Pat Morris had the perfect job.
Then he was offered a more perfect one.
Morris, a 1995 graduate of North Catholic and then Textile, has made a career out of soccer.
After playing professionally, he got into coaching and for the past decade, he was an assistant coach at St. Joseph’s University.
He loved the job for many reasons. He got to coach with two men who became his best friends, head coach Don D’Ambra and fellow assistant Steve Wacker. He enjoyed it because he was around soccer, a game he’s always loved. But perhaps the best part of the gig was helping players live their dream of playing college soccer.
It was once his dream. He knows how much it means. And it was a great feeling watching kids live that dream.
“I never, ever wanted to leave St. Joe’s because it was the perfect place,” said Morris, who lives in Port Richmond. “I love coaching the kids there. As an assistant coach, I never really needed to be a head coach, my ego didn’t need it. I loved coaching with Don and Steve, and the kids there are great. As an assistant coach, you know, it’s good cop, bad cop, the head coach is the bad cop, you get to be the good cop. I enjoyed it, I loved the relationships I had with the kids.”
You can now call Morris Mr. Bad Cop because he’s now a head coach.
Morris was named the men’s soccer coach at Penn State Abington, and just as he did at St. Joe’s, he’s going to love being around his new program because it gives him a chance to do everything he did on City Line Avenue.
The new school is right in his wheelhouse, too, because it’s located just outside Northeast Philadelphia.
“Penn State Abington has everything, it’s a Penn State education, you’re paying in-state tuition, so it’s affordable, and you can play college soccer,” said Morris, who played for the Philadelphia Kixx for 10 years. “Playing college soccer is something a lot of people dream of. And I try to tell people, even when I was at St. Joe’s, it doesn’t matter what level you play at.
“A lot of kids have the dream of playing Division I, Division I, Division I, but there are a lot of factors. Do you want to go somewhere that costs a lot of money? Coming out $150,000 in debt is a lot different than coming out, say, $50,000 in debt. And playing time, do you want to play Division I and be on the bench, or go somewhere, Division II or III, and start right away or get playing time? There are a lot of factors when picking a school.”
Now Morris can help prospective students who are soccer players have options. And he’s looking to get started right away.
He has a built-in advantage because he has great relationships with many of the coaches in the area. He played for Roman Catholic High School assistant coach Jerry Brindisi at North. He played for Judge coach John Dunlop at Textile. He played against Ryan coach Ryan Haney. And the ones he hasn’t played for, with or against, he has known from recruiting for the Hawks.
He’ll still be doing the same thing, just while wearing different colors and staying local.
“When you recruit for St. Joe’s, you’re doing a lot of recruiting internationally, and last year I spent 10 days in Europe, which is tough and not something I like doing because I like to be home with my family,” Morris said. “At the Division I level, you’re doing more and more recruiting internationally.
“At Penn State Abington, I want to win locally, I want to give opportunities and find the best players in the Catholic League, the Public League and the suburbs. There’s great soccer around here, and I have to get started.
“Right after I got the job, I started this week, and I started hearing from so many people. It’s good to have those contacts because I’m going to be talking to them a lot. I’m going to have a lot of local players, so I’ll be around. I’ll be watching.”
Morris is in the perfect spot to get good soccer players.
Judge and Ryan are always among the best soccer teams in the area. You also have Roman, Wood and La Salle as well as the rest of the teams in the Catholic League. Northeast has been filling local schools with talented soccer players, as has Franklin Towne Charter and other Public League schools.
Morris will also look at the Suburban One League, the Inter-Ac and across the river after running soccer camps in New Jersey and the Philadelphia area.
His new post will allow him to continue to run camps, which will also allow him to work with Wacker. It will also allow him to continue the reason he got into coaching.
“I’ve had so many great coaches help me,” Morris said. “I always tell kids, nobody gave this to me, I had to work for everything I got in soccer. It meant not partying, I had to work for it. But there’s no way I could have done it without so many coaches. I want to help people the way so many helped me.
“Coaches like Jerry Brindisi, Tom Ciolko, Mr. (Tom) Ruth, (Dunlop), they all helped me. I know the impact they had on me. They still do. Coaches can have a huge impact, and I want to do the same.”
If he has as much passion for the Nittany Lions as he does for the Falcons, Penn State Abington made a great hire.
“Nobody understands how we feel about North Catholic,” Morris said. “They don’t understand why we still get together every summer and go to the hall of fame every year. It’s fun and it’s who we are. But if you knew how many people North still helps. North guys are all over the Catholic League. Their kids are at Judge, Wood, Conwell-Egan, Ryan. They’re all over. And the money (the Norphans) raises goes to them.”
Another thing Morris learned at North and beyond is the importance of family.
He and his longtime girlfriend Kelli Ziomek have two children, Ryan, 8, and Bryn, 4. Ryan, his son, loves soccer. His daughter follows mom’s lead in interests, but when it comes to sports, she is a great athlete.
“My girlfriend is great, but she doesn’t understand loving soccer, she’s the exact opposite of me,” Morris said. “I think that’s why it works out. Ryan loves soccer. He loves to play. Bryn is more into dancing, but she’s very good when she plays.”
The family atmosphere he enjoys at home is the same one he had at St. Joe’s, and he hopes will be the same one at his new school.
“I’ll definitely miss the guys at St. Joe’s, I texted them this week because they were allowed back in to start working out,” Morris said. “I told them to get after it. They’re great guys, they’ll be ready.
“I didn’t want to leave, but Penn State Abington is a great opportunity. The campus is great, I just started talking with the guys on the team and we’re going to add more. And with everything shut down, we’ll be working hard to get ready. It’s going to be fun.”