North Andover Scarlet Knights Girls Soccer '07

Before he found success at North Andover, girls soccer coach Bud McCarthy served in the Marines. A 1969 car accident, which left him with seven broken ribs and a broken leg, nearly killed him. » Angie Beaulieu, Staff Photographer

North Andover soccer coach's remarkable journey to success

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Sunday, December, 23 By Alan Siegel
Staff writer

Kevin "Bud" McCarthy keeps the portrait in his wallet. It's stained and yellowed, but the gold buttons on his uniform are still bright.

Could it really be him?

If you didn't believe that McCarthy a man known for his wit, charm and empathy, was a marine, the photograph proves it.

In 1967, he enlisted. He was 18.

It was Semper Fi, gung-ho, from the get go. If his superiors had told him to walk through a wall, then well, he said, "I probably would have." It's not that he joined the Marine Corps that's remarkable, but rather why he joined.

Seven months before McCarthy left for boot camp, his older brother Eddie, who as an infant, nicknamed the new baby "Buddy" because he couldn't say "Kevin", was killed fighting in Vietnam.

Still, Bud joined up. He felt obligated to. "I do remember making the conscious decision to go (into the Marines)," he said. "There was no thought of revenge whatsoever. No matter what I did in the military, I wasn't going to bring my brother back."

How Bud McCarthy got from that moment to this one, sitting in a sunlit booth in the 99 Restaurant on Route 125, smiling, laughing and reflecting on his 302 career wins as a coach, is an incredible tale | one only he is qualified to tell.

McCarthy | one of six children | grew up in Medford, a city home to thousands of immigrants.

There, he learned soccer. Eddie, two years ahead of Bud in school, taught his little brother the sport.

"I know that he loved the game," he said. "I just followed." In another life, Bud surmises, Eddie probably would've been a physical education teacher and a coach.

Since that fateful day in February 1967, when Bud came home to find an officer's Marine Corps Chevrolet sitting in the driveway, he's had an increased sense of responsibility. "I grew up more that night than at any other time in my life," he said. "I just had to step up."

After McCarthy learned of Eddie's death, he watched his parents, Dorothy and Chick, a Medford firefighter, gracefully interact with well-wishers.

"If you haven't experienced a similar thing," he said, "you just don't know."

Still, Bud planned to follow in his brother's footsteps, which didn't exactly sit well with Dorothy.

"You're not going," his mother repeatedly told him. His father, on the other hand, didn't say a word. Bud could tell that deep down, Chick understood his choice.

"You just knew," Bud said.

In May, when he turned 18, Bud enlisted in the Marines, just as his Eddie had done.

To this day, he wrestles with the decision. After all, his draft number was 360, which almost guaranteed that he wouldn't have been called to serve.

"It was probably very, very selfish," he said. "To know what my parents went through ..."

The pain lingered, but in the end, Eddie's influence proved too profound to ignore. Four decades later, the feeling hasn't faded.

"He's with me, soccer wise, every time we do the national anthem," he said. "He's with me right then. He was two years older than me. I used to tag along with him. Now he's with me."

In the spring of 1969, Bud McCarthy got the news. He was going to Vietnam.

In April, two months before he was supposed to ship out, McCarthy, a trained radio operator, planned to spend his leave in Medford.

So he piled into a '65 Cadillac with some buddies. From their base in North Carolina, they headed up Route 95.
After dropping off two passengers in Washington, D.C., the group reached Milford, Conn., in the middle of the night. As McCarthy dozed off in the back seat, the driver made a critical mistake.

"The (driver) must've been jealous," he said. "He slept in the front seat."

The car veered off the road, hitting a barrier and flipping over. He woke up pinned down by the vehicle, which was laying on its roof.

"He has a broken neck!" a paramedic boomed.

Even in his condition, McCarthy knew it wasn't true.

"Take it easy," he said. "I've got a broken leg."

Sure enough, he did. He broke both his tibia and fibula in his leg | plus seven ribs | and suffered a concussion. The ensuing rush to the emergency room left him dazed. He does, however, remember a pretty nurse who he jokingly serenaded.

"If I'm going to heaven," he told her, "I'm taking this angel with me."

