Riverhounds SC’s Bob Lilley was named the 2023 USL Championship Coach of the Year, with the legendary head coach claiming the honor for the second time in the USL Championship era after leading the Hounds to the Players’ Shield with the best record in the 2023 regular season.
Now in his third decade on the sidelines, Lilley guided the Hounds to the top of the Eastern Conference standings for the second time in the past five seasons. Pittsburgh suffered a league-fewest five defeats in the regular season, conceded the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference (29), and recorded 67 points – an average of 1.97 per game across the 34-game schedule.
The Hounds’ position as a postseason contender has been a hallmark of Lilley’s six-year tenure at the club. Having previously only advanced to the playoffs in consecutive seasons once prior to Lilley’s arrival in 2018, the side has now reached the USL Championship Playoffs in six consecutive campaigns.
In addition to the club’s league success, the Hounds also advanced to the Quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the first time since 2001, defeating the New England Revolution and Columbus Crew SC – sides that finished fifth and third respectively in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference this season – along the way.
“We had a very good season, and it couldn’t have happened without the effort of our whole coaching staff, Dan Visser and Jon Busch, as well as the tremendous support ownership and the front office provided to allow us to build a winning team,” Lilley said. “Our players worked hard all season and bought in to how we wanted to play, and it was through the contributions of everyone involved that we were able to win the Players’ Shield this season.”
Honored previously as Coach of the Year in 2015, when he led the Rochester Rhinos to the Players’ Shield and USL Championship title, Lilley is the second coach in the Championship era to win the award twice alongside former Orlando City SC Head Coach Adrian Heath, who won the award in 2011 and 2012. The 57-year-old has also become the league’s all-time leader in coaching victories, currently holding an overall regular season record of 163-66-97 in the Championship era.
Overall, Lilley has been named Coach of the Year five times in the Championship and its predecessor leagues — in 1997 with the Hershey Wildcats, 2003 with the Montreal Impact and in both 2010 and 2015 with the Rhinos. With 357 wins at the professional level, Lilley has the most wins of any active coach in U.S. Soccer. Lilley also has a 106-42-55 record in his six years leading the Riverhounds, giving him the most wins and best winning percentage in club history.
Lilley received 61 percent of the ballot to earn this year’s award. Charleston Battery head coachBen Pirmann finished second on 20 percent after leading his new club to a league-record 34-point improvement on the way to a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference, and an eventual berth in the 2023 USL Championship Final, while Sacramento Republic FC’s Mark Briggs finished third on nine percent as he led his side to the top of the Western Conference. Seven individuals received votes overall.
The 2023 USL Championship Awards were voted on by club management and a league-wide media panel that included representation from every USL market, including Pittsburgh Soccer Now‘s John Krysinsky.