Chris O'Brien, one of the winningest boys soccer coaches on Long Island, will says that he will step down as head coach of the Center Moriches team after this seaason.

Chris O’Brien has compiled a 309-136-26 record at Center Moriches. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

By Michael Lewis
FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

CENTER MORICHES, N.Y. – Chris O’Brien, one of the winningest boys soccer coaches on Long Island, will says that he will step down as head coach of the Center Moriches team after this seaason.

O’Brien has been running the Red Devils’ show for 27 yeears.

The 62-year-old coach, said the decision did not come lightly.

“I just think 27 years is a long time,” O’Brien said after the Red Devils’ season-opening, non-league 1-0 win over Mattituck last week. “I want to spend a little bit more time with my dad who’s in his 90s.”

His father is Tuck O’Brien, a former minor league baseball player and an elementary school science teacher in the Southold School District (Suffolk County), who will turn 92 in October. Tuck O’Brien played an important role in developing the St. Patrick’s CYO basketball program and the North Fork American Legion Baseball League. He also instilled the love of soccer into his sons – Greg, Doug, Tommy and Chris, who also starred in the sport at Southold High School. Greg holds the county record for most career goals (111).

“I put a lot of my heart and soul into this. I’m very passionate about this,” Chris O’Brien said. “I think that passion has spread to the kids and my assistant coaches. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what else is around the bend. I’m 62. I’m in good health. I’ve lost 25 pounds since last season. I walk about five miles a day and hopefully by next year, it’ll be seven.”

In 1997, O’Brien replaced Dom Perrier as the school’s third boys’ soccer coach since 1947. Under his direction, the Red Devils have won numerous county titles, in Class B and C, captured state championships in 2009 and 2017 and reached the finals in 2006 and 2019, while compiling a 309-136-26 record. Center Moriches’ main adversary has been Mattituck, in what turned into the longest and arguably best high school soccer rivalry in New York.

O’Brien has been a player and a coach in those classic confrontations, graduating from Southold H.S. after a three-year varsity career while playing as a forward for coaching legend Dick Osmer. He became a defender at Southern Connecticut State University, reaching four NCAA final fours.

In 2020, O’Brien retired as a social studies teacher at Center Moriches Junior High.

He thought about retiring as a coach after last season. But since Center Moriches was moved from Class B to Class A due to an increase in school population, O’Brien decided to stay for one more campaign. The Red Devils will play in League VI, instead of League VII, home to the Southold, Greenport and Mattituck squads.

“It’s a different challenge for us,” he said. “I was considering not coming back this year, but then when the opportunity to coach in the A division presented itself, I thought this was not the time to leave. I thought I should stick it out for one more year. My assistants have been loyal to me and it’s time to let them do the dirty work.

“I’ll be around the game in some facet. It’s just been too much a part of my life not to be part of it.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Guardian.com. Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of BigAppleSoccer.com. He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at Amazon.com.