New Coaches Regroup After Volatile Summer in Division I Ranks
by Corey McLaughlin | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
Change you can believe in, or can you believe the change?
Aspiring college lacrosse coaches, like recent Mount St. Mary's hire Lindsey Munday, have more opportunities thanks to growth at the Division I women's level and recent upheaval in the profession.
© TD Paulius/Midwest Lacrosse Photography
Twelve of the 91 women’s Division I lacrosse programs, or 13 percent, will have new head coaches for the 2011 season. The coaching carousel was in overdrive this summer, and is still spinning in some cases. As fall ball begins, two vacancies -- at Marist and Howard -- remain open.
“The most movement that I’ve ever seen in the women’s game,” said Johns Hopkins head coach Janine Tucker, who begins her 18th season leading the Blue Jays.
What does all the change mean? A lot of adjusting for a lot of people. New coaches are now in their first few weeks on a different campus. Players who may have been recruited by one coach will now play for another. Or think about the possibility of transferring. Not to mention all of the assistant coaches who have shuffled around.
One move typically starts a domino effect and, this summer, two resignations at American Lacrosse Conference state schools -- Ohio State and Penn State -- set off the largest trails of hires. Of the 10 new hires, six were D-I head coaches at different schools in 2010.
Sue Stimmel resigned at Ohio State in May, and the Buckeyes hired UMass coach Alexis Venechanos. UConn coach Angela McMahon replaced Venechanos at UMass, and McMahon’s replacement at UConn was American coach Katie Woods. American hired Marist’s Laura Campbell in late August.
Suzanne Isidor’s resignation at Penn State started another string of changes. The Nittany Lions lured Missy Doherty from Towson, and the Tigers brought back former assistant coach Sonia LaMonica from Mount Saint Mary’s, where she was head coach for one year. The Mount replaced LaMonica with former Northwestern star and Wildcats assistant coach Lindsey Munday, who becomes a head coach for the first time.
All caught up?
Munday, announced as coach Aug. 30 -- making her the last of this summer’s D-I hires so far -- likened the coaching carousel to that of 2006, when Cindy Timchal, the all-time winningest coach in women’s lacrosse, left Maryland to become the first D-I women’s coach at Navy. The move led directly to changes at Denver and Boston University. Maryland hired Denver coach Cathy Reese, who led the Terps to a national title in 2010.
“It’s interesting,” Munday said. “That was the year I got into coaching, and now this is the year I’m going out on my own. Maybe it’s a sign of some sort.”
It’s certainly a sign of opportunities, whether at a school where lacrosse has long been part of the
COACHING CAROUSEL: D-I WOMEN
Twelve of 91 NCAA Division I women's lacrosse teams, or 13 percent, will have new head coaches in 2010-11.
|Albany||Lindsey Hart||John Battaglino|
|American||Katie Woods||Laura Campbell|
|Columbia||Kerri Whitaker||Liz Kittelman|
|UConn||Angela McMahon||Katie Woods|
|Delaware||Kim Ciarrocca||Kateri Linville|
|UMass||Alexis Venechanos||Angela McMahon|
|Mt. St. Mary's||Sonia Lamonica||Lindsey Munday|
|Ohio State||Sue Stimmel||Alexis Venechanos|
|Penn State||Suzanne Isidor||Missy Doherty|
|Towson||Missy Doherty||Sonia Lamonica|
athletic department -- Towson, Penn State or Ohio State -- or a program just starting up. Since 2008, seven programs have played an inaugural D-I season.
“I think it’s been neat and cool on the women’s side, that there is movement,” said Tucker, who signed a five-year extension in August that keeps her under contact with the Blue Jays until 2016, the same as Johns Hopkins men’s coach Dave Pietramala. “I do think there are certainly schools that are trying to re-establish themselves, and when a coach decides to leave for their own reasons, that opens up a spot. It starts the whirlwind.”
“There are different opportunities for young coaches to establish themselves,” Tucker said. “At the same time, there comes stress for kids. At Hopkins, we were fortunate that our AD said we want to have stability and tell our recruits and current players that stability and loyalty is important. But people have to do what’s best for them and their families. You saw coaches making decisions that were best for them professionally, and it’s neat that they have that ability.”
Munday, an assistant coach at national power Northwestern the last four seasons, said she has had her eye on becoming a head coach but wanted to wait for the right situation.
“I knew I was ready,” said Munday, who was recruiting coordinator, an offensive coach and helped scout opponents at Northwestern. “In the summer, I saw all the things that were going on, and thought if that right opportunity presented itself, it might be time for me to step out of my comfort zone at Northwestern, which has given me so much.”
Munday, a New Jersey native, was a two-time Tewaaraton finalist with the Wildcats in 2005 and 2006 and spent the better part of eight years in Evanston, Ill. She won two national titles as a player and three as an assistant coach. But when Towson hired LaMonica, Munday felt the Mount opening was a good opportunity.
“I didn’t want to just be a head coach. I wanted an opportunity where I felt I could be successful and lead the program in the right direction,” Munday said. “At Mount, they’ve been to the NEC tournament 12 out of the last 13 years.”
One of her first jobs will be trying to gain the trust of the current roster. Munday is the program’s third coach in three seasons. Such turnover can be a touchy situation for players and coaches alike.
“I do think it’s difficult,” Tucker said. “It gives the kids something to think about, but hopefully there was a lot more to their college decision than just the coach. My bit of advice for someone who came to play for a certain coach who has left is not to panic. Give the new coach coming in a chance to see how it goes, because you chose that school for lots of different reasons. If you give it a shot and it doesn’t work out, you can always make a change. That’s why the NCAA has transfer rules.”
At Penn State, Isidor was the third coach in three seasons when she was hired in 2000.
“It’s a challenge when you take over a new program, whether things were good or not good before,” Isidor said. “It’s getting to know your players and letting them know what you’re all about and your coaching philosophy. What’s good about lacrosse is that it’s a spring sport, so you have the first couple months of fall ball to feel each other out. I think it’s exciting. Change is scary for a lot of people, but it’s I think it’s exciting to have a new coach and see what’s coming.”
Isidor resigned this offseason for personal reasons. In an interview last week, she said she needed a break after 10 seasons as head coach of her alma mater and wanted to spend more time with her family. Isidor has three young children, including a set of 5-year-old twins. She said the pace of recruiting has increased since she started coaching and is now yearlong, which takes some getting used to, but she doesn’t rule out a return to coaching.
“It’s tough,” she said. “I had my dream job for 10 years and had a great opportunity. But at the same time, I have a family and the rest of my life. It was getting a bit challenging, and I had to make the decision. A lot of coaches have families, though. I don’t want to make it sound like it can’t be done. It’s totally doable. I just needed a break and to get refreshed.”
And so the coaching carousel got an extra spin -- or three.
“One move can start so many things,” Tucker said. “Not only with head coaches, but assistants can change. People make these changes for different reasons. Maybe it’s the seven-year itch, maybe being closer to home, at a bigger school or smaller school. Each coach has their own reason, and schools need to react.”