The Wolfpacker

November 2019

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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10 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER G EORGE TARANTINI TOOK NC STATE men's soccer to the Final Four and to the top of the NCAA soccer polls. He served longer and won more games than any Wolfpack soccer coach in history. For nearly three decades, Tarantini re- cruited some of the best players to ever lace up soccer shoes, then shared them with the rest of the world, through the U.S. Men's National Team and international profes- sional soccer. He sent other players to, among other things, the Secret Service, the White House, and coaching and administra- tive positions where they can continue to build and develop the sport that he so loved. Tarantini died at his home in Raleigh Sept. 25 at the age of 66. A fan and player favorite, Tarantini roamed the sidelines for 25 years as head coach of the Wolfpack and four years as an assistant, his fabulous long hair trailing in the breeze and his thick, incomprehensible accent echoing across the field. His teams were a perfect mirror of his personality. Tarantini believed that soccer needed to be exciting, the way it was when he and brother Alberto Tarantini were growing up in Argentina. Both played for high-level ju- nior teams and Alberto was a member of the Argentinian national team that won the 1978 World Cup. He always believed in an attack- ing, high-scoring approach to the game. "I don't think it could be played any other way," he said. The coach's memorial service was swarming with former NC State colleagues and soccer players of all ages, there to com- fort his wife and to share stories of their time with the lovable Argentinian coach. Olympian and national team member Tab Ramos, perhaps the most accom- plished soccer player in U.S. history, was among the first in line to offer his condolences, holding court with dozens of former Wolfpack players and younger players he worked with in retirement. Also in attendance was former wrestling coach Bob Guzzo, the last surviving charter member of the NC State Athletics Rat Pack that once included Tarantini, basketball coach and athletics director Jim Valvano, and baseball coach Sam Esposito. Former football coach Chuck Amato, NC State's former and current athletics directors, Debbie Yow and Boo Corrigan, also attended, as did representatives from the Atlantic Coast Conference office and coaches from around the league. Tarantini came to NC State in 1982 from Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Dutchess Commu- nity College as an assistant soccer coach for head coach Larry Gross, after Gross noticed his work as an assistant on a junior national team. They worked together with the men's program and Gross started the women's program in 1984, coaching both teams. One of Valvano's first moves as athletics director was elevating Tarantini to head coach for the men in 1986 and mak- ing Gross both the women's coach and coordinator of the soccer programs. Tarantini continued to recruit talent from all over the world, but he was also the first coach to harvest local talent from the Capital Area Soccer League that flour- ished in the Triangle from 1980 on. "He really embraced local talent unlike any other coach in the area," said Raleigh native and Ravenscroft High product Curt Johnson, the president of the North Caro- lina Football Club and the North Carolina Courage. "He recognized that he could compete with players from the Triangle, as well as those he recruited nationally and internationally." Ramos, a native of Uruguay who came to NC State via New Jersey, became one of the most decorated players in U.S. soccer his- tory. Others such as Henry Gutierrez, Athens Drive High School product Roy Lassiter, Dario Brose and Pablo Mastroeni became stars of the game. Backup goalie Bob Gibbs from Auburn, Ala., went on to be the White House communications director under Presi- dent Barack Obama and is now the head of corporate communications for McDonald's. Perhaps the pinnacle of NCSU soccer success came in 1990, when the Wolfpack won the program's only ACC title with an undefeated league record and advanced to soccer's version of the Final Four for the only time in school history. Led by two-time ACC Player of the Year Gutierrez and three-time All-American and future Olympian Brose, State won the ACC Tournament with wins over Maryland, Clemson and Virginia, and advanced to the NCAA semifinals with wins over South Carolina and on penalty kicks over Vir- ginia. The Pack played UCLA to a score- less tie for the right to go to the champion- ship game, but lost on penalty kicks to the eventual national champion Bruins. After his retirement following the 2010 season, Tarantini remained in Raleigh, serving as co-founder and director of Raleigh Futbol4All, a youth organization that gave Hispanic children in the Triangle the opportunity to play youth soccer for free, learn about the game and the impor- tance of community service, and to appre- ciate the importance of education. "George was a champion of the under- dog," Johnson said. "He was most inter- ested in players who might have had some challenges. He just enjoyed being around young kids and teaching them to love the game. That's who he was." Memorial contributions can be made to the George Tarantini Soccer Endowment, care of the Wolfpack Club, P.O. Box 37100, Raleigh, N.C. 27627, or to Raleigh Futbol4All outreach program, care of St. David's School, 3400 White Oak Road, Raleigh, N.C., 27609. ■ TRACKING THE PACK Tarantini coached 29 years at NC State, in- cluding 25 years as the head coach while accumulating an overall record of 234-197-43. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS George Tarantini Left A Lasting Legacy At NC State

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