June 24, 2014
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It was the right opportunity for Dave DiIanni to make the move to NCAA Division I soccer when the University of Iowa approached him about its head coaching position.
It wasn’t the first time DiIanni toyed with testing his mettle at the DI level, but this time the timing was right and location fit for him to depart Grand Valley State (Michigan) following an 11-year run, where he won 221 games and three NCAA Division II national championships.
“(In other Division I opportunities) I didn’t feel like the big picture was any better than I was at Grand Valley State, not only for myself, but the ability to recruit to, be successful and sustain it,” said DiIanni. “It was about being patient and waiting for the right opportunity for everybody — myself, family and children.”
Following his third national title in five seasons, the UI approached DiIanni after Ron Rainey departed the program for the head coaching position at Dartmouth University. It was a move that stood out to DiIanni.
“When I got to meet the people here, it gave me a lot of the feelings and experiences I had at Grand Valley State. The people were prideful about the university, the town was family-oriented and driven, and I wanted to be at a place where I could win and be supported to have the opportunity to win.”
UI head coach Dave DiIanni
“When Iowa reached out and asked if I was interested, that was something I thought was (Sr. Associate AD) Jane (Meyer) looking outside the box,” said DiIanni. “Sometimes you get pigeon-holed by not having Division I experience. I don’t even know what that means… you are who you are; you have a template of what you’re about and you’re always going to be adaptable in recruiting.”
After interviewing in Iowa City, DiIanni felt the UI was the perfect fit.
“When I got to meet the people here, it gave me a lot of the feelings and experiences I had at Grand Valley State,” he said. “The people were prideful about the university, the town was family-oriented and driven, and I wanted to be at a place where I could win and be supported to have the opportunity to win.”
DiIanni intends to coach an aggressive brand of soccer. He wants competitive players with a mix of athleticism, tactical soccer, and high IQ.
“I’d like to play a 4-3-3 system, an attacking-minded system where it’s opened up and when we have the ball we’re comfortable with it at our feet, can play to pressure and keep the ball,” he said. “The thing I know, whether it’s in the Big Ten or at the Division II or Division III level, is you have to be good defensively.
“Iowa has been great the last couple of years (defensively), but you also have to have players that can break other players down individually. Those are the questions I don’t know the answers to yet.”
DiIanni will have a veteran team in year one, as he inherits a program that returns nine starters off a team that won a school-record 15 games, advanced to the Big Ten Tournament championship game, and made its first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.
He wants to sustain that success and build.
“Success breeds success to some degree, but for that to happen you have to have a culture and environment,” he said. “To sustain it, the players need to hold some kind of accountability themselves and buy into the template we’re going to provide them.
“Right now, we’re very upperclassmen-laden, and I have been vocal with the roster that the time is now for them to develop and grasp that opportunity. If they do that, the program will be more competitive and deeper, and we’ll be able to sustain the success year in and year out.”
The Hawkeyes, who report for fall camp Aug. 5, open the season with an exhibition contest at DePaul on Aug. 14. Iowa begins regular season play at Northern Iowa on Aug. 22, while the home opener at the Iowa Soccer Complex is slated for Aug. 29 against Fresno State.