Today’s news:

St. Francis College names former SJU soccer star head coach

When St. Francis College Athletic Director Ed Aquilone called his good friend Paul Gilvary to ask his opinion on a suitable candidate for the vacant men’s soccer coaching position, the Holy Cross soccer coach immediately gave him an answer.

“I have the perfect guy for you,” Gilvary said.

It’s not that Aquilone didn’t have enough candidates, he actually got a slew from all parts of the country. It’s that he wanted someone locally who knew about St. Francis College and had connections with the local high school teams.

Carlo Acquista, Gilvary said.

That was enough for Aquilone, who hired the former St. John’s and Holy Cross standout Monday as the third coach in the 33-year history of the Brooklyn school’s men’s soccer program.

The 23-year-old Acquista, one of the youngest Division I coaches in the country, takes the reins from Sam Carrington, who left St. Francis College after 13 years to take the head coaching job at Northeast Conference rival Quinnipiac in late May.

Carrington, who accepted the recently added full-time position, was 127-106-16 with the Terriers, including a 5-10-1 record last year.

The biggest concerns for Aquilone were Acquista’s lack of coaching experience — he served as a volunteer student assistant coach under Dave Masur at St. John’s in 2000 and was an administrative assistant at Hofstra for Richard Nuttal from February through April — and the Whitestone native’s young age.

But it was Acquista’s contacts, including some of his references that featured Masur, Nuttal, Gilvary and legendary St. John’s basketball coach Lou Carnesecca, that really impressed Aquilone.

“I was interested, first, in some of the people who were his references and the consistent quality each mentioned is that Carlo has a passion for the game,” Aquilone said. “Obviously I’m going out on a limb with a rookie, but what he lacks in actual coaching experience, I think he makes up with his enthusiasm and passion and hopefully some quality local contacts.”

Making local contacts is what Gilvary said Acquista is all about.

“More than anything else, you have to be a people person and he’s a people person,” said Gilvary, who coached Acquista from 1993-95. “He’s like the mayor of Whitestone, he knows everybody. I’ve known him a long time and I always thought he’d be a natural.”

Acquista knows he’ll hear grumblings from other coaches about his age and lack of experience.

“It doesn’t bother me because of the experience I have on the soccer field,” he said. “If I went into this blindfolded, not knowing anything, then it would be a different story.”

Plus, Acquista said, soccer is in his blood.

“I live the game,” Acquista said. “I’m more happy not making money and watching games all day. My passion and personality for the game I think will help propel me to the next level of coaching.”

Acquista played on three straight CHSAA city championship teams at Holy Cross and then, as a freshman, won the NCAA national championship with St. John’s, the first ever in school history.

It was during that magical 1996 season when Acquista realized he one day wanted to be a soccer coach.

“I took [Masur’s] passion and drive and enthusiasm for the game,” said Acquista, who also won a Big East tournament championship with the Red Storm in 1998. “With coach Masur I also got the business-like attitude, his drive to win and his commitment to his players.”

Added Masur: “It’s a great fit for him. He’s in a situation where he can really help a lot of local kids and provide a quality education and positive soccer environment and I’m sure Carlo will give them the right values in order for them to be successful either in soccer or a career afterwards.”

Acquista said it is vital for him to recruit those local players that some other coaches don’t know about or don’t want.

“My number one priority is to tap into the CHSAA and PSAL and get some of the no-name players who are just as good as some of those other players from Maryland and Pennsylvania,” he said. “I’m not here to compete with St. John’s, Hofstra and Adelphi [for players]. I have to make my own identity and go after the hard-nosed, middle-class players.”

Acquista makes his coaching debut Aug. 31 at Loyola-Maryland, his first home game is Sept. 27 at the Metropolitan Oval against Carrington and Quinnipiac, and his first game against St. John’s?

“I’m sure it’s something Carlo and I will be discussing many times,” Masur said.

With only 16 players returning from last year’s team that finished seventh in the NEC last year, Acquista isn’t expecting a quick fix.

“The word for this year is going to be frustration, any coach feels that way when they want to change the world,” he said. “I have to expect the worst, but I have to stay positive, try and make them better players and, most of all, I have to be patient.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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