His 500th career victory, in his 43d season as the men’s soccer coach at Brandeis University, has put Mike Coven in exclusive company. With the Judges’ 1-0 double overtime victory over Babson on Sept. 12, Coven became just the second men’s soccer coach in New England Division 3 history, and 11th nationally, in all divisions, to record 500 wins. Weston native Ron Butcher won 596 games at Keene State from 1970-2013. Ranked fourth in the region with a 6-1 record (with five 1-0 victories), Brandeis was to take on defending Division 3 champion Tufts on Saturday. Coven is 501-258-52 overall, and his teams have received 27 postseason bids, including three straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.
A 1964 graduate of Brookline High, where he played baseball and was a middle distance runner on the track squad, Coven was a four-year soccer letterman at American International University, where he earned a degree in psychology.
While studying for his master’s degree in education at Springfield College, he played amateur soccer and was an assistant soccer coach at Cathedral High School. Coven was the head boys’ soccer coach at Newton South High in 1970 and ’71 before moving on to Brandeis in Waltham, where his 1976 squad won the national championship.
Q. What was the scenario before you became the head coach at Brandeis in 1972?
A. I was teaching special needs students in Bellingham and coaching at Newton South and commuting to both schools. At Brandeis, I could coach and teach phys ed — which I still do — and it has been a win-win situation ever since.
Q. What were the most nostalgic moments from your 500th win?
A. Murray Greenberg, who was a freshman my first year here and was goalkeeper on the 1976 team, drove up from Long Island with his wife and daughter and that was a surprise. The game ball was signed by the team, and we had a reception that included a large cake decorated with the number 500.
Q. Can you estimate the number of players that you have coached at Brandeis? Who was the best?
A. Close to 1,000. The best all-around player was my captain and three-time All-American, Jim McCully, from Nauset Regional High. He played midfield on our 1984 team that lost in four sudden-death overtimes in the NCAA championship final to Wheaton [Ill.] College. Jim died in an automobile accident three years after he graduated. We play every spring in the Jim McCully Memorial Tournament at Nauset Regional, where his brother, Johnny, is head boys’ soccer coach.
Q. Who was the best coach you ever played for?
A. Maury Suher at AIC. He made me love the game and he was a real gentleman. He treated his players with respect, his practices were fun, and I try to emulate him every day.
Q. Where were you introduced to soccer?
A. I was 17 years old and working as a waiter at a summer camp in Maine. That’s where I first kicked a soccer ball with counselors from Israel and Europe. I always had good speed so that experience helped me to make my college team.
Q. Elizabethtown, Pa., has special meaning. Can you explain?
A. That’s where we won the national championship in ’76. Three days later, my daughter, Shanie, was born and we gave her the middle name of Elizabeth. Cleveland Lewis, one of our greatest players, scored the winner in OT that year, and if we had a boy, his middle name would have been Cleve.
Q. Can you compare the Mike Coven of 1972 to the Mike Coven of 2015?
A. I’m equally as intense and the game means just as much to me, but I contain my emotions a lot better.
Q. Are you superstitious?
A. Yes. Many years ago, I was chewing gum during a game against a team that we should have beaten, so I stopped the habit. A few years later, I said well, OK, I’ll do it again, and again we lost a game we easily should have won. So I haven’t had a piece of gum in my mouth during a game for the last 25 years.
Q. How many more years would you like to coach?
A. I don’t know, but when the time comes, I will be proud to see my associate head coach, Gabe Margolis, succeed me.