After the playing days: Pilot coaches who played in the pros

By Jamison White | February 22, 2018 2:05pm
Michelle French found success professionally as both a player and a coach after leaving University of Portland.
Media Credit: University of Portland Athletics / The Beacon

The University of Portland’s athletic department is filled with coaches who were exceptional players in their respective times and sports. From an NBA All-Star to playing soccer on the world’s largest stage. Here are some of their experiences.

Nick Carlin-Voigt:

Nick Carlin-Voigt played professionally in both Mexico and Germany before coming to University of Portland
by Jeff Braccia / The Beacon

Before taking the reins of the men’s soccer program at the University of Portland, Carlin-Voigt had a stint as a professional soccer player. He started his professional career in Mexico. Carlin-Voigt had previously practiced with the Chapulineros de Oaxaca during his time playing at Kalamazoo but when he told his future teammates that he would eventually make the team, they were more than skeptical.

“I was lucky enough to play as an undergraduate assistant in Oaxaca, Mexico,” Carlin-Voigt said. “They wouldn’t let me train with the team because I was American but I think I proved myself and was allowed to be with the team.”

After making the team, Carlin-Voigt’s time in Mexico was cut short by an unfortunate knee injury that would render him unable to continue. However, the then 24-year-old player did not let this injury end his career and took his talents to Germany where he was on trial with Osnabruck in the third division. 

Even though this was short-lived, the experience was one that will stick with Carlin-Voigt forever. 

“Being in a different culture and not being fluent in Spanish; how welcoming all the players were, they made me feel at home,” he said.

Despite his lofty aspirations as a player, Carlin-Voigt said that coaching has always been part of his life plan.

“My long-term goal was always to be a coach,” Carlin-Voigt said. “The coach has the ability to influence the culture and create an environment that will get the most out of each player.”

Terry Porter

Terry Porter was a two time all-star during his long 17 year career in the NBA.
by Annika Gordon / The Beacon

Head men’s basketball coach Terry Porter came into his job at University of Portland with a lot of weight to his name. The two-time NBA All-Star spent seventeen seasons in the NBA, including 10 right here in the Rose City.

Like many professional athletes, Porter’s dream was realized on draft day. Early on though, while many draftees were hearing their name get called, Porter was not. Porter was at a draft party for the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that said that they would draft him if he fell to them with the 22nd pick in the 1985 NBA draft. However, they selected Jerry Reynolds instead. 

Porter would later find out from a security guard that he was selected with the last pick in the first round by The Portland Trail Blazers. 

“To this day I haven’t seen that exact scenario where the commissioner said ‘The Portland Trailblazer select Terry Porter,’” Porter said. “At that time I had no idea about the state of Oregon and that they had a basketball team because our paths never crossed in the post-senior college events.”

After being selected, Porter went on to play with some all-time NBA greats in his 17-year career. Porter played for four teams in his career, including the Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat before ending his career in San Antonio with The Spurs. When playing with so many legends, picking a favorite can be hard.

“Clyde Drexler, for me to be able to play with a player of that stature, I’d love to go back and play with him again,” Porter said. “Tim Duncan would be a guy that comes to my mind right away and Kevin Garnett… great guys and great teammates.” 

Coach Porter learned many things in his career, but a few stand out. Taking advantage of his professional career, Porter has taken many lessons into his coaching career.

“Personal experience from how you guard a situation and ask myself, ‘You’ve had this before what do I do?’ and this makes up my defensive philosophy, my offensive philosophy and how to build a team and have everyone buy into one mission and goal and how we are going to achieve it.”

Michelle French

Michelle French went on to play for the U.S. Women's National Team after a stellar college career with the Pilots.

The newest head coach at University of Portland, Michelle French, is many things, including an Olympic medalist, a former Pilot All-American and United States women’s soccer national team assistant coach. But most of all, French is a winner. 

French played in some huge games for the Pilots in her career, including three NCAA final fours. This was helpful in her transition into professional soccer, as she took her winning mindset with her into a long and successful professional career.

“The level of professionalism and the expectations that the coaching staff and your teammates have on you to show up every day, whether it’s show up and perform or show up and compete,” French said.

French comes back to the Bluff with incredible experience at higher levels, including winning a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Despite all the huge games and moments French has been a part of, her favorite moment of them all goes back to her days as a Pilot.

“I am very grateful for all the experiences I had as a pro, but senior year of college when we didn’t have many names on our roster and we got to the final four, that was one of my most proud moments,” French said. “We were so close as a group and it propelled us to be successful.” 

As French takes the reigns of the women’s soccer team, she looks to put it back on track after a disappointing 2017 campaign and return it to the powerhouse program it was back when she balled out on The Bluff. 

Maite Zabala

Maite Zabala played for multiple pro teams after a successful career at Cal-Berkley.

Maite Zabala, another former professional player, is also joining the coaching staff of the women’s soccer team. Zabala played her collegiate soccer at University of California where she became the Golden Bears’ all-time leader in multiple statistical categories, including career shutouts and career saves. 

Zabala said her favorite moment as a pro came in the state of California as she got to play in front of some of her biggest fans. 

“My favorite moment playing at San Jose State against the San Jose CyberRays in the stadium with all my friends there from Cal,” Zabala said.

Zabala brings many years of coaching experience to The Bluff as she spent the last three with Boise State. 

Zabala’s pro career started when she was selected in the first round of the Women's United Soccer Association by the Atlanta Beat. She spent three seasons with the Beat before playing her final season of professional soccer with Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Liga.

Zabala was usually the backup throughout her professional career, but she earned her minutes and spot on both teams through hard work. However, these experiences have turned Zabala into a more successful coach. 

“As a player I ran the gamut as being a starter to not playing and that gave me a better appreciation for all the keepers I work with because of that and it's my job, understanding what it's like not starting, I think its made me more complete of a coach, making sure all the goalkeepers are valued and improving” Zabala noted.

Alongside heach coach Michelle French and other capable assistants, such as Rachel Rapinoe and Dominic Doty, Zabala looks to bring success back to the Bluff for the women’s soccer program. 

Contact sports reporter Jamison White at