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Kaufman steps down at South

After 10 seasons at the helm of the South Medford boys soccer program, Dave Kaufman has decided it’s time to step aside — at least for the moment — to focus on his personal life.

That is, unless South Medford athletic director Dennis Murphy had his way during an evaluation interview scheduled Monday.

“I’m hoping to talk him out of it,” Murphy said with a laugh prior to meeting with Kaufman. “Ten years is a long time for some of these guys to coach and I feel very happy with the 10 years we’ve gotten. Would we like another 10 years? We would. But he’s decided there’s other ways in which he wants to spend his time.”

Kaufman took over the South Medford program in 2005 after succeeding Dave Potter. Kaufman’s teams won conference championships in 2008, 2010 and 2011 and finished as the state runner-up in 2009.

“I knew this past season was going to be the swan song just because of life,” Kaufman said early Monday, opting to avoid specifics beyond simply saying that he wanted to give more time to those in his personal life.

“It’s not easy to leave from the teaching aspect,” Kaufman said of stepping away from soccer, “but from a personal-life perspective, it’s pretty easy just because you only get these times once. I can always step back into the coaching arena if I decide to down the road, but coaching takes a lot of time. I’ve loved doing it but this was season No. 10 and I think it’s a good time.”

South Medford has posted seven straight winning seasons under Kaufman, reaching the playoffs in each of his seasons. The Panthers never had a losing season in conference play under Kaufman, who took over at age 35 after several years of dedicated coaching in youth developmental programs.

This past season, South Medford posted a 9-6-1 overall record and finished fourth in the Southwest Conference at 5-4-1. The Panthers lost in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs for the fourth straight year.

Kaufman was part of South Medford High’s first graduating class after the Medford High split and went on to have an All-American career as a goalkeeper at Sonoma State University. In 1991, he ranked fourth in the nation among NCAA Division II goalkeepers with a goals-against average of 0.71 per game. He led the nation in shutouts (13).

“It’s a big loss for South Medford,” said Murphy. “He’s been our head coach for 10 years and he’s just done a great job. We surely have been very competitive, and it doesn’t make any difference who comes out or how many kids come out, he just has done a great job. He’s going to be missed, he really is.”

Kaufman said he takes a considerable amount of pride from his tenure at South Medford, and most of those factors fall well beyond wins and losses or conference titles.

“I’ve always said that if you’re worth your salt as a coach,” said Kaufman, “you’re a teacher at the core and I’ve always felt that one of the things we did a very good job of from a teaching perspective is we helped teach our players how to be well-rounded on and off the field so they could go to any team when they take the next step and even if they’re a defender with us, they have the skill set they could play virtually any position on the field, apart from maybe being a goalkeeper.”

Another source of pride is in the diversity Kaufman has helped bring to not only the South Medford program, but others in the area through club activities.

“He’s the guy who went to the Hispanic population and gave those kids their opportunity and chance to play more at the high school level,” said Murphy. “Dave has been willing to get involved with these kids at a young age and tried to make it affordable and integral for their development, and it’s paid big dividends for everyone.”

Added Kaufman of the increased diversity under his tenure: “That’s something I’m really proud of because I think that’s something that’s had a positive impact on the community.”

Kaufman had hinted to Murphy that he would be handing in his resignation at the end of this past season, but that didn’t mean the athletic director wasn’t a little surprised he actually went through with it.

“Even though we were afraid this was going to happen, it still doesn’t mean we are totally prepared to move on without him,” said Murphy. “We’re going to have to circle our wagons and decide what we’re going to do and what’s our best course of action from here.”

The school district will publicly announce the job opening — unless Murphy’s wooing ways pan out — in the coming weeks. He said there’s no immediate timetable to find a replacement.

Kaufman doled out even more responsibilities to his long-time assistants, Claudio Villa and Josh Desmond, this past season and it’s certainly his hope that, if interested, they remain involved in the program.

“I don’t know for certain either of them or both will be rehired,” said Kaufman, “but from a continuity standpoint, I’m going to recommend that they look from within. I think Claudio and Josh make for a great team and they would probably be the best option in my mind. The kids know them and they know the system we’ve had, and I think the program is in really good shape.”

While he anticipated taking at least one year off to potentially travel with his wife and young daughter, Kaufman said he doesn’t expect to totally step away from the soccer pitch, whether it’s as a goalkeeper coach or assistant or merely an interested observer.

“I will have my finger involved in it somehow,” he said. “I just can’t devote the time that I have.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry