After 11 resoundingly successful seasons at the University of Colorado, where he essentially put the previously unknown Buffaloes women's soccer program on the national map, Bill Hempen was not without his options.
With a glittering résumé that includes impressive stints at CU and Duke, Hempen more than likely could have landed at any number of collegiate programs in the wake of his surprising resignation from CU in November.
But after spending so much time in Boulder, Hempen simply did not want to uproot his family from a place they had grown to love. Now Hempen will have an opportunity to keep plying his trade near his back yard, as the former CU coach has been named the Director of Soccer Operations at Alexander Dawson.
"Would I have liked to go back into college? Sure," Hempen said. "But the bottom line is, my family really loves Colorado. Yanking my kids out of school was weighing heavily on my mind. Dawson is a unique setting and I'm excited about the opportunity."
Hempen compiled a 114-88-28 record in 11 seasons at CU, leading the Buffaloes to six NCAA tournament appearances. But Hempen resigned in November following CU's third consecutive losing season, a 4-13-2 campaign in the program's first year in the Pac-12 Conference.
In the two-plus months since Hempen left CU, he had been in regular contact with Dawson athletic director David Hansburg, formerly the director of football operations with the Buffaloes. Given their shared background at CU, Hansburg didn't need to be sold on Hempen's credentials, and he was quick to console the former Buffaloes coach when Hempen found himself without a job for the first time in over two decades.
As fate would have it, Hansburg was looking for someone to take over the Mustangs' program. Although the timing was perfect, Hansburg was careful not to push too forcibly, or too quickly.
"It's never good when those things happen, and I think I called him pretty much the day after," Hansburg said. "I told him I knew exactly what he was going through, and that I know that there are a lot of emotions to sort through. But I also told him that I was going to be calling back in a few weeks. I told him we'd love to have him at Dawson."
Alexander Dawson has been a consistent competitor in Class 3A due largely to the work of former coach Doug London, who resigned at the end of last school year. George Moore ran the Mustangs' boys this past fall, but the job became open again when Moore was promoted to school headmaster.
At Dawson, Hempen will coach the Mustangs' boys and girls varsity programs, and he will oversee the hiring of coaches for the soccer programs at the school's lower levels. Hempen also will run the school's summer camps and help implement specific soccer-skill programs for Dawson's physical education courses.
Hempen, who coached the Duke men's team before arriving at CU and also has coached numerous camps, clubs, and developmental teams, does not believe the transition from NCAA Division I athletics to the small-school high school scene will be cause for too much adjustment.
"It's not like I've only coached the CU women and the Duke men," Hempen said. "It may not be as drastic a change as people might think. From the kids' perspective, they may have more respect for my insight on where people should be and what it takes to get to the next level."
Pat Rooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org