February 14, 2012

Lambrecht: Pressure On Urick, Georgetown to Perform

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Dave Urick's Georgetown Hoyas haven't made the postseason the last four years, and finished last season with a .500 record for the second time in three seasons.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Dave Urick has won 338 games over 32 seasons as a head men's lacrosse coach at the NCAA level, including 216 victories during his 23-year tenure at Georgetown University. Before taking over an irrelevant program at Georgetown in 1989 – the Hoyas had not posted a winning season since their program's inception 20 years earlier – Urick had won 10 consecutive Division III national titles at Hobart.

Urick has coached more than 60 All-Americans at Georgetown, where the Hoyas have never finished with a losing record under him, while participating in 11 NCAA tournaments on his watch. Urick has been inducted into four Halls of Fame.

A 1970 graduate of Cortland State, where he was captain of both the football and lacrosse teams as a senior, Urick fairly can be called an iconic figure in his favorite sport.

And yet, as he prepares to take the Hoyas into the 2012 season, Urick acknowledges that the ice might be getting a little thin beneath him.

In a profession that has increasingly assumed a what-have-you-done-lately kind of feel in recent years – what with the huge growth of television in the college game – Georgetown has become one of the sport's glaring underachievers on the field.

Over the past four seasons, the Hoyas have been shut out of the postseason, and have a combined record of 32-23. That includes last year's 7-7 finish, Georgetown's second .500 finish in three years.

Remember the days when the prime complaint was the Hoyas couldn't win the big one under Urick? Over 11 seasons beginning in 1997, Georgetown made 11 NCAA tournaments, reached its one and only final four in 1999, and lost eight other times in the quarterfinals round. Nowadays, the Hoyas can't get a seat at the tournament table.

"I don't think we're obsessing over [the tournament misses]. But there is certainly an awareness of it. Is there pressure [to win]? Yes," Urick said. "Like somebody once said, the only thing you know for sure from the day you are hired is that somebody is probably going to fire you one day. Sure, that's a concern from my standpoint."

How could it not be? In the past two seasons, Urick has seen some pretty big names/friends go by the wayside in the coaching ranks. Last year, Navy's Richie Meade, Towson's Tony Seaman and Rutgers' Jim Stagnitta got the ax. A year earlier, Dave Cottle was forced to resign at Maryland, where he had taken the Terps to eight tournaments and three final fours in nine seasons.

As lacrosse coaches make more money than ever and seek more long-term security, administrators are applying more pressure to win. As a school with the rich academic standing of Georgetown fails to maintain the standards set on the lacrosse field under Urick, it makes one wonder if and how much the bosses are growing impatient with his stewardship. Clearly, the trend in Division I lacrosse is to pass more batons to the younger generation of coaches.

The Hoyas are not winning as many recruiting battles with the big boys as they used to, but they are still winning their share against the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Princeton and Virginia. But the results simply are not adding up as they once did, especially in a lacrosse world of growing parity, where unranked teams give top 10 opponents fits on any given Saturday.

"The only thing you know for sure from the day you are hired is that somebody is probably going to fire you one day."

-- Georgetown coach Dave Urick

Last year was especially damaging. Georgetown lost four games by a goal, produced one quality win (the regular-season finale against Villanova) and surrendered an average of 10.3 goals per game. A team that was built on stingy defense ranked 42nd in Division I in scoring defense. Defensive assistant Matt Rienzo voluntarily resigned at the end of the season to take a job at the University of District of Columbia. Matt Kerwick, who was on the staff during some of its best days from 1999-2001, is back after spending seven seasons at Hobart head coach and a two-year stint as Jacksonville head coach.

The Hoyas also suffered a big blow, when attackman Davey Emala, its best scorer, decided to transfer to North Carolina after his sophomore season.

All Urick can do is hope that a solid stock of talent bears fruit in a stacked Big East Conference, where Syracuse, Notre Dame and Villanova appear to be the best of the group.

All Urick must do is get the best years possible out of players such as attackmen Travis Comeau (30 goals in 2011) and Zac Guy – who had a promising year ruined by injury – get the most out of midfielders such as Zack Angel (15 goals) and Brian Casey (20 points) and coax a revival out of a defense led by long-stick midfielder Chris Nourse and senior goalie C.T. Fisher.

"The goals here don't change," Urick said. "We want to compete at the highest possible level, and we want to be competing at the end of the season. There is an expectation level that we haven't lived up to in a while."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Hoyas’ defensive struggles and 7-7 finish in 2011 cost former assistant Matt Rienzo his job. In fact, Rienzo voluntarily resigned to become the associate director of athletics for marketing and communications at the University of the District of Columbia. LaxMagazine.com regrets the error. 


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