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John Tillman hired at Harvard

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HarvardJohn Tillman

\ Tills, one of the all-time good guys I’ve encountered anywhere, is incredibly deserving of this opportunity. He was the Mids’ offensive coordinator over the last several seasons, and it is impossible to separate his influence in maximizing the parts at his disposal and Navy’s rise back to a regular top-10 team since 2004. All those players on those teams? Yep, Tillman had a strong hand in recruiting them.\

\ I’ll miss the chance to pick his brain whenever I’m in Annapolis in the spring, not just about his team but of others as well. I usually made sure to get 15-to-20 minutes whenever I was working on a feature on a Navy player just to hear what he had to say on an array of topics. \

\ (I know I wasn’t alone in that thinking; Christian Swezey of The Washington Post usually employed the same strategy. Inevitably at the game the next weekend, we would say to each other “That’s what Tillman was talking about…” or “Tillman pointed that out…” at some juncture).\

\ I always came out of those discussions with a far better perspective of why Navy did some of the things it did and a better sense of why other teams were succeeding or struggling. And without fail, I left wondering why the heck someone hadn’t hired this guy to take over their program yet.\

\ Well, now Harvard has. And it was an absolute slam dunk.\

\ A lot of people in the lacrosse world consider the Crimson a sleeping giant. After all, Princeton collected six titles in a decade from 1992 to 2001, and Cornell (Tillman’s alma mater) is a traditional power. Why not Harvard, with its oodles of cash?\

\ For whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened. Harvard has one NCAA tournament appearance in the last decade, a shocking and highly debatable inclusion in 2006 that predictably ended with a rout at Syracuse in the first round. The Crimson hasn’t won a tournament game since 1996, and has just not been a factor on the national level.\

\ That might just be ready to change. I don’t honestly know enough about the support Harvard gives its program, though (a) there’s certainly more than enough money there to begin with and (b) the fact the school is hosting the final four next spring is incentive to get better quick. \

\ But I’m certain of this: Hiring Tillman is about as good a signal as the Crimson can give that they want to become a postseason regular. Maybe it won’t happen in 2008, but Harvard will be contending for NCAA berths in the years to come.\

\ — Patrick Stevens

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