Winthrop men's soccer coach Rich Posipanko is a win shy of 200 career victories with the Eagles. The coach, known to all his players and coaches as "The Gaffer" or just "Gaff," will go after it at tonight at 7 in Radford, Va., against the Highlanders.
Gaffer is a British colloquial term for "boss" or "old man." In Europe, the term is commonly used to refer to soccer coaches.
It is a unique term for a unique man.
If the schedule and the weather had cooperated, Posipanko might have had a chance to reach the 200th win at home last Wednesday against Brevard. But a rainout of the Oct. 8 game with High Point took that option away. Maybe it is appropriate for him to win it high up in the Virginia mountains. One of his closest friends is Radford coach Spencer Smith.
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Posipanko is at the top of the list as the winningest coach in Winthrop history with 199. He is at the top the heap at Longwood University, where he coached prior to arriving in Rock Hill, with 117 wins.
Posipanko, 56, is the all-time winningest coach in Big South Conference history with 199 total victories and 66 conference wins.
"I really didn't know about it until it showed up in The Herald," Posipanko said. "Last year, I got my 300th career win. That one means a lot more to me. There are only 25 other coaches who have done that (at the Division I level).
"It means something, coming out of this region, if you can average 10 wins a year. But I never got into it with wins. You don't remember wins and losses; you remember the guys and the bus trips and the friends."
Posipanko is in his 20th year at Winthrop and 30th season overall as a coach.
"I'm a lot closer to the end than the beginning. I don't know how many years I have left. It would be nice to stay around to see 400 (wins)," he said. "I never thought about it. I'm always thinking about the next game."
That means he's thinking about Radford. The Highlanders have a 12-game home win streak in regular-season Big South games.
When Posipanko and Radford's coach Smith first met, it didn't go so well.
"It started off a little rocky the first time we met," Posipanko recounted. "We had fog coming over the mountains to Radford, and we were late. I had one of my coaches ask (Smith) for another 15 minutes to warm up. He said no.
"I knew the official and just told him we were just going to take 20. (Smith) was pissed. But we've been friends ever since. He's a good coach. He works hard at it."
Smith remembers that game.
"He was just trying to pull a fast one on us," Smith said. "He got here late. I said kickoff is at 7, that's it. Just busting his chops."
Smith has been at Radford since 1994. He talked about the strangest game between the teams. It was scheduled to be played at Radford, but it rained for two straight days.
Smith called Posipanko and said: "All right, we're coming down. We got there 30 minutes before kickoff and led 3-0 at half. The second half was a surreal setting. As the game went on, the fog crept in. Winthrop won, 7-6. The game-winning goal went in. No one really saw it. Had to be against the Gaffer."
Posipanko's Eagles won the Big South regular-season and tournament titles in 2002 and 2006 to advance to the NCAA College Cup regionals. The 1991 and 2006 Big South Conference Coach of the Year has compiled a career record of 316-210-45 and has a Winthrop mark of 199-157-25. Posipanko is ranked 10th among NCAA Division I active coaches in total victories.
"When you are winning that many games, it says a lot about you as a coach," Smith said. "He does a great job as a coach. Winthrop is lucky to have him."