Einar Thorarinsson enters his 22nd season at Gonzaga University as he looks to guide the Bulldogs back to the upper echelon of the West Coast Conference.
The all-time leader in coaching wins in program history, Thorarinsson has led GU to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances (2001, 2007) and a pair of WCC titles (co-champs in both 1997, 1998). Under his watch, the Bulldogs have finished in the top five in the league 14 times, including eight WCC finishes in the top three. The squad has also honored by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for academic excellence for the 13th straight season in 2015, the sixth-longest stretch among all collegiate men's soccer programs.
Since his arrival on the GU campus in January of 1995, Thorarinsson has made an impact on the fortunes of the program, turning it into an annual contender for the WCC men's soccer crown and leading the Zags to their inaugural NCAA Tournament appearance in 2001. He earned his third WCC Coach of the Year honor in 2005, and won his 100th Gonzaga match in 2006. Thorarinsson took a team laden with 10 seniors back to the NCAA Tournament in 2007, the Bulldogs earning an at-large bid for their second NCAA Tournament appearance.
In 2015, Thorarinsson used a mix of veterans and underclassmen to fight to a 7-10-1 record, including seven of the 10 losses coming by just one goal. That team, which was led by sophomore All-WCC first-teamer Ben White, senior second-teamer Conner Bevans and junior honorable mention selection Jakob Granlund, finished sixth in the league with a 2-5 WCC record.
In 2014, Gonzaga earned a second consecutive fifth-place league finish with a 3-3-1 league record, including a pair of back-to-back overtime victories to end the season. Thorarinsson's squad was led by six all-league honorees, including All-WCC first-teamer Lars Ludwigs, second-teamer Clark Phillips and a quartet of All-WCC Honorable Mention recipients.
One year prior, in 2013, Gonzaga made a charge into the top three of the league behind a pair seniors in Nick Hamer and Josh Phillips. Hamer earned WCC Player of the Year honors and Phillips was named WCC Defender of the Year on the way to a 5-4-3 league record. The squad earned a school-record eight All-WCC honors with Hamer and Phillips earning first team honors, and Clark Phillips (no relation to Josh), earning second team honors. Four others were named All-WCC Honorable Mention and one was selected to the All-Freshman Team. Josh Phillips went on to play professionally, most recently with the Colorado Switchbacks FC of the USL, where he's received multiple weekly league honors as one of the top defenders in the league.
The Zags posted four straight seventh-place league finishes from 2009-12. In non-league action GU did post multiple victories over cross-state rival Seattle as well as the Pac-12's Oregon State. During that stretch, goalkeeper Ryan Caballero rewrote the GU record books, posting the highest-career saves total (322) and two of the top three highest single season saves totals (93 in 2011, 91 in 2010). He also had the fourth-highest career shutouts total with 12 when his career came to an end in 2013.
While the results on the field in 2009 weren't up to Thorarinsson's high standards, the Bulldogs did earn some recognition both on the field and in the classroom. The Bulldogs had seven players earn All-West Coast Conference honors, equaling the record number set in 2007. Senior forward Tye Perdido was named to the first team while senior defender Nick Barclay and senior midfielder Ben Funkhouser were second-team selections. Four others garnered honorable mention recognition and the Bulldogs also had an All-Freshman Team honoree. Barclay and the team picked up academic honors awarded by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). Barclay was named to the University Division Scholar All-West Region team, while the Bulldog men were recognized with a NSCAA Team Academic Award for the 2008-09 academic year for having a team GPA of 3.0 or higher. Gonzaga was one of 145 college men's teams recognized. Barclay earned his honor with a 3.46 GPA. Perdido was invited to the 2010 Seattle Sounders FC tryout camp and played the 2010 season with the Kitsap Pumas of the Premier Development League.
The 2008 season came down to the final match with the Bulldogs still in the West Coast Conference title chase. Gonzaga finished tied for second, three points out of first. In 2009, the Bulldogs suffered five shutouts in eight WCC losses, and six losses were decided by one goal.
