When Jeff Panos left his position as boys soccer coach at Serra High after the 2017-18 season, he planned to take a break from being a head coach. After serving as an assistant coach for Mountain View High’s varsity boys team last season, however, he changed his mind.
“I told myself I would only take on a new endeavor if the fit was absolutely eye-popping to me,” said Panos, a head coach for 20 years. “Mountain View girls (soccer) is something that I’ve always been aware of because of their success. And as I was assisting Jim (McGuirk) this past year, I would look over from the sideline and kind of see how they were doing ... and I thought to myself, ‘You know, this would be a really good fit if the door opened.’”
The door swung open when coach Ivan Bandov stepped down after eight years at the helm. Panos was hired at the beginning of May, chosen from among 10-12 applicants, according to Mountain View athletic director Shelley Smith.
Panos and the Spartans have already made it their goal to return to the Northern California tournament after the team’s overtime loss in the finals this season.
“This is a championship squad and the bar is already set pretty high,” Panos said.
After coaching with and against Panos, boys coach McGuirk knows he’ll be successful. He said one of Panos’ strengths is how he can analyze another team and then build a strategy that helps his team attack better.
“He’s completely and totally dedicated,” McGuirk said of Panos, also a longtime club coach. “He spends many hours working.”
Panos described his coaching style as communicative and wants his players to be involved in the decision-making. He said his teams play based on a possession-style offensive and by building out of the defense.
“The girls game is less about the rough-and-tumble physical play and more about the beautiful, technical and tactical passing and playmaking,” Panos said. “I really think that’s where my coaching tactics will thrive.”
Smith believes his coaching tactics will thrive in the classroom as well. Panos is also an AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Science teacher and one of only seven coaches on Mountain View High’s teaching staff.
“The advantage he has is being on campus and having his players in his classes,” Smith said. “I think there’s a real value to being able to see and work with the players throughout the day.” Panos wasn’t always a teacher, but coaching at Cupertino High nearly 20 years ago inspired him to be one. At the time, he was also working as a researcher in a chemistry lab.
“I was having a whole lot more fun seeing the impact I had with a group of young people, (so) I didn’t really want to go back to the lab,” said Panos, hired by Mountain View last fall. “It was a natural progression to be that teacher-coach combo – kind of like my dream combination.”
Panos said next season will be a blank slate for the Spartans, and he’s looking forward to bringing the team back to the top of its division.
“There are two things I feel measure success in a season, and that’s implementing a team chemistry and a work ethic where players are willing to do whatever it takes for the simple sake of wanting to do it for the person next to them,” Panos said. “If I can instill that kind of methodology, I think it’s going to be a successful year for them.”