Logan Emory sat in a team film session with Toronto FC coach Aron Winter in 2012, and as the former Inter Milan captain and Dutch national player held court, Emory soaked up all he could.
He didn’t know when, but the first Idaho-born Major League Soccer player knew he’d return home to coach one day. And few in the world have access to the insights offered in that room.
“I remember thinking, ‘I can use this,’ ” Emory said. “ ‘I know that I’m going to be a coach at some point in Boise. How can I translate what he’s telling me now — this guy who played in World Cups — how can I translate this to Centennial High School. How can I combine this with what I know and hopefully help other kids benefit from this.’ ”
Emory began translating those messages this fall, when he took over the boys program at Centennial, returning to the field where he led the Patriots to back-to-back state titles as a player in 2004 and ’05.
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Those messages have gotten through so far as Centennial (8-0-1, 5-0-1 5A SIC) stands alone in first place, the only unbeaten team left in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference.
But Emory deflects the credit.
“For me, that’s been a huge thing. This isn’t about me,” Emory, 27, said. “It’s not about me trying to come back and win state as a coach. It’s not about me coming back and trying to do anything as a coach other than share what I learned.”
Emory’s path from the fields behind Centennial to the pros deviated far from what anyone would consider a typical one. The defender played at the University of Portland while also suiting up in Spokane and Portland for semi-pro teams.
He made his pro debut in 2010 for the Puerto Rico Islanders in the USSF Division 2 Professional League, a circuit that lasted one year. He remained in Puerto Rico in 2011 as the club joined the North American Soccer League, the second-highest league in the U.S.
In 2012, he signed with Toronto FC of the MLS, where he played 26 games over two seasons before finishing his career with the San Antonio Scorpions, an expansion NASL club, and the Los Angeles Galaxy II in the third-tier United Soccer League.
He volunteered as a Centennial assistant coach in 2013 during his offseason, and the team invited him to speak at its end-of-the-season banquet in 2014. That’s where he learned Brian Gillenwater planned to resign, and Centennial Athletic Director Jon Watson told him the job was his if he wanted it.
Emory stayed with his parents in the offseason and still hit the gym twice a day to train. He doubted if he was ready to give up his playing career. But in January, his mind started to wander.
“There are still people calling and asking if I want to play,” Emory said. “But I don’t know. For me, I got to where I wanted to be. I wanted to play MLS. When I got there, there were more things I wanted to do, obviously. You want to play in the World Cup. You want to play for the national team. You want to go play for Manchester United.
“But then you start to understand why you want to do things, and is it worth it? A lot of guys I’ve played with, they’re 32, 33, no family, no friends in one location, no home.
“I did it and I had a chance to make my dreams come true. Maybe it didn’t end like I wanted it to, but I was kind of like, ‘Is that my time? Has my chance come and gone?’ And now I can come back and maybe share something with these guys to maybe light a fire under them to make sure they can chase their dreams as well.”
Emory bought a house in June and works as an accountant at Jitasa, a firm that works with nonprofits, in Downtown Boise. He still misses playing, but coaching provides a fix, and he can join in drills with his team when he’s really jonesing.
Senior attacking midfielder Bekir Cinac said Emory has brought a professional feel to the program, from drills he learned at the highest levels to the tone of practice.
“Before practice, he can goof around,” Cinac said. “But as soon as practice starts, the minute practice starts, he’s focused. So we can’t fool around. All the way until the end, he’s focused.”
Senior center back Kannan Walter jokes that he’s played the afro-ed version of Emory in FIFA video games. But he added lessons from Emory carry extra weight because of his background.
“He knows the game at a professional level, and I knew that would help us as a team just because you have someone who is so new to the game and knows the new ways that they play,” Walter said.
Those lessons were foreign to Emory himself until he reached that film room with Winter in Toronto. Coming from Idaho, he said coaches and players pushed him. But he didn’t have access to the advanced lessons in technique, shape and tactics Winter treated as so basic.
That’s an obstacle he wants to clear for players now coming through Centennial.
“Hopefully, you can start to show them that there are doors open, or at least that could be opened,” Emory said. “That’s my thing. I want to be able to do what I can to help these kids have some of the experiences that I did. I want to be able to help open doors.”