— In 1985, Mike Bradby knew he wanted to coach Archbishop Ryan soccer. Now, he’s got his chance.
Mike Bradby vividly remembers the day during the 1985 Archbishop Ryan soccer season when he went into George Todt’s office and told his coach that he wanted his job someday.
Almost 30 years later, Bradby got his wish.
It’s been a little more than a month since Todt retired as the longtime coach of the Raider soccer program. When he stepped down after 44 years, 650 wins and 13 Catholic League championships, the odd realization began to set in that sometime during the fall of 2013, a coach other than George Todt would be calling the shots.
“I think we were sixth in the country at the time, and I just said to him (Todt), ‘I want your job, because it’s a dream job,’” Bradby recalled during a Saturday morning chat shortly after he accepted the position to lead his alma mater. “Lo and behold, it worked out to the point where here I am. To go through the interview process and ultimately having it end with the phone call I got … it’s a dream come true.”
And though Todt told the Northeast Times in an e-mail that he was not involved in Bradby’s appointment as head coach, it wasn’t a surprise to see a former pupil become the second boys soccer coach in school history. Todt, also the longtime athletic director at Ryan, has a history of hiring former student-athletes at the school, from Frank McArdle (football) to Ryan Haney (girls soccer) to Bernie Rogers (boys basketball), so the decision to keep it in the family was predictable. Nobody is a bigger believer in the “Ryan tradition” than Todt, and it shows.
“Mr. Todt had a theme of ‘God, family and field,’ which is something he really believes,” Bradby said. “Once you played for him, you became part of his family, and that remains true to this day. I want to establish my own tradition here, but it will be built around what he taught me all those years ago. Everything comes full circle right back to Ryan High School.”
Many voices in the Catholic League, which Todt built into a state and national soccer powerhouse over the years, have said how odd it will be to look at the Ryan sideline next season and not see Todt and his full head of slicked black hair, which, just like the old coach, stood up tremendously well over time.
Bradby, a 1986 Ryan graduate, was part of Todt’s most successful run at the school as a key member of four straight Catholic League titles from 1983-86 (the Raiders also won championships in 1987 and 1988). Bradby was an All-Catholic and All-City soccer player at Ryan and continued his stellar career for four years at La Salle University, where he earned a degree in criminal justice in 1990. He played professionally for the Illinois and Denver Thunder of the National Professional Soccer League from 1991-93, and has coached at the high school, club and college level since 1994. Until 2011, Bradby was the head men’s soccer coach at Holy Family University, where he led the school to six straight conference championship appearances.
He was a 2007 inductee to the Philadelphia Soccer Hall of Fame, and a member of the inaugural class of Todt’s baby, the Archbishop Ryan Soccer Hall of Fame, in 2008.
Bradby believes in his abilities, but he is by no means looking to replace George Todt.
“It’s not going to be strange,” he insisted. “I’m my own person. What he’s done is something that will never be forgotten, but I’m my own individual, and I am confident in myself that I can run my own program here.”
A Parkwood native, Bradby has been around soccer his entire life. His father, Walt, has been an assistant to Todt for the last three decades, and will keep the same position under his son. Mike’s younger brother, Brian, another former standout under Todt, will also be an assistant. All three are members of the Ryan Soccer Hall of Fame.
And despite being new to the position, Mike Bradby said he expected to challenge for a Catholic League title as soon as the upcoming season. He is still gathering his personnel, but said he met with the team recently and was “excited” to coach players like dynamic forward Michael Kirby and 6-foot-5 goalie Jared Ott.
“You understand what this school means if you’re a part of the tradition,” Bradby said. “When I played professionally, I wore my Ryan gear out and about and talked about the school. To this day, I still think about it, how proud I am that I went there. I want that for these kids.”
Something else Bradby learned from Todt is that success in the classroom equates to real-life success after high school.
“Success comes with being around good people,” Bradby said. “Mr. Todt not only taught me how to train as a soccer player, but also how to act like a professional. All of that stuff, that’s what I want to bring back to this program. It all comes down to how badly you want it, and how hard you’re willing to work. They should be proud to put that jersey on.”
Bradby, who bought his former coach’s house in 1996, never had a problem with staying close to his roots. After he applied for the job, he said Todt referred to him as “one of his sons,” and that it was comforting to know he will still be there to give guidance if needed.
“But he’s going to allow me to put my own stamp on this program,” Bradby said. “Everything I’ve learned comes from him and my father. Playing for him is an experience that influenced who I am today. Turning hard work into success was the theme for us in the ’80s, and I’d like to continue that.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted … I just never thought it would happen,” he said.” ••
Sports Editor Ed Morrone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or firstname.lastname@example.org