would come watch the games. When I was [at Archbishop Curley], he would be at all the games, just being a local guy he’d come. They’d recruit locally. To be able to play for him was something special. To this day, we still have a really good relationship. Both my wife and I, we work his camps over the summer. I definitely look at him as my mentor. He’s a super, super great guy.
Pete Eibner: Besides my father and besides Jesus Christ, he’s been the most influential person in my life. I was not on a great path leaving high school. I was a decent soccer player, but my head was not on straight and I was into some things that I probably shouldn’t have been into. Pete altered the course of my life. He’s done it not only when I was a young man but throughout my life, he’s always been just a great father figure for me. I think my relationship is formed by his dedication to making me a better person and me needing someone like that in my life desperately.
PressBox: Is there a story involving you and Caringi that resonates to this day?
Jason Dieter: Senior year, Coach makes both Pete [Eibner] and I captains [after playing for him at Essex]. So Aug. 15, that Monday, was the first day of training camp. Pete picked me up. We both lived in Northeast Baltimore. Pete picked me up for practice that day, the very first day of practice, Coach’s first day of practice [at UMBC]. The day before, he had bought a brand new car. He bought a stick shift. He didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. The only reason he bought a stick shift was to save $1,000. We were basically late to get to practice, Day One, first day of practice, we were late getting to campus. We show up. By the time we get to practice Day One, we’re like 15 minutes late. The two captains, the two senior captains and Coach’s first day on the job basically.
We get to practice. We think, “We know Coach, this is going to be a disaster.” Coach just tells us, “Get your cleats on, slip into practice.” We jump into practice. We go through the whole training day and stuff. After practice is over, we go to the sideline. We’re taking our cleats off and Coach comes over to us and he says, “What are you two guys doing?” And we say, “Well, practice is over,” and he says, “Not for you two it’s not.” So we basically put our cleats back on.
It was like 100 degrees that day. It’s Aug. 15. It’s a Monday. Every soccer player in Baltimore knows what that Monday’s like. It’s a hard training day. He just ran us afterward. He never said a word, just kept continuing to tell us to keep running and running and running, and that was it. It’s just a funny story because we thought Coach had softened up a little bit between junior college and coming to Division I. He was exactly the same guy that he was. Basically, don’t be late for practice.
PressBox: How has Caringi helped you in life outside of sports?
Giuliano Celenza: He wants his players to graduate and become a good person and do great things. With me being from the same neighborhood, I think it was a little more for him wanting to see someone [me] graduate from college. I think by just taking what he’s taught and being able to try to instill that in the youth of today — some of the knowledge that he’s given us and trying to give it to today’s youth — is what I try to do as well [as a physical education teacher and the girls’ varsity soccer coach at Gerstell Academy].
Jason Dieter: These are 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds who are going off to college and trying to figure things out. What do they want to do in life? What do they want to do on and off the field? It’s an impressionable time. However many years that you spend with Coach, he’s not just developing you as a better soccer player, he’s developing you as a person and what his expectations are of you as a person off the field, on the field, everything. Those are traits that you just carry on.
Photo Credit: Gail Burton