The fleeting major lacrosse coaching change

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Back on the old blog site that was ditched last week, one of the last posts had to do with the firing of North Carolina coach John Haus and some sort of mention of how rare it is for such a high-profile job to swing open.

But just how rare is it, really?

Since little puzzles like that can be fun in a researchy kind of way, I put together some reasonable parameters for narrowing things down. Check the last 10 seasons (1999-2008) and find every school that reached at least three NCAA tournaments. That cast down a net wide enough to bring in a pretender or two, but it also ensured none of the really, really good gigs was ignored. Ultimately, no quarterfinalist since 1997 was left out, so no was unfairly omitted.

In all, 22 schools have made three postseasons in the last decade. Nine of them – Delaware, Georgetown, Massachusetts, Navy, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Princeton, UMBC and Virginia – have not made coaching changes in that stretch.

That leaves 17 coaching changes among the other 13 schools since the end of the 1998 season. Two of the hires – Albany’s Scott Marr and Providence’s Chris Burdick – took over programs with pretty much zero history of extended success and built solid teams themselves. So that leaves just 15 significant job openings in 10 years.

Make that 14, because Syracuse stayed inside the family to hire assistant John Desko to replace Roy Simmons Jr. after the 1998 season. Four titles later, that’s worked out OK.

So here’s the remaining baker’s dozen-plus-one in sort-of chronological order and a look at how they’ve worked out:


1998 Hopkins: The Blue Jays dumped Tony Seaman after consecutive quarterfinal departures and plucked John Haus (a former Hopkins assistant) from Division III Washington College. Haus made a couple final fours, while Seaman …

1998 Towson: After longtime coach Carl Runk retired, the Tigers hired the briefly unemployed Seaman to revitalize their program. There was a final four appearance in 2001 and five NCAA trips in a decade. There has not been a victory over Hopkins, Seaman’s bete noire.

2000 North Carolina: Exhibit A (and there are more to come) that like in football and basketball, sometimes one opening can blossom into two or three. The Tar Heels finally tired of Dave Klarmann’s mediocrity, so they hired Haus away from Hopkins to revive the program. You know how this story ends. Meanwhile …

2000 Johns Hopkins: When the job opened at Homewood in ‘98, Dave Pietramala had one year of experience as a head coach. With two more years at Cornell and a turnaround well underway up in Ithaca, the Hop made a decision that could pay off for a long while. Petro has two national titles and six final fours to his credit. Petro has a 96-25 record in eight years at his alma mater, and at age 40 it is hard to see him going anywhere for quite some time.

2000 Cornell: OK, so the Big Red lost a fabulous coach in Pietramala. But Cornell followed the time-tested method of elevating the top assistant, and Jeff Tambroni has delivered six postseason appearances in the last seven years.

2001 Hobart: Yep, the Statesmen have been to three NCAA tournaments in the last 10 years. They were outscored 46-12 in those appearances, so maybe it’s best to forget. In this case, B.J. O’Hara was ousted in part because he couldn’t win a title every year like Dave Urick did in the 1980s. Hobart went and hired away one of Urick’s assistants at Georgetown, Matt Kerwick, to replace O’Hara.

2001 Maryland: Time for another domino effect. “Big Man” Edell (the first name omitted since the new G-rated blogging system will not permit the use of the shortened version of the name Richard) retired in early September, and less than four weeks later Dave Cottle was hired away from Loyola. Cottle has six tournament appearances and three final fours to his credit, but Maryland is still seeking its first title since 1975.

2001 Loyola: Of course, the Greyhounds would love for the record books to claim six tournament appearances and three final fours since the 2002 season. Instead, those numbers are two and zero. The Greyhounds hired Bill Dirrigl away from Rutgers and wound up with no NCAA berths and one lawsuit claiming breach of contract and defamation as a result of his four-year stint.

2005 Army: Jack Emmer retired. Former Emmer assistant Joe Alberici, who helped Duke reach the national title game in 2005, took over. Pretty simple.

2006 Duke: You might have heard about this one. Hofstra’s John Danowski took over mid-soap opera in Durham and took the Blue Devils to back-to-back final fours.

2006 Hofstra: To fill Danowski’s spot, the Pride lured top Hopkins assistant Seth Tierney up to Long Island. He reached his first postseason this year, dropping a 10-4 decision to Hopkins in the first round.

2008 Hobart: Yes, Hobart still counts, despite the bizarre six-day voyage to Division III and back that would have made Jules Verne proud. Kerwick is out and former Limestone coach (and, for this past season, Hobart assistant) T.W. Johnson is in.

2008 North Carolina: Arguably the most fascinating coaching opening at this time of year since 2000, given the odd timing of the Maryland gig becoming vacant in ‘01 and the unusual nature of the Duke coaching search in 2006.

The job in Chapel Hill isn’t the sideshow of what unfolded in Durham two years ago. Nothing is. But it’s still rare in its own right – and might just be the first of a couple dominos to fall in the next month or so.

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