Lenny Paoletti wasn’t looking for an X’s and O’s savant to reinvigorate the Saint Stephen’s boys basketball program.
There wasn’t one scheme that would transform the Falcons from a program that had never reached the state tournament into a budding power.
This is how, for two seasons, Saint Stephen’s wound up with a coach best known for molding Tim Howard into one of history’s great goalkeepers sitting on the end of the bench inside Hoagland Arena, barely scraping by to eight- and nine-win seasons. Tim Mulqueen had some history with basketball — he walked on as a junior at St. Joseph’s — but that wasn’t important. Paoletti, the athletic director, just wanted someone who understood the nexus of coaching, who could reshape the culture. There was no one around the program with a better pedigree than Mulqueen.
“I knew what had to happen to our basketball program,” said Paoletti, the Falcons’ athletic director. “Tim always said he was here for the benefit of Saint Stephen’s. Certainly during his time here he proved all that.”
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Mulqueen could have been coaching basically anywhere else in the United States. For years, professional clubs tried to woo Mulqueen away from his role as the Falcons’ associate athletic director.
Coaching timeline 1996-1999: New York/New Jersey Metrostars goalkeeper coach 2000-2004: Kansas City Wizards goalkeeper coach 2005-2007: United States under-17 goalkeeper coach 2007-2009: United States under-20 goalkeeper coach
D.C. United reached out to him to lead its goalkeepers, and the Philadelphia Union wanted to bring him aboard during its inaugural season in MLS in 2010. But he never wanted to uproot his family from Bradenton, where he has lived since 2005 when he took over as the goalkeepers coach for the United States men’s under-17 team at IMG Academy.
His new job with Orlando City SC was the perfect compromise.
Mulqueen’s family is remaining in Manatee County at least until his two children — his youngest is 15 — graduate from Saint Stephen’s. Every day, Mulqueen has a nearly 300-mile round trip for his new job in Orlando. Since preseason practice began Jan. 23, he gets up at 4 a.m. and is on the road by 5:15 a.m. to arrive at Orlando City’s Sanford practice facility by 7 a.m. His day finishes at 4 p.m., at which point he heads home and is typically back home by 7 p.m.
Orlando opens its season and its new stadium, Orlando City Stadium, on Sunday with a home game against New York City FC. The game is sold out. The season runs though the end of October.
The commute is a sacrifice he’s willing to make after becoming deeply entrenched in the Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School community since taking the associate AD job in 2014.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach professional soccer and not have to move from Bradenton, so it was just a no-brainer to take it at this time,” Mulqueen said. “If Saint Stephen’s wasn’t the school that it is, we probably would’ve made that move.”
With the Falcons, Mulqueen’s job title left him with flexibility, and he and Paoletti decided he would become, in both of their words, the “coaches’ coach.”
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach professional soccer and not have to move from Bradenton.
Tim Mulqueen, Orlando City SC goalkeepers coach
Mulqueen’s resume as a goalkeepers coach is unimpeachable.
He was one of Howard’s earliest coaches when the current Colorado Rapids goalie attended one of Mulqueen’s camps as a 12-year-old in New Jersey. Their relationship continued at the professional level when Mulqueen was coaching keepers for the New York/New Jersey Metrostars (1996-99) and they still talk four or five times each week.
Mulqueen went on to coach for the Kansas City Wizards (2000-04), the Summer Olympics team, and multiple U-17 and U-20 teams. At Saint Stephen’s, he stayed a healthy distance from the successful boys soccer program, only occasionally popping in to a stray practice to work with the goalkeepers, including his son, Trevor.
“My role was to use the experiences that I gained as a coach of both professional sports and the national teams to try to help the coaches through player development both on and off the field, how to deal with the day-to-day of running practices and management of game,” Mulqueen said. “Use all the things that I gained over my 25 years of coaching to try to mentor them.”
With Orlando, Mulqueen will continue teaching the way he knows best. Both of his top keepers — Joe Bendik and Earl Edwards Jr. — played for Mulqueen on their way up through the United States development program and Mulqueen will be tasked with helping them turnaround after Orlando City allowed 60 goals last season, the worst in MLS, and most for any team since 2014.
60Goals surrendered by Orlando City SC last season, the most by any team since 2014.
Back home in Bradenton, there is proof of the progress he can bring. Saint Stephen’s boys basketball team had its first season with double-digit wins in at least a decade. The Falcons came within one win of their first appearance in the region playoffs.
“My job was to try to build the culture and try to get some excitement again,” Mulqueen said. “I’m glad to see they did well this year.”
Who: New York City FC at Orlando
Where: Orlando City Stadium, Orlando
When: 5 p.m.
TV: ESPN, MLS Live
Tickets: Sold out
Mulqueen at a glance
College: St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, Pa. (Class of 1987)
Pro coaching career: Goalkeeper coach for New York/New Jersey MetroStars (1996-99), Kansas City Wizards (2000-04), Orlando City FC (2017-present).
Amateur coaching career: Goalkeeping coach for U.S. U-17 team (2005-07), U.S. U-20 team (2007-09), 2004 Summer Olympics men’s national team qualifying tournament, 2008 Summer Olympics men’s national team.
Personal: Wife: Kathleen. Children: Cate and Trevor.