Alas, when he woke up, "The angel wasn't there." He spent the next six months recovering at Chelsea Naval Hospital in Boston. And although his injuries made a trip to Vietnam impossible, he saw the war's toll on a daily basis. A young soldier, burned in a firefight in Danang, was in the bed next to his. The man's cast, McCarthy said, went from his armpits to his ankles.

It was an excruciating time.

"It was much, much different in the '60s," he said.

"Soldiers came back alone. They were vilified, not glorified."

Still, McCarthy considered himself lucky. His high school sweetheart Teddi, who was in nursing school at the time, visited regularly. They married in 1971, soon after he wrapped up his military service.

Today, when he hears about soldiers from Massachusetts dying overseas, he's taken back to the 1960s, when he could've met the same fate.

"It brings up," he said, "A lot of old memories."

In 1974, after three years of night classes, McCarthy earned his degree from Boston State College (which later became UMass Boston) and took his first teaching job at North Andover's Kittredge Elementary School.

Nine years later, after getting his master's degree at UMass Lowell and moving on to teach social studies at the middle school, he began coaching the high school girls JV soccer team.

"I figured, well, maybe I'd coach girls and switch (to boys)," said the longtime Chelmsford resident, who has three grown children; Keith (36), Kristin (32) and Kevin (28). Four years later, he realized he was enjoying himself too much. He took over the girls varsity team in 1987.

Soccer was a childhood love, but he realized that his knowledge of the sport was not all-encompassing.

To remain relevant as a coach, he'd have to learn more.

"It wasn't about his ego," said Tracy Noonan (now Ducar), a star goalie for North Andover from 1987-90. "It was about doing what was good for the players."

When Noonan was a freshman, McCarthy realized she was different. Her talent and work ethic, which eventually landed her at the University of North Carolina and then the United States Women's National Team, made her an exceptional player.

"He recognized his knowledge about goalkeeping was limited," said Noonan, who runs a goalie camp in Raleigh, N.C. "He worked really hard to increase his knowledge. He was very open about asking me about what I needed. For your coach to have that ability, to be that open, I think that says a lot about him."

He's also the rare adult who can relate to teenagers without, well, trying too hard.

"You can make fun of him," said three-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star Kara Rogato, who just finished her first season playing at Worcester State, "and he'll give it right back." Unlike a lot of high school coaches, McCarthy would rather tell a story or deliver a one-liner than raise his voice. His players may not have believed that Arnold Palmer hit McCarthy with a tee shot at the Bob Hope Classic in 1968, but he has the newspaper clipping to prove it.

Rogato remembers one instance where McCarthy claimed "Army" was an acronym for "Aren't ready for the Marines." He even had his rivals in stitches.

The annual Andover-North Andover girls soccer match-up used to involve a bet.

The losing coach would have to buy the other dinner. Retired Golden Warriors coach Dick Loschi remembers the first year they made the wager. Andover won, and McCarthy said he'd pick something up for the two coaches to share. McCarthy met Loschi and smiled.

"You want dinner?" McCarthy said, "OK, here's your dinner." McCarthy then tossed him a frozen entree.

"That's the way his mind works," Loschi said.

"I would love my kids to play for him." Emily Vento doesn't mince words. The North Andover captain-elect, like her sister Liz before her, has enjoyed playing for McCarthy.

At 58, he acknowledged that the end of his coaching career may be near. But he's not ready to stop (he retired from teaching two years ago) yet.

With a 302-73-43 career record, the only thing missing from his resume is a state title.

"Bud's a professional," Loschi said. "He was fair to the girls. He tried to give everybody a chance whenever he could. He took it as a game, not a matter of life and death."

McCarthy has seen too much to approach coaching any other way. Loschi's favorite McCarthy story illustrates that point.

During one Andover-North Andover game, a Scarlet Knights player went down with an injury. She screamed, which prompted McCarthy to sprint onto the field to check on her.

A referee, citing an archaic rule, ejected McCarthy from the game.

"You have to leave the facility," the ref said.

So McCarthy left, walking the 75 or so yards to the parking lot as slow as he could.

"I really think the turtle would've beaten him," Loschi said. "He turned, waved and grinned. He wouldn't lose his temper and say what he was really thinking.

"It was the stroll of a lifetime."

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