- School District of Beloit
Beloit Memorial Boys Soccer Head Coach Brian Denu Reflects on 200 Career Wins
BELOIT—As a Beloit native and a fixture at helping out at an array of events at Beloit Memorial, Brian Denu has always put a huge emphasis on bettering the community.
So, it’s no surprise the Purple Knights boys soccer head coach said one of his proudest achievements over the past 14 seasons of coaching is the fact 29 of his former players have gone on to play at the collegiate level.
“Some of those kids wouldn’t have even considered going to college if it wasn’t with the opportunity to play soccer,” Denu said. “It’s neat to see them have that opportunity and run with it.”
Denu earned his 200th win when Beloit beat Racine Horlick 7-0 last Thursday night. The Beloit Catholic High School graduate, who has been the Knights head coach since 2009, has only had one losing season since taking over the program.
“When I started coaching, I didn’t think I’d be around long enough to even coach 200 games, let alone be fortunate enough to win 200,” he said. “But we’ve had really good players in the program. When we first started, really our goal was to beat the Janesville Parker and Craigs of the world. And then we said ‘Let’s go pick off Madison La Follette’, they were the next step.
“And then to see us have success against teams like Verona and Madison Memorial has been super exciting. When you’re capable of going up there and beating teams like that, it shows them what Beloit is all about.”
Denu played on the Crusaders’ soccer team but didn’t go on to play at the collegiate level.
His original plan was to go into journalism, but a coaching opportunity in the baseball world after his frosh year made him realize his love for coaching and working with the youth.
He has coached the Beloit junior legion and some basketball squads before taking over the Clinton High School girls soccer team in the infancy of the program.
Denu then became an assistant coach for both the boys and girls squads at Beloit Memorial for three seasons before taking over both teams in 2009.
Since then, he has had the opportunity to put the Knights on the Wisconsin soccer map.
In Denu’s first season, Beloit went 16-8-2 and won its first regional title since 1997 before falling 4-0 to Kenosha Temper in the sectional semifinals.
“That was the most wins in program history at the time,” Denu said. “It was a challenge because you’re playing teams that have kids who played club soccer growing up. But, there were also opportunities to do something special and work with kids who might not have that background, but have that fire in their belly.”
Denu has won five more regional titles since then, the next coming in 2014. That squad beat Kettle Moraine in a shootout to give the program its first ever sectional championship and earn the first trip to the state tournament, where it fell in a shootout to Menomonee Falls in the semifinals.
“That group was just extremely talented,” Denu said. “We had kids like Jose Gutierrez, who missed almost his entire junior year with an injury. So to have him back for his senior year was huge. Jose Barron was our all-time leading scorer. Ricardo Ramos and Alberto Martinez were on that team. We had two really good goalies during that stretch, but Luis Pedroza the last half of the season, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a goalkeeper play as well as he played.”
The Knights made it to the sectional finals in the COVID spring season of 2020, and last season they went 10-6-4 and earned a regional title with a shootout win over Madison Memorial before falling to Verona.
That team is a favorite of Denu’s as well, and it helps that his sons Baylor and Beckham were both a part of it. Baylor was a member All-Big Eight First-Team and he will play for Division I UW-Green Bay after redshirting his freshman season with an injury. Beckham is a stout goalie and his youngest son, freshman Banks, is the team’s leading scorer this season.
“It’s definitely a pretty special opportunity to be able to coach all three of them,” he said. “They all are very different players and have very different styles which is pretty cool. When I started coaching, I had no idea that I’d stick around long enough to coach them. I’m grateful for that opportunity.”
This season’s edition of the Knights are a younger team, consisting of mostly freshman and sophomore, and they are 3-5-2 so far.
“It’s cool to see the program continue to blossom,” Denu said. “Over the next few years we’ll keep it going and then pass the torch on to somebody who’s going to hopefully do the same.”