- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — As the father of a Duke lacrosse player, John Danowski read every headline about the allegations of rape that ended the Blue Devils’ season, forced their coach to resign and led to the indictment of three of his son’s teammates.

But none of those headlines scared the longtime Hofstra lacrosse coach from accepting the challenge of leading the Blue Devils as they start to rebuild.

“Bad things happen sometimes,” Danowski said yesterday as he was introduced as Duke’s new coach. “You get stronger, you learn and improve, or you can go the other way. But certainly here, it appears to me that everybody’s working really hard to learn from past experiences and push forward.”

Danowski, whose son Matt is a Duke senior and an All-American attackman for the Blue Devils, will take over for Mike Pressler, who resigned soon after a woman told police she was raped by three men at a March team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper.

A grand jury has indicted three players — Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J.; Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y.; and David Evans, 23, of Bethesda — on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. Defense attorneys strongly have proclaimed the players’ innocence.

The rape allegations led Duke to first suspend the team from play and later cancel the season. They also led to criticism of the program and the players’ behavior, which included a history of problems tied to alcohol.

By bringing in Danowski — who was offered the job after meeting with university president Richard Brodhead on Thursday — Duke is hoping to put all that to rest.

“Today’s all about moving forward, not looking backwards,” said athletics director Joe Alleva.

In 21 seasons at Hofstra, Danowski compiled a record of 192-123, taking the Pride to the NCAA tournament in seven of the past 11 seasons. In his 24-year career, Danowski has a record of 219-139, making him one of eight active coaches in Division I with 200 wins.

“I think he’s the right man for the job, not only because he’s my father but [because] his track record speaks for itself,” Matt Danowski said. “It’s a step forward for our program, just to get back to a sense of normalcy. We’ve got a coach and everybody’s looking forward to late August to get back here and start playing again.”

Last year, Danowski led the Pride to a 17-2 record, matching an NCAA record for victories set by Duke the previous season. He had said it would take something pretty special to lure him away from the program he had led since 1986.

Ultimately, coaching Matt and the Blue Devils — who reached the national championship game in 2005 and were considered contenders for a national title in 2006 — fit that description.

“He has an opportunity to coach his son,” Hofstra athletics director Jack Hayes said. “Not too many people get that chance, so we certainly were understanding of his pursuit of the job.”

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