Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Lacrosse's assistant coach carousel
By Quint Kessenich
The current Division I landscape features a host of young, first-time head coaches who have recently come off high-level assistant jobs. Guys such as Hofstra's Seth Tierney, Harvard's John Tillman, Army's Joe Alberici, Ohio State's Nick Myers, Albany's Scott Marr and Lehigh's Kevin Cassese all have done well early in their head-coaching careers.
Binghamton's Ed Stephenson, Loyola's Charlie Toomey, Vermont's Ryan Curtis, St. John's Jason Miller, VMI's Jeff Shirk and Siena's Brian Brecht also are among this crop of first-time Division I head coaches.
There also are talented Division I assistants, such as Virginia's Marc Van Arsdale, Syracuse's Lelan Rogers and Navy's Stan Ross, who have been head coaches at the collegiate level, and veteran assistants, such as Dave Slafkosky of Maryland and Kevin Donahue of Syracuse, who appear to be fixtures -- content and thriving in their current roles.
But in looking for the next wave of head coaches, a strong group of young Division I assistants are making their mark in understudy roles.
Here's a few to keep an eye on (in alphabetical order):
Defensive coordinator, Hofstra
Amplo played defense for coach John Danowski at Hofstra and immediately got into coaching as a graduate assistant. He was the second assistant at Penn for coach Matt Hogan and took the head assistant position under Danowski at Hofstra.
He excels in the man-down defense, clearing and defensive phases of the game. He has a vision of what the Pride defense should look like.
Amplo also has strong recruiting ties on Long Island and has built relationships throughout a decade as assistant coach. Amplo played at Sachem High in Suffolk County.
Amplo is intense on game day, as if he wants to strap on a Hofstra helmet and suit up himself. He's the type of coach whom players rally around. His style fits the Hofstra mold.
Offensive coordinator, Johns Hopkins
Benson was a high-scoring crease attackman for Johns Hopkins under coach Dave Pietramala and graduated in 2003. He began coaching at Loyola College and UMBC before arriving at his alma mater prior to the 2007 season. He was instrumental in the Blue Jays' 2008 NCAA title run and consistently has produced high-percentage extra-man statistics.
Benson wears Teflon on game days, remaining cool and calm under pressure. He is a strategic thinker who possesses an analytical mind and is at ease in front of the dry-erase board, diagramming X's and O's. He has adapted well to the personnel changes an offensive coordinator often sees from year to year. Hopkins has shifted from a midfield-dominated offense to an attack-dominated group seamlessly in one year.
Defensive coordinator, Notre Dame
Byrne is an excellent recruiter, focusing on developing relationships with high school coaches and emerging talent. He has high ethical standards and is willing to spend extra time connecting with the student-athletes in South Bend as young adults first and athletes second. He values the coach-player relationship, winning aside.
In 2007, Byrne returned to the Fighting Irish program, and since his return, they are 40-8 and have been a top-five defensive team. He has tweaked his defensive schemes to capitalize on outstanding goalie play from Joey Kemp and Scott Rodgers -- keeping opponents on the perimeter while clogging up the slot. Byrne is a 1986 graduate of UMass who played defense for legendary coach Dick Garber. The Levittown, N.Y., native has a master's in business administration from Notre Dame.
Offensive coordinator, Loyola
Chemotti was a hard-nosed midfielder at Duke, playing under coach Mike Pressler. He tore his ACL early this summer while playing for the Washington Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse. He's honest, with strong character and values, a hard worker who does his job quietly. That's the type of team player he was at Duke and the type of coach he is.
Chemotti loves the sport and his work. He is a native of Skaneateles, N.Y., and played for coach Mike Messere at West Genesee High. Messere's coaching family tree continues to grow across the lacrosse landscape.
