Iconic indoor soccer coach Ron Newman has died today at the age of 84.
Newman won 10 indoor championships in 11 years in the NASL and MISL with the San Diego Sockers and later coached the Arizona Sandsharks in the CISL and the Kansas City Wiz in MLS.
With the Sockers he was an innovative coach and a consummate ambassador for the game of indoor soccer.
Newman was born in England in 1934 and came to the US in 1967 to play for the NPSL/NASL Atlanta Chiefs and later played with future Baltimore Blast coach Kenny Cooper on the Dallas Tornado. Newman became a player/coach on the Tornado, beginning a long, successful outdoor coaching career that included three NASL Coach of the Year Awards and a 1971 championship.
It was July 1980 when Newman was hired to coach the San Diego Sockers, where he led them both indoors and outdoors in the NASL, and strictly indoors in the MISL. It didn’t take him long to adapt to the new indoor game, winning his first championship in just his second season as coach, and then winning four more times in the next four years.
The Sockers amazing run was interrupted briefly by the Tacoma Stars in 1987 (the only playoff series Newman lost in the MISL), but 1988 saw a second “five-peat” that continued to the end of the MISL in 1992. Newman won with players like Juli Veee, Steve Zungul, and Branko Segota, but also won without them, wrangling the biggest personalities in the sport into a winning, cohesive, unit.
The coach still made occasional visits to his old indoor stomping grounds. His final visit was February 17 in Lakeland, Florida where he saw the Sockers beat the Florida Tropics, 5-4.
Newman was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992 and the inaugural class of the Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011. The PASL and MASL have competed for the Ron Newman Cup, the league’s championship trophy, since the 2011-12 season.
“All of us in the coaching fraternity always wanted to be like Coach Newman but it was a lofty goal. Very gifted teacher, keen eye for talent, ability to blend and manage so many different personalities and cultures, motivating, inspiring all done with class, professionalism and integrity! True Champion on the field but most importantly in the game of life. Thank you coach for all you have done for so many, God Bless you and your family!”
—Keith Tozer, former Milwaukee Wave head coach and MISL defender
“Just shed some tears. He and Derek Armstrong were the closest thing I had to a dad. I will never forget and will always be grateful.”
—Paul Wright, former San Diego Sockers forward
“Ron Newman elevated the sport of indoor to untold heights. He was an innovator and forward thinker whose strategies are still employed today at the highest level. I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Mr. Newman multiple times; he and his family were exceedingly gracious to the new generation of Sockers. The MASL plays for the Ron Newman Cup, and his name will forever be linked to champions.”
—Craig Elsten, Sockers play-by-play announcer
“Ron Newman brought the San Diego Sockers and indoor soccer into the spotlight. Newman’s leadership of the Sockers was unmatched in the arena of indoor soccer. He was a major component to the famed ‘One for the Thumb’ campaign that captured the hearts of San Diego sports fans like only a few other moments in sports in my lifetime.”
—Dan McLellan, San Diego sports writer
“Coach Newman was a passionate, fiery, intense coach. He was able to get teams to believe in themselves and in one another. What he did in his time in San Diego with the Sockers is unprecedented. The Community Of San Diego is a hotbed for soccer and Ron Newman played a part in in it. He will always be a historical figure in U.S. soccer history.”
—John Kentera, former Sockers General Manager
“Ron Newman, the innovative coach who guided the San Diego Sockers to so many MISL championships, has passed away. RIP to a true soccer legend. Many of the stories I have about Ron are just the stories that he told through the years with a glint in his sparkling eyes.
“Among my favorites are the time in the old North American Soccer League when a hearse pulled up to the center of the field prior to the game and Ron himself jumped out, grabbed the PA microphone and told the fans not to worry ‘cuz we ain’t dead yet’.
“Or the time a player failed to show up for a speaking engagement at a banquet. Ron went out to his car and got a full length poster of the player, pinned it up behind the dais and proceeded to interview the player — playing both roles of interviewer and interviewee.”
—Chuck Murr, AP sports writer and former NPSL Media Director
“Soccer in this country would not be were it is today without him. A great friend and Coach, May he rest in peace. My deepest thoughts and prayers to the Family.”
—Roy Turner, former Wichita Wings Coach and General Manager
“May he Rest In Peace. My prayers and thoughts to his family. He always tried to have fun, I’ll never forget the night in a MISL game when he handed me his lineup card and he listed all the different Disney characters as his players.”
—Marty Templin, former MISL referee
“Ron Newman is a legend amongst legends. He was a pioneer in indoor soccer tactics. His methodologies are still being used in todays game and will continue for decades.”
—Kraig Chiles, San Diego Sockers forward
“Ron was the best coach I ever had. Not only was he an innovator to the indoor game, he was a master at motivation and getting the best out of players. Ron and Olive are great friends of ours (my wife Kathy and me). He will be sorely missed for many reasons. RIP my friend. I love you.”
—Alan Mayer, former San Diego Sockers goalkeeper
“Ron revolutionized the indoor game with his innovative tactics and with his ability to get the most out of the wildly diverse personalities on his championship winning teams. Even though his teams often creamed your team, and you booed him lustily, once you got to know the man, he was hard to dislike. I interviewed him in 2004 for my book, ‘Hot Winter Nights’, and when he answered my questions, you could tell that he still had a love for the game, despite not being behind the bench in almost 10 years. Ron Newman. A ten time champion as a coach. A ten time champion in life. Rest easy, Coach. You’ll never be forgotten.”
—Rich Paschette, indoor soccer historian
“When I was signed by Sockers in 1987 just out of high school, Ron Newman was my first coach in the indoor game. I had to pay very good attention when he talked because he was from England and his accent was new to me, in addition my English was not very good. I learned to be very attentive when coach gave instructions. He was probably the best manager that I have ever known. He was a very wise coach, he knew how to combine players in the lineup so they can be successful, something that I do now when I coach. Coaching the Sockers superstar players in the ’80s was not easy and Ron made championship teams. He had a great sense of humor, I always remember him when we played ‘one touch/all in’ soccer and he joined and did a Charlie Chaplin walking impersonation. Classic! He was a true legend on and off the field. I also have spent lots of time with (Ron’s son) Guy Newman since he coached me with the reserve team and we won the Mitre National Championship. Both Ron and Guy were (are) coaches that make the difficult become simple. Yesterday was a sad day for me. I was thinking of Ron and my six seasons under him. He made an impact on lots of us. My condolences to Guy and all his family.”
—Rene Ortiz, former San Diego Sockers defender
“I always had the most respect for Coach Ron. He gave me my shot in the bigs, helped me correct some basic techniques and then demanded the best of me. I will always be thankful for my short time with him as a coach and even more so for the time with him after we had all retired.”
—Otto Orf, former San Diego Sockers goalkeeper