The Bulldogs had their inaugural Hermann Trophy candidate in 2007 in senior George Josten, who left Gonzaga third in career goals (34) and assists (17), and fourth in career points (85). Josten also became the first Bulldog to be a three-time All-WCC first-team selection and a three-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American (first team in 2006 and '07, and third team in 2005). He earned Far West Region first-team honors and became the Bulldogs inaugural soccer All-America selection by being named to the 2007 NSCAA/adidas All-America third team. Off the field, Josten was also honored as the 2007 NSCAA/adidas Men's Scholar Athlete of the Year and led a group of 47 athletes named to the 2007 NSCAA/adidas Scholar All-America Team.
Under Thorarinsson's tutelage the Bulldogs had two players selected in the January 2008 MLS Draft and had a third sign as a free agent. Josten was taken in the second round as the 20th overall pick by the Columbus Crew, defender Austin Washington was drafted in the fourth round as the 54th overall pick by the Chicago Fire and keeper Vito Higgins signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy after attending a tryout camp.
Thorarinsson also saw the Bulldogs return to the national rankings in 2007 for the first time since 2001. Gonzaga was ranked as high as 12th on the national scene after wins over defending NCAA College Cup champion UC Santa Barbara and 15th-ranked University of Washington. The win over cross-state rival Washington was the first in program history. Prior to 2007, the Bulldogs had been on the verge NCAA Tournament berths in 2005 and '06.
In 2005, Gonzaga went into the final weekend with a shot at the WCC regular-season title, and in 2006, Gonzaga was again in the title hunt most of the season before settling for third place.
In 1999 Gonzaga once again remained in the title hunt until the final match of the season, losing to Portland 5-2 and dropping to a fourth place finish in the conference standings. The season was highlighted by one of the toughest schedules in Bulldog history with eight matches against nationally-ranked teams. Gonzaga responded with a 4-3-1 record in those matches including upsets of No. 1 Creighton (1-0) in Omaha, Neb.; No. 5 Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., and a 1-0 setback at No. 1 Santa Clara.
Back-to-back was the theme in 1998 as Thorarinsson again led Gonzaga to a share of the WCC soccer title. The Bulldogs entered the final match of the season with a 5-0-0 record and needed a tie or win against San Diego to claim the title outright and secure their inaugural NCAA Tournament berth. Gonzaga fell short in the match, losing the title 2-1 to USD.
The upward swing continued in 1997, Gonzaga sharing the WCC crown with Santa Clara University at 4-2-0, Gonzaga missing out on the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament by virtue of a 2-1 setback at SCU. The 14-40 record again led all WCC teams in victories, and Thorarinsson became the first Gonzaga coach in any sport to earn back-to-back WCC Coach of the Year plaudits. Gonzaga also witnessed its first soccer Player of the Year with Jeff McAllister garnering the honor in 1997. The Bulldogs finished that season ranked 16th in the nation by Soccer Times.
Thorarinsson, who joined the Bulldogs from across town at Whitworth College, inherited a squad which had gone 2-13-1 in 1994. Improvement was minimal to 3-10-2 in 1995, then the Zags made noise in the West Coast Conference in 1996, going into the final weekend of conference play in control of their own destiny. Although Gonzaga's title aspirations fell shot, the club made an eight-game improvement to 11-6-1 to lead all WCC teams in victories. Its 4-2-0 conference record landed the team in third place and Thorarinsson was accorded WCC Coach of the Year honors.
Thorarinsson coached at Whitworth College for nine seasons while posting a 119-52-13 record, five Northwest Conference of Independent Colleges titles and NAIA national rankings in five of his nine seasons. He was named NAIA District I Coach of the Year from 1988-90 and again in 1992. He also coached the Pirates women for two seasons from 1990-91.
Thorarinsson has strong soccer ties in Spokane. He coached East Valley High School from 1987-90, taking the Knights to the final four in 1990. He has coached in the Olympic Developmental Program since 1990 and was a United States Soccer Federation Region IV staff coach from 1991-99. He also coached the Spokane Shadow of the USISL in their first of seasons of 1995-96. Thorarinsson holds national coaching licenses from the USSF and NSCAA.
The native of Reykjavik, Iceland, played at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY, from 1971-72, and for Cornell University from 1973-74. He is a 1975 graduate of Cornell with a degree in Landscape architecture. He and his wife Melanie, have two daughters, Gonzaga graduates Kyra and Brynja.