Associate head coach, Cornell
DeLuca has been an assistant coach at Cornell for 10 years. He was promoted to associate head coach after the 2007 season and is one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in Division I lacrosse. It's widely believed that he turned down the Princeton head-coaching job this summer. The Rochester, N.Y., native played at Cornell for both Richie Moran and Dave Pietramala. He has been the defensive coordinator at Cornell for the past seven years and annually has one of the most well-coached units in the nation. Watching Cornell play defense, you get a keen sense of a program that focuses on the details -- alignment, assignment and technique. There are very few gray areas, and everybody operates on the same page. DeLuca is a keen motivator who has turned some marginal talent into productive players -- athletes who have shown improvement from freshman year to senior year.
Associate head coach, Johns Hopkins
Dwan works the box on Saturdays like a maestro; Hopkins rarely gets substitution fouls. He's not a yeller or prone to losing his cool on a player or referee. He offers positive feedback and is the ideal complement to fiery head coach Dave Pietramala.
Dwan is an excellent listener. He helps Pietramala coordinate the defense and is the Blue Jays' video coordinator, compiling scouting reports and burning DVDs. Dwan was a three-time All-American defenseman for Johns Hopkins, graduating in 1991 after playing under coaches Don Zimmerman and Tony Seaman. The Yorktown, N.Y., native was an assistant for Dave Cottle in 1992 and 1995 at Loyola College before joining Pietramala's staff at Homewood Field.
Defensive coordinator, Duke
Chris Gabrielli's strengths are teaching fundamentals and basic defensive concepts. Duke keeps things simple on the defensive end of the field and rarely changes tactics, instead forcing opponents to adapt to the way the Devils want to play defense. They play a vanilla style of defense and do not beat themselves with excessive complexity -- but more importantly, they show up motivated and ready to play.
Gabrielli played defense for coach Greg Cannella at UMass, finishing up in 2001, and coached at his alma mater from 2003 to 2005. In 2006, he worked under Stan Ross at Butler. He joined Duke's staff before the 2007 season.
Faceoffs, goalies and substitution coach, Cornell
Georgalas was an All-Ivy performer for the Big Red and graduated in 2005. He's an impressive young man and may one day find himself in charge of a Division I program. He has the DNA to be an excellent head coach: His father, Ted, was a longtime high school coach at Mahopac in Westchester County, N.Y., and also led MLL's New Jersey Pride. Georgalas has worn a variety of hats already as an assistant coach -- working with faceoff men and goalies, manning the box and coordinating recruiting. He isn't flashy, but his confidence and perspective will grow each season.
Offensive coordinator, North Carolina
Myers spent three years as the offensive coordinator at Bucknell before becoming the chief assistant at North Carolina. He graduated from the Ohio State in 2003, where he played for current Tar Heel coach Joe Breschi. A native of Maine, Myers played four years for MLL's Boston Cannons.
Myers did an outstanding job in 2009, especially during the second half of the season. The Tar Heels put up big goal totals in late April and May. Myers is known for a structured approach, intensity and persistence.
Raymond has the lineage to be a top-caliber Division I coach. He played defense under Dave Pietramala at Johns Hopkins, winning the 2005 NCAA title. He was an assistant coach at Princeton for three seasons for Bill Tierney and most recently on the staff at Drexel for Chris Bates, who has said he is bringing Raymond with him to Princeton. (The school has yet to announce such a move.) The Corning, N.Y., product also played three seasons for the New Jersey Pride.
Everybody loves Raymond: his players, coaches, parents and recruits. He is mature beyond his age.
Assistant coach, Harvard
Warne is highly respected among Division I head coaches for his work ethic, passion and energy as well as his professional and meticulous approach. He worked under Don Zimmerman at UMBC before joining the Harvard staff. He was in a great situation at UMBC but chose to see the potential under John Tillman at Harvard.
When I watch Warne in practice and on Saturdays, I see a coach who loves his players, and they love him back. You can't fake that loyalty. Warne is a 2000 graduate of Hofstra University, where he played for John Danowski.
Quint Kessenich covers lacrosse for the ESPN family of networks. He welcomes your e-mails at Quint @insidelacrosse.com. For more on college lacrosse, check out Inside Lacrosse.