Just after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the University of California reached out to Mike Teti. Cal needed a new men's head coach, and Teti was open to the prospects of a new opportunity.
After coaching the US men's team for 12 years, a tenure that brought the US men 29 total medals, including four World Championships - and a 2004 Olympic Gold, and a 2008 Olympic bronze, California's pitch to take over from Steve Gladstone, was enough to get the Philly-born Teti to head West.
That was 10 seasons ago. This weekend, Teti is coaching in his final IRA Championship as Cal's head coach. He will be returning to California, but it will be as the head coach of the US men's national team.
Thursday, before the 2018 IRA began, Teti took some time to talk with row2k about his time at Cal - and his new, new opportunity.
row2k: Knowing that this is the last time you will coach at the IRA, at least as the Cal head coach, what are your thoughts about taking the Cal position in 2008, and about making that decision?
Teti: Going out there was a life changing experience, honestly. Moving to California, it's a different place, it's a different culture. When I think about going out there, I think more about my family. My wife and son just love it out there and the people were so welcoming and warm. They essentially gave us everything we needed.
Obviously, the Rogers family, Gary Rogers and Steve Gladstone, were the ones that got me to go out there, and I was a little bit apprehensive at first. I was a little bit afraid. I hadn't coached in college in 12 years. It was a different time. I didn't know if we would be successful. That was my biggest fear.
But we were lucky enough to come into a program that had great tradition. Steve left it in really good shape, and we always had competitive teams. I think, in the end, every job I have ever taken, was more about the people I have been fortunate to be around, first of all the Rogers family. They have been super great and supportive.
I think about them, and a lot of the kids we coached. We have a huge international contingent at Cal. It's a big international university and I think certainly our lives have been enhanced by being around all these different people from different cultures.
And, we got a couple of wins under our belts as well. It's been a really good ride.
row2k: You spent most of your national team career in Princeton, either as an athlete or a coach. What is it like having your time at Cal conclude here at Mercer Lake?
Teti: Whenever I come back to Princeton, I feel like I haven't left. Everything is the same, you go to Pizza Star and hang out with Nino, and go to Small World for coffee, you come over to Mercer Lake and check out the boat house. It's weird. I've been out there for 10 years and in a lot of ways I don't feel like I am away. And I think a lot of it just has to do with the times, the technology, with the internet, Face Time and Skype and all that.
row2k: Feeling any emotions about leaving Cal?
Teti: I like the kids that we're coaching. I really like them, so in that way, it's kind of sad to leave. But on the other hand, I feel lucky. You move on to another opportunity and being the last (IRA), and this is probably the most competitive field I have ever seen, it's going to be hard.
But at the same time, all these coaches, I'm friends with all these guys, and it's a bummer to leave. But I'll be here every year, as the national team coach. So, I'll still be engaged. I'll be going around the country, going out in launches and hanging around with these other coaches.
row2k: Is there more pressure returning to the National Team, given the success you had your last time as head coach?
Teti: I do feel more pressure. But I feel that every year. Every year I coached at Cal, I felt more pressure. Even after we won (in 2010). When I came in for the first time, it was the year after the Olympics, and there were no expectations. Then when you win, it's exhilarating, and then it's like, oh shoot, now we have to do it again. Anything less than first, is worse. So, you feel the pressure, but I did feel like I had the athletes and I had the infrastructure.
But, I do feel more pressure now, because more is expected. We're building the (national team) athlete pool and we're building the infrastructure. Even last summer with the team, I felt it the pressure, even if on the outside there really wasn't a lot of pressure.
My pressure is self-induced. You still feel like, these are kids, and a lot of them weren't on the team before. They're expecting to have a good result, and they are expecting you to help produce that. So, you feel that. At least I do, so this is self-induced pressure.
But then again, that's why you do it. If it was easy, you wouldn't do it. What makes it meaningful is it's difficult.
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