November 1, 2012

Q&A: New Richmond Head Coach Dan Chemotti

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

New Richmond coach Dan Chemotti has hit the ground running, looking for recruits for the Spiders' spring 2014 start date.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

It’s been an exhilarating — albeit busy — couple days for newly announced Richmond coach Dan Chemotti, who on Monday accepted a position as the Spiders’ head man, as first reported by LaxMagazine.com.

“Just trying to keep my head above water,” Chemotti joked. “Not literally, maybe like we went through Monday with Hurricane Sandy, though we’re good now. But I’m really excited.”

Between phone calls — Chemotti dialed after getting off the phone with a potential recruit, and his (other) phone rang twice during a nearly 30-minute interview — Chemotti made time Wednesday afternoon to catch up with LaxMagazine.com for a Q&A detailing his decision and his enthusiasm for the program’s future.

The interview…

What’s your excitement level right now?
I’m really excited. It’s a very bittersweet time for me. Loyola is an easy to fall in love with. It’s such an amazing place. We have an amazing staff. The people who work here are incredible, and we have the best guys in the game. I really feel that way. Leaving them is not easy. That’s something that’s going to be hard, pulling out of Loyola the last time. But I’m very much excited to get my hands dirty and go to Richmond.

Right away, I’m trying to dive into the recruiting headfirst. The time of year makes thing pretty tricky, because of early decision. The early decision application deadline is right around the corner. There’s still a couple 2013 recruits that we’d like to encourage to apply early decision. Getting in touch with them, getting their academic stuff in order, and making sure I’m organized with the admissions process down at Richmond — these are all things that are very sensitive in regards to the timeliness of these decisions. Not making it easier, the month of November is the only month that we’re allowed to be out recruiting on the weekend. But obviously I’m excited about that. I’m excited to wear the new colors. I’m excited to be on the sidelines, and have people see those colors there. And I’m excited to put together my team. It’s going to be a challenge for sure, especially off the bat. But that’s a big reason why I took the job. I’m up for that challenge.

You’ve had opportunities come along in the past. What attracted you to Richmond?
It’s a beautiful place down there, first and foremost. In no particular order, it’s a tremendous academic school. Lacrosse is very fitting for the type of institution that Richmond is. The makeup of all Richmond students in mostly from the Northeast, from New England and from the Mid-Atlantic, and those are great areas to recruit from. In general, it’s a place where you walk around campus and feel a tremendous sense of pride. You walk around wearing the Richmond colors, and you have a reel sense of pride. I’m really excited to represent the university, because I think I can represent it the way they’re hopeful I can, and it represents myself, and some of the things I stand for as well. When you talk about the University of Richmond and lacrosse, I keep saying this: They’re a perfect fit for each other.

How about the facilities, Robins Stadium, and University support you’re receiving?
The stadium is beautiful. The pictures I saw online don’t do it justice. When I was there, it’s truly an incredible facility. I’m really excited to be playing games there. The other facilities are great as well. I never expected to be coming into a place that has Loyola- or Johns Hopkins-type facilities. The sport is new to them, it’s new to the school. I’m excited to have my fingerprints on the creation of new facilities, as the sport evolves with the University.

Do you see similarities between Richmond and Loyola? Mid-Atlantic, private institutions with strong academic reputations…
Very much so. The schools are very, very similar. At both places, the benefits of learning in smaller classrooms are evident, and that’s a great recruiting tool. In regards to facilities, Loyola has had a lacrosse program for a long time now and has established a great tradition, and they’ve earned tremendous facilities. I don’t think it’s fair to compare the facilities to each another right now. But when I walk around the Loyola campus, I have a lot of pride in saying that I work here, because it’s a fantastic place. When I walked around campus down at Richmond, I felt the same sense of pride. I love Loyola. I really do. It gave me a great feeling that I’m going to love it down at Richmond.

What has the timeline been like? When did you formally hear about the job opening? When did you think it could be a reality?
I was first informed this job might happen in late July, this summer, from a credible source. I was really excited, because I had always had some familiarity with the University of Richmond. I always said to myself, ‘Gosh, if that program goes Division I, I hope I’m in a position to interview for that job and be a potential candidate.’ The timing was good, and how it worked out for me. I went down to Richmond last Tuesday for my interview, and I was offered the job not long afterwards. I met with David Walsh, who’s the deputy athletic director down there. As people might know, there is a search for a new head athletic director, but David is a great resource for me. We were able to talk very openly throughout the process. His enthusiasm for this program, and for the university in general, was contagious. It really was contagious.

Through this decision-making process, were their coaches and mentors you were able to confide in?
I definitely have my guys that I confide in, and I’m very lucky to have them. They’re phenomenal resources. Coach Pressler and coach Alberici, those were my coaches when I was down at Duke. I’m very lucky to still have the relationship I do with them. Coach Sowell as well. Obviously coach Toomey, here at Loyola, I was talking to him about this everyday. I can’t thank him, and all of them, enough for being as supportive as they were. They were great. Kevin Cassese was definitely getting phone calls too. As much as I value their opinion, it was best just to think out loud with them, and get their insights on things I may not have thought about. But when it came down to the end, it was my decision. I’m very happy with the decision that I made.

What do you expect your head-coaching style to be? Everyone has talked about the offensive innovations at Loyola last year, but you’ve had a number of coaching stops along the way, from Dartmouth to St. John’s to Loyola…
I don’t see my philosophy or my coaching style changing at all. I see my level of patience changing a little bit. [Laughs.] But X’s and O’s wise, I’m still going to want to play fast, which we saw the benefits of last season. In regards to everything else, and this his comes from every coach I’ve worked with or played for: the attention to detail and the level of discipline, those will be the main fundamental concepts that are at the front of everything we do — practice, travel, you name it. That’s my style. That’s how I want our teams to be viewed. And that better translate to the field as well.

