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Gibson steps down as Comets head coach

Gibson has been the one constant for the Comets



Leo Gibson Credit: Thad Bell

The Kansas City Comets announced Leo Gibson is stepping down as the Head Coach of the organization. Gibson has been the player/coach since the 2019/20 season. Gibson served as an assistant on the coaching staff from 2017 through 2019 before stepping up to lead. Throughout his career and even while coaching, Gibson was consistently at the top of the Comets and the league in scoring.

Gibson was one of the first players signed when the Comets returned to play in 2010 and has been a key part of the success of the team ever since. He helped lead them to the 2013/14 MISL Championship, multiple division championships, and playoff runs.  The Liberia native leads the modern Comets in goals, assists, appearances, and total points.

While Gibson consistently led the Comets in scoring, he was the consummate team player. As one of the best target forwards in the league, he was often called on to shore up the defense, play midfield or the sixth attacker. Whatever was needed to help the team, Gibson played the position at an extremely high level.

During Gibson’s leadership as head coach, the Comets never suffered a losing regular-season record and reached the Ron Newman Cup playoffs including two semi-final appearances, in each season except 2019-20 when the postseason was canceled due to COVID-19.

As a coach, Gibson has a 41-38 league record with a 47-44 overall and the 2nd most games coached. As a player, he has 254 games played in the regular season with 300 goals, and 275 assists. Adding in the playoffs, 291 games played, 328 goals and 291 assists. (Stats courtesy of resident Kansas City Soccer historian and KC Soccer Journal contributor Mike Kuhn.)

Comets’ owner Brian Budzinski summed up what Gibson’s leadership and efforts have meant to him and the organization via press release, “I can’t begin to express my personal gratitude for Leo. As the Head Coach, he led the team through some of the most trying times and he did so with class and professionalism. The Kansas City Comets organization will always be indebted to Leo Gibson.”

Gibson not only lead the team on the field and from the bench, he was a fan favorite and always had the longest line for autographs. Fans loved his ability and passion on the field but also loved how fan-friendly he was as well.

What’s next for Gibson?

The press release states that Gibson will focus on his family and his charity, Kick for Christ. Gibson and Worteh Sampson founded the charity over 20 years ago with the purpose of using soccer and faith to reach young people. Kick for Christ’s current projects include building a school in Gibson’s native Liberia.

It is unknown if Gibson will continue to play or retire from the game completely. As the coach the last few years he continued to play despite wanting to limit his own time so he could focus on coaching. Injuries, visa issues and other factors kept him playing a full-time shift most. Despite being one of the oldest players in the league, Gibson was in the top ten in assists and total points in the Eastern Conference while always being pulled in multiple directions as coach and player.

The Comets will give him all the time he needs to decide his future. A club legend deserves no less.

What’s next for the Comets?

There have been just four coaches spread over five different stints for the modern version of the Comets. Kim Roentved, Vlatko Andonovski, Goran Karadjov, Roentved again and Gibson. While they have not announced a new coach, they have identified a target and it is expected a new coach will be named in the next few weeks.

It is doubtful they will bring any of the previous coaches back, Roentved is probably past coaching at this point and Andonovski is a little busy with the US Women’s National team. Karadjov is also busy with several coaching jobs.

A likely candidate would be former player and assistant coach Stefan Stokic. The Serbian native was a standout player, and youth coach and it would make sense for the Comets to promote from within. Stokic retired due to injuries and often filled in for Gibson. He was the normal gameday head coach with Gibson on the field and was the coach interviewed for the broadcast at halftime.

IF and when Gibson retires from the game

There will be a day when Gibson retires from playing. Gibson has meant so much to the Comets and the community through his coaching and charitable efforts in both of his homes, Kansas City and Liberia. Whether that is now or sometime in the future, the Comets should have a banner ready to hang from the rafters to honor him as soon as it is official.


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