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Joe Russo says goodbye to the program he helped create.

When Joe Russo ’73, MEd ’82 was named head coach of the women’s soccer team at Trenton State College in 1989, a reporter from The Signal asked him if he felt pressure trying to build a team amid a boom in women’s athletic programs.

“No, I feel no pressure at all,” Russo said. “The program has to have its own identity and then work its way up to be as successful as the others.”

Now, after 32 years, 669 games, and as one of TCNJ’s most decorated coaches, Russo will step aside and let someone else lead the program that he firmly established.

“It’s been a remarkable run,” says Russo, who accumulated more than 60,000 minutes on the sidelines as head coach. “You keep grinding and looking forward to the next day but you never really embrace what you’re doing until it’s over.”

Russo’s career numbers are impressive, highlighted by three national championships, but those stats come from his dedication and commitment to positioning TCNJ women’s soccer as a perennial powerhouse.

“Rarely in this business do you get to start a program from scratch — to create the culture you think would be very successful,” Russo says. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime.”

But perhaps his biggest accomplishment is the relationships he’s formed with his players. “He’s someone I look up to,” says Amelia Curtis ’22, a captain from this year’s squad. “He motivates his players to not only work hard but to care for each other like friends and not just teammates.”

What’s next for Russo? “Someplace where it’s warm,” he says. He and his wife are planning to move to Florida, but rest assured, you’ll still see him in the crowd at Lions Stadium from time to time.

“Without a doubt,” he says. “It’s near and dear to my heart.”

Picture: Carlos J. Morales/Altasky Media

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