A player came forward and let Green Hope boys soccer coach Chip Bunn know he had a ride home from the game. As he walked away, he shouted back over his shoulder, “Congrats coach, you’re still undefeated!”
“Yes, right now,” Bunn said with a laugh. He then turned and said to himself, “I’m not sure how.”
He was flung into the position of being the team’s interim head coach after the midseason dismissal of Michael Hoy Sept. 23. Hoy was removed by the administration for the team’s high number of ejections and yellow cards.
But the team has continued the Falcons’ unbeaten streak, winning the conference title under Bunn. The team has done so without any ejections.
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“I’m happy with the interim job. I’ll do whatever the program wants in the future. There are probably soccer coaches much more knowledgeable than me,” said Bunn, who first got into soccer because his son played. Bunn is a wrestling coach who coached at Broughton and Green Hope and won more than 400 matches.
He started coaching the JV soccer team at Green Hope to take a break from wrestling and to stay connected to the sport.
The team begins the playoffs this week as a conference champion and one of the top seeds in the 4A East bracket.
In 2011 and 2012, when Green Hope won two straight boys soccer state championships with two different coaches and an entirely different starting 11, its program became known for consistency amid change.
This year they added a new twist on that unofficial slogan.
Whatever Bunn lacks for tactics and long-term soccer knowledge he makes up for bybuilding relations.
Green Hope has 17 seniors, including two who tore ACLs before the season but who have stayed involved with the team. That’s been an asset for Bunn, who coached many of them on the junior varsity level.
But he felt pressure to keep them playing at a high level.
“I was very emotional the day I had to step in. Number one, the responsibility where I had to step in and take over for them, and number two, because of what had happened,” Bunn said. “I told the boys I would give them everything I had and expected the same in return.”
Despite the frustration in the room, everyone got on the same page.
“We all agreed to just get on board together. And as soon as we all agreed, we knew there was no turning back,” senior Josh Cornell said. “There was just a lot of uncertainty – a lot of questions people wanted answers to. But basically, we just had to not worry about those questions. Those questions weren’t for us. We did the mature thing.”
Helping his players
Bunn is known for helping his players out off the field, too. Goalkeeper Jack McAllister was a sophomore on the junior varsity team when his stepmother died of liver cancer. McAllister said Bunn helped make the team a support group for him. Practices were going to become more fun.
Bunn shared his stories about family members with cancer and made a lasting impact on McAllister.
McAllister said Bunn will forever be a father figure to him because of his gestures.
“Without them, I’d be in a much darker place now,” McAllister said. “But now, if I’m having a bad day I know I can go out to a practice or I can come out to the game and I can feel better. He sets the example for everything. ... The respect for coach Bunn is so high. Everybody loves him.”
Bunn downplays the attention.
“They may say they’re playing for me, but they’re playing for themselves,” he said. His team won’t have it.
“As a person, we all love coach Bunn, and there is not a thing we wouldn’t do for him,” McAllister said.
Title hopes remain
Bunn said he doesn’t have aspirations of trying to become the first coach in North Carolina – and perhaps nationwide – to win 400 wrestling matches and 400 boys soccer matches.
But he would be OK with being perhaps the first with 400 wrestling wins and a soccer championship.
“I’m actually enjoying this, I just never thought I’d be back in a varsity role, especially in soccer,” Bunn said. “I just want to get the kids through this season. And where that ends up – hopefully it’s in the state championship.”
Bunn’s team wants nothing less for him.
“We want to give his first season as an unbeaten season,” McAllister said. “That is the most important thing we can do. It’s not so much about the seeding or winning conference. What drives us the most is making sure we can make him proud. He’s the driving force of the team, he’s the heart.”