You don’t hear much about major changes in the Division I lacrosse coaching roster, and for good reason.
Those jobs don’t change hands very much.
Only four of the 57 Division I jobs swung open since the end of the season. That would be like a football season with only eight major-college changes or only 22 or 23 Division I basketball teams switching coaches.
And that’s normal. For lacrosse. Obviously not for football or basketball.
One of the gigs (Fairfield, where Ted Spencer will take an administrative gig as he continues to recover from a bout with cancer) is still open. The other two unfolded quite predictably.
* North Carolina fired John Haus at the end of May and did what it typically does when searching for a new lacrosse coach; it took a BATH (Best Available Tar Heel) and moved on with its business, hiring Joe Breschi away from Ohio State.
The strategy has backfired the last two times. Willie Scroggs stepped down as lacrosse coach in 1990, handed the program to top assistant Dave Klarmann and watched the Tar Heels win a national title in 1991. Before long, though, Klarmann ran the program into the ground and he was deposed in Y2K.
Haus, a North Carolina grad, was then brought in for eight years filled with few serious highs. The program is in far better shape than it was before he arrived, but he made no final fours and hadn’t beaten an ACC opponent since 2004.
Breschi (also a Carolina grad) was the logical choice from the start, even with some other names in play. So while it’s an important move, and it ought to work, it doesn’t exactly have a huge “WOW” factor.
* Ohio State was then faced with replacing Breschi, who guided the Buckeyes to their first victory in an NCAA tournament game this past season. There’s plenty of talent coming back, and a program still collecting such serious “firsts” is one that could use some stability.
That’s why the hiring of assistant Nick Myers made all the sense in the world. Sure, he beat out a field of once and current head coaches. But the second Breschi left for Chapel Hill, Myers was the most obvious fit in Columbus.
But there was one interesting twist, and that came at Marist, a program with one NCAA tournament appearance to its credit.
When the Red Foxes’ job came open in late 2004, Andrew Copelan received the nod. He was 18 months removed from his playing career at Bucknell at the time.
Once Copelan had left to become Dave Cottle‘s offensive coordinator at Maryland, James Simpson got the Marist job in January 2006. He was about 19 months removed from his playing career at Salisbury at the time.
Those aren’t huge surprises. For a smaller program on a limited budget, there’s no reason not to hire a young guy. There’s more folks who want to (and think they can) make a living as a lacrosse coach now than ever before. Why not roll the dice on one of them, especially when a guy like Copelan can land you in the postseason in his second year?
So it didn’t seem like a stretch after Simpson resigned to think Marist would just hire another guy who graduated some time this decade.
Instead, they got someone who owns three Division III national titles at Nazareth in Scott Nelson —- basically the exact opposite of a young guy seeking his first gig.
Nelson built Naz’s program from the ground up, and it was probably the best team in Division III from 1992 to 1998 (three titles, two runners-up). He didn’t fare quite so well at Brown, where the Bears rolled up a 34-47 in six seasons without a postseason appearance.
But for a school in a league (Metro Atlantic) to land a coach with that much experience —- even one who has been out of head coaching the last two years —- says something.
What that something is to be determined. But it does provide an interesting storyline to what otherwise would have been a fairly anonymous team next spring.
—- Patrick Stevens