In 1997, the Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team was 4-2 and things were looking good. Then they lost their next two games, being outscored 2-9. That was it for Paul Blanta, who had been the head coach of the Chanticleers since 1984.
Dermot McGrane came in as the interim coach, but the Chants went 2-6-1 to close out the season.
That’s when the Chanticleers brought in a coach from Charleston Southern. Shaun Docking had gone 20-19-2 in his two years at CSU. He was tasked with restoring Coastal's program to the glory it saw in the early 1990s.
That 2003 squad was one of many talented groups of players that Docking has coached over his 21-year tenure at Coastal.
“When you look back to when I first got here, it took a few seasons to get the program going,” he said. “We had some great players — Eric Quimby, Joseph Ngwenya, Randy Owen — and we had such a great core of guys there. We were able to keep that going.”
While Docking had great success in the early 2000s, there was a four-year stretch that the Chanticleers did not make the NCAA Tournament from 2006-2009. Despite the lack of postseason, the Chants still had 10-plus win season in three of those four years, going 40-27-11 and winning two Big South regular season titles.
Things ramped back up for the program in 2011. Following their return to the NCAA Tournament in 2010, the Chanticleers used the momentum to spur one of the best stretches in program history.
From 2011 to 2014, Docking helped guide the Chanticleers to 15-plus win seasons in each of those four years, going 73-18-3 overall and 35-2-1 in conference play. Ashton Bennett was named the 2011 scoring champion with 23 goals and was a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy – the award for the best collegiate soccer player.
During Docking’s 21-year career at Coastal, he has seen 25 players make it to the professional level.
“It’s really a testament to these players,” he said. “Not only are they good players, but they are good people. You look at Justin Portillo, who now plays for Real Salt Lake in MLS, he wasn’t drafted coming out of college. He got a shot down in Charleston to play for the Battery in USL, proved himself to make it on the team in Salt Lake. It’s the habits that he does every day and the kind of person that he is. He’s a warrior.”
While Docking has coached several players to the next level, he has a few players that have become coaches.
"At the end of the day, my job is to help them find their passion and help them develop that,” Docking said.
Martin Melchor, who played for Coastal from 2014-2017, is now the head coach at Jacksonville College, a junior college in Texas. Melchor is in his second year at Jacksonville, and after seeing his former coach achieve the 300-win accomplishment, he reminisced about his time at Coastal and learning under Docking.
“I really value the mentality that we had there,” he said. “We had to work for everything all the time. Every scrimmage, every session and every skill, it was win or it was failure. And I think that that is one of those things that he created there. That kind of mentality was already there when I got there in 2014.”
Not only has Docking developed coaches, he has brought them to his own staff. Assistant coach Kyle Russell played for Coastal from 2005 to 2008 and then joined the staff in 2009 as a student volunteer assistant.
“I’ve played here and been coaching here for a long time and it is exciting for him to reach that milestone,” Russell said. “He is one of the most-winningest coaches in college soccer. We are all happy for him and proud of his accomplishment, but we all know that we are successful because the boys work hard and buy in to this system.”
Melchor recalls the way that Docking would motivate his players ahead of any game, regardless of the team.
“It didn’t matter if we had to travel to UCLA, Maryland, Clemson or a conference opponent, the expectation was to win,” Melchor said. “It wasn’t that we were going to go into those places and hope to get an upset or a few good chances on goal. We had to win and I think that is what translates to him being so consistent in getting wins.”
Melchor said that while Docking “is very careful about what he says,” the moments where he broke character were some of Melchor’s favorites.
“There were times where he danced after big wins and those were pretty funny times,” he said. “But in conversations, he is so careful about what he says and he chooses his words carefully. So there were times when he would crack a joke midway through a meeting and it would go over the younger guys’ heads. It was funny watching the younger guys not get it as well because they didn’t understand that he doesn’t crack jokes often. I lived for those little jokes.”
Docking now is six wins away from accomplishing another 10-plus win season. In his 20 previous seasons, he only had nine wins or less in a season twice — his first season in 1998 and 2009.
Overall, Docking is 280-127-36 at Coastal.