All indications are that Richmond will begin play in 2014. Still true?
Yes. That’s correct.

"Getting these 2013 recruits organized for the early decision deadline, that will be my top priority, being that’s Nov. 15. Everything else will have to go on a to-do list, which is getting pretty long."

— New Richmond coach Dan Chemotti

What are the orders of business then, as you have to get things going pretty quickly?
Gosh. Like I said earlier, recruiting is very time-sensitive, with the early decision deadline coming up, and figuring out which guys we want to purse early decision. But I’ll be honest, I wish I had a list organized to read off. There are 100 things that I’m trying to do right now. But No. 1, I want to make sure the transition for Loyola is smooth, and I want to help them as much as I can, but also not be in the way. That’s my first order of business. At the same time, I’ve been researching recruits, been talking to high school coaches, talking to recruits, ever since this decision was made, just trying to salvage some quality 2013 players that we think could contribute.

Helping Loyola through the transition, that’s out of respect for the program and coach Toomey?
Absolutely. It has everything to do with respect and loyalty. As great of an opportunity Richmond is, what made it such a hard decision is how great of a place that Loyola is. If I were anywhere else, that decision could have been a lot easier. Again, the people here, the staff, the players, they’re amazing — it’s been the best six years of my career. I’m going to continue to help them beyond the next few weeks, or at least I’m willing to help in whatever way I can.

How do you build the roster from here? You talked about recruiting, but what about transfers and the club team?
We’ve had some interest from transfers. I talked to coach Glenn Carter about the club roster, and what the needs are, and I’m hopeful when I’m down there in a week and a half, I’ll be able to see for myself and evaluate I’ll see, ‘OK, we have a big need here, or big need there,’ and figure out where to go. But we’re going to need to look at the club team. We’re going to need all those guys from the start. They’re going to enable us to practice, which we’ll do in the spring of 2013.

You’ve been well traveled through your career. You grew up in Upstate New York, played in North Carolina, and you’ve coached in Massachusetts, New York and Maryland. Now you’re back down toward the South. That’s a big advantage for recruiting?
That’s big, when you look at the places that I’ve been fortunate enough to coach at. As I mentioned, the makeup of the students at Richmond, having people I can just call up and say, ‘Hey, I know you don’t coach this kid, but I know you’ve seen him play, what do you think?’ Those thoughts, those relationships are extremely valuable in the recruiting world. There’s only so much we talk to the high-school student-athletes. Talking to their high school coaches, club coaches and guidance counselors and teachers — We do that a whole lot more than talking to the kids. Those things are very, very helpful in recruiting.

How are you planning to fill out your staff?
I’ve received a lot of interest thus far, which is very exciting for me. But that is still a work in progress. I wish I had a solid answer for you or a couple names to throw out, but I can’t say that I do right now. I’m still figuring that out. As far as finding those assistants, I just want people of good character. I want people who are hard working and share the same values that I do. But No. 1 you’ve got to be a good person. I’ll look to name one assistant in the short-term, and then name another assistant in the summer.

What are the conversations like about scheduling and conference affiliations that you’ve had thus far? The original press release from Richmond indicated the program would look to join an existing conference as an associate member. Would you consider playing as an independent?
That is still, like a lot of these things, a work in progress. I have had conversations with the administration and some coaches about some specific conferences. Now, we probably will not be playing as an independent. That would not be my goal. At Loyola, we’ve made it to the NCAA tournament by being part of a conference. That’s not going to happen the first year, for many reasons. But I would prefer to be in a conference right away, to not have to wait for any grace period.

As far as scheduling, I’ve heard from some coaches. That’s further down on my priority list. Getting these 2013 recruits organized for the early decision deadline, that will be my top priority, being that’s Nov. 15. Everything else will have to go on a to-do list, which is getting pretty long. People have expressed interest. I’ve expressed interest to some people. But we haven’t talked dates, or anything of that nature.

Lacrosse’s addition at Richmond came amidst the university dropping men’s soccer and men’s track…
All I can say: I’m really excited about the lacrosse program at Richmond. And that’s going to be my goal: To get others excited about it down there as well.

Generally, knowing Richmond’s location in the greater landscape, what does it mean for the university to add Division I varsity lacrosse and the sport’s growth?

It’s huge. The location is huge. It’s going to help encourage teams in the South to add lacrosse. It’s a smaller school, and there are a lot of other small schools down there. Hopefully we can have some success and show them that they can have that same success too. It’s certainly going to take a little while. But that’s what I’m hopeful of.


And Richmond has had successful athletic programs…

Exactly right, particularly with football and basketball. Basketball has been to the NCAA tournament a number of years in a row, and they were in the Sweet Sixteen a couple years ago. Football won the FCS national championship a couple years ago. Both football and basketball have been competitors, both in their leagues and conferences, along with nationally.

What are your expectations for the program, and how this is going to move forward?
It’s tough for me to say, because, I don’t know what conference we’re going to be in, I don’t know what the club team looks like. But I want the guys to be able to take steps forward in our development every day. That’s a generic answer. But these are the small goals we’re going to set for ourselves. Every day we take the field, we need to finish as a better team that the day before. Those are the short-term goals. Obviously the long-term goal is we want to be competitive. We want to get schools excited to come down to Richmond, and play against us. And we want to win some lacrosse games.


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