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Cal Men's Soccer: Ex-Assistant Leonard Griffin Returns to Lead Bears' Program

Griffin guided Grand Canyon to a 15-4-1 record and into the 2021 NCAA tournament.

Leonard Griffin, an assistant at Cal in 2014 when the Bears reached No. 1 in the nation for six weeks, has been hired to lead the program back to national relevance.

Griffin returns to Berkeley after coaching Grand Canyon University to a 15-4-1 record and an NCAA tournament bid this fall. He replaces Kevin Grimes, retired after 22 seasons and 13 NCAA berths.

But the Bears haven’t won a game in the NCAA since 2014, when they got a first-round bye, then beat Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 1-0 before losing to UCLA.

Griffin has work to do with a program that is 12-22-4 in Pac-12 play the past four seasons. The Bears were 3-9-3 overall this season, including a last-place conference finish of 1-6-1 that included a 5-0 loss to Stanford.

Cal scored just 15 goals in its 15 games.

Griffin called it "a true honor and privilege” to coach the Bears. He spent time on the Bears’ coaching staff in 2013 and ’14.

New Cal soccer coach Leonard Griffin

"It's special. What can I say, but, it's Cal,” he said in a statement. “This is the chance of a lifetime to come back to a program that I'm familiar with after working there under Kevin Grimes.

"To come back to my home state in California is a lot, and there's no better place than the San Francisco Bay Area. It's a place where my family wants to settle."

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Griffin is regarded a strong recruiter and more than 30 players he’s coached have gone on to play professionally.

Grand Canyon climbed to No. 1 in the RPI this past season. The Antelopes scored a 1-0 road victory over an Oregon State team that was ranked No. 22 at the time, twice beat Cal and went on to win the Pac-12 title.

They lost 1-0 to Denver in their NCAA opener and finished ranked No. 25 nationally.

Among eight Grand Canyon players who earned WAC honors, were conference defender of the Year Esai Easley and midfielder Justin Rasmussen, who became the program’s first players chosen in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft.

Griffin previously was head coach at San Francisco from 2019 through the 2021 spring season.

A graduate of UCLA, Griffin returned to Westwood as an assistant coach from 2014-16 and helped lead the Bruins to a 25-13-6 record. UCLA produced the top recruiting classes in the country in 2014 and 2015.

He also has worked as an assistant coach at Cal State San Bernardino, Saint Mary’s and Portland.

As a player with the Bruins (2000-03), Griffin was part of UCLA’s national championship team his senior season when he earned All-America honors. He played seven professional seasons in the U.S. before beginning his coaching career.

Cover photo of Leonard Griffin courtesy of Grand Canyon University Athletics

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo