Pi­o­neers’ coach fo­cused on beat­ing his alma mater

De­mon Dea­cons led by Mu­uss, who left DU in 2014

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Daniel Boni­face Dan Boni­face: 303-954-1104, dboni­face@den­ver­post.com or @daniel­boni­face

No. 2 Wake For­est vs. No. 6 Den­ver, 4 p.m. Fri­day in Hous­ton, ESPNU How’s this for a matchup? Coach Jamie Franks on Fri­day will lead his un­de­feated Den­ver Pi­o­neers (20-0-3) against his alma mater Wake For­est (18-2-3) in the men’s semi­fi­nals of the NCAA Col­lege Cup at BBVA Com­pass Sta­dium in Hous­ton. And to make things even more in­ter­est­ing, the De­mon Dea­cons are led by Den­ver’s for­mer coach, Bobby Mu­uss — the man who re­cruited a then-17-yearold Franks to Wake For­est and later went 74-56-25 in his eight sea­sons lead­ing DU.

“I’ve had to wrap my head around play­ing Wake For­est, a team that I’ve never rooted against in any­thing, es­pe­cially not in men’s soc­cer,” Franks said in a phone in­ter­view Wed­nes­day. “But that time has passed. Now I’m just fo­cused on my stu­dent-ath­letes and fin­ish­ing off what we’ve started here. And we’re two more wins away from that.”

Franks has ap­peared in the Col­lege Cup three times as a player, win­ning the cham­pi­onship in 2007 on a team that in­cluded cur­rent Colorado Rapids cap­tain Sam Cronin.

He was also an as­sis­tant coach of Wake For­est’s 2009 team — the last time the De­mon Dea­cons played in the semi­fi­nals.

“When he was an as­sis­tant, he al­ways kind of had a dif­fer­ent view of the game, which was kind of re­fresh­ing,” said Rapids cen­ter back Jared Watts, who played for Wake For­est from 2010-13. “He wasn’t a guy who would just spit out what­ever the head coach was say­ing. He brought his own ideas.”

Franks came to Den­ver to serve as an as­sis­tant coach un­der Mu­uss in 2012. Three years later, at age 29, Franks be­came the youngest NCAA head soc­cer coach when he took over the Pi­o­neers af­ter Mu­uss re­turned to Wake For­est.

“I spent seven years of my life there and I learned a lot about my­self,” Franks said of Wake For­est. “But for the last five years I’ve poured my heart and soul into the Uni­ver­sity of Den­ver.”

The Pi­o­neers have posted a sparkling 35-1-6 record in two sea­sons since Franks took over — the one loss com­ing in last year’s NCAA Tour­na­ment. Den­ver is the first team to post back-to-back un­beaten reg­u­lar sea­sons since Clem­son in 197778. The Pi­o­neers have done it with an or­ga­nized de­fense that has posted 14 shutouts in 23 games.

“The sys­tem of play kind of sym­bol­izes who we are and that’s a blue col­lar, hard-work­ing ap­proach,” Franks said. “For us, we be­lieve that you can con­trol three things no mat­ter what, and that’s your po­si­tion­ing, your work rate and your men­tal­ity. The rea­son why we ac­com­plished some­thing that hasn’t hap­pened in 38 years in col­lege soc­cer is a tes­ta­ment to that.”

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