Johns Hopkins' defensive legend Dave Pietramala won a National Championship, two World Championships, got his dream-come-true coaching job, and has his Blue Jays rolling. But would you believe he was a bad lacrosse player and even a baseball player for most of his life?
E-Lacrosse sat down with the second year Hopkins Coach and talked about his careers in the game two days before his #2 Jays would come back to beat the top ranked Syracuse Orangemen at Homewood.
Where did you start? Who taught you to play? Did you play in a Rec League as a kid?
There was no rec league. Not for me (laughter). I got my first stick… I believe it was in seventh grade. I remember it was an orange QuickStick. I don't think QuickStick is in business anymore. I'd learned about the sport from a neighbor. This guy, who was in high school, lived around the block from me and was into lacrosse. So, in seventh grade I decided I was going to try out for my junior high school team in Indiansville. I went to the first team meeting and there were tons of kids. I was filling out the paperwork; name, address, height weight, all that insurance information and a guy came up to me. He was the head coach of the high school and he had worked with the junior high program, as well. He asked me my name and I told him. He looked at me and he said, "Son, I think you're a little too small. You might want to come back next year." So as you can imagine, I was crushed. I went home and I must have cried my eyes out. All I wanted to do was try out for the team. I had played baseball my whole life. So that was the start and almost the end (laughter).
JOHNS HOPKINS, THE 2002 GIANT KILLERS, BEAT 2 #1 TEAMS IN THREE WEEKS
I did play in ninth grade. I went to St. Mary's. My basketball coach there was John Espie, who is now the head coach of Stony Brook and formerly the head coach of Duke. He was a great guy and he and I had a very good relationship. I played basketball for him and he said, "Hey, I would love for you to try out for my lacrosse team." So, because of my relationship with him, I tried out and he kept me. He was kind enough to do so. That first year, as a middie, I was just a guy. You know, I picked up ground balls. I screened the goalie. I remember them saying that if they shoot high, make sure you duck, and if they shoot low, make sure you jump. That was kinda my role.
E-LACROSSE: And this is ninth grade? This was literally the first time you played organized lacrosse?
Yeah. This was the first time ever. And then, coach Espie left to go to another school. My relationship with him was so strong and he was the guy who kind of talked me into playing. I stopped playing. I went back to playing baseball in tenth grade. And then, in eleventh grade, I just missed it so much and there was such a huge difference for me between the sport of Lacrosse and baseball that I just decided that I wanted to try and play lacrosse again. There was a new coach at St. Mary's. He was nice enough to let me come out. I didn't want to play midfield anymore. I just thought I was better suited to be a defenseman so I picked up a long stick and tried out as a defenseman. I played Defense in 11th and 12th grade and that was that.
E-LACROSSE: How do you start playing in your junior year and end up at National Champion Johns Hopkins? I always assumed you went to Hopkins on a scholarship.
I did. And I was very lucky. I loved lacrosse and I spent every waking moment with it from the day I decided I was going to play it. I focused on lacrosse. I always had my stick in my hands walking around the neighborhood. A buddy of mine who had been a player and I used to go out to the park behind my house and we'd draw a start line and a finish line like 30 yards away. We would just go back and forth doing one on one's for like an hour. And literally I would beat the hell out of him. I was such an unpolished player and I was just learning the game so I would literally beat him up because that's all I knew how to do. And he was unbelievable. He would just keep going and keep going and for an hour. We'd do this three or four times a week.
E-LACROSSE: Do you still know this guy?
Oh yeah! - He's one of my best friends from home. I'm very thankful to him. You know, he never played lacrosse after high school or anything like that but he loved lacrosse just like I did. Neither of us was very good. So we just both went out and tried to get better and tried to help one another. In hindsight, it was an very important piece to the whole puzzle for me.
I also went and watched games as much as I could. I watched Adelphi and CW Post and teams like that play. I remember, when I was in high school, I saw Frank Tashman play against Syracuse at Adelphi and I was just drawn in. I had no idea what it was all about but just hoped one day I could play in college.
E-LACROSSE: Had you ever seen Hopkins play back then?
No. Hopkins was an afterthought for me. It wasn't even in my spectrum. In my junior year, or after my junior year, I think I wrote every college that played lacrosse. I remember my dad telling me, "Hey, just write them." I remember the first letter I ever got was from Denison University and if I didn't jump through the roof when I got it! Again, I'm a first year player at a small private school with a team that got its ass kicked all year and I just wanted to be good and play in college. So I wrote everybody. The turning point was when I tried out for the Empire State team after my junior year. It was the first year that they had ever had an Empire State Team. I had read all about John DeTomasso in a magazine called "In the Crease". And I had seen some pictures of him playing for Hopkins and he was my idol. That was the guy. I had the same shoes he had. I had the same gloves. You name it, I had it.
E-LACROSSE: That In the Crease is also one of my influences when I was a little kid. It was the only thing I could get my hands on.
Who was the guy that used to write that, Dick Dudley?
E-LACROSSE: Dick Duden.
E-LACROSSE: With the ball stuck in his helmet.
Exactly. You know, I used to run to the store to get that every time it came out. And then you had Lacrosse magazine. And back then it was the old lacrosse magazine, the big one. I used to read those things cover to cover. So John DeTomasso was my idol. I remember going to the tryouts for the Empire team and he was there. He was watching his brother James who turned out to be a teammate of mine. I was like, "Oh my God. They're so good!" I didn't think I had a chance of making it. My coach told me, "Hey, go give it a shot. See what you can do." I was fortunate enough to make it. And, in making it, I think my confidence grew leaps and bounds from there.
Then in my senior year, St. Mary's changed coaches and the new coach was Ed Colverd. To this day, I'm very close with Coach. I speak with him every couple weeks. He visits my family and he comes to the games. He was a great influence on me and really he is the one who taught me the game in high school.
E-LACROSSE: So at that point you are starting to get, from your Empire state experience, some team skills to add to some obvious personal talent. How did you get recruited for Hopkins?
It was probably from the Empires, I would think. I got letters from Hopkins and Syracuse and Virginia and a lot of those kinds of schools, like a lot of guys got.
E-LACROSSE: So I might as well ask you since now, you are going to be the guy recruiting for Hopkins and you have been, why did YOU pick Hopkins?
Well I didn't, at first. I didn't. I wanted to go to Maryland. It is an interesting story and I actually use it when I recruit. I tell guys, my idol was DeTomasso, but I grew up watching Maryland basketball. I was a big basketball fan and to this day still am. If I could have been great at anything, it would have been basketball.
E-LACROSSE: Me too. You got your pools in?
E-LACROSSE: Oh that's right (laughter)
If I could have gone to college to play any sport, it would have been basketball. I love it. Still to this day, love it! I love Maryland basketball and football and read alot about them then. I also thought it wasn't far from home but it was far enough. I thought I wanted a big school with big time athletics. I was a high school kid and I didn't know anything. I had no idea how good a lacrosse player I was and I had no idea what it took to be successful. I was just kind of moving along, not really knowing what the hell was going on.
E-LACROSSE: We [Maryland] could have used you in '87.
(laughter) Yeah. Well, I think I made the right choice for me.
E-LACROSSE: Yeah, I think so.
So I visited a couple different schools and visited Maryland and liked it an awful lot. I really liked coach Edell. I thought the world of him then and still think the world of him now. And that's where I wanted to go. I remember flying home and looking at my dad and saying, "Hey, I know where I want to go. That's it." He looked and me and said, "Well we'll talk about it."
I said, "There's nothing to talk about."
My dad was a great influence on me. My parents were divorced so he was my guy, my best friend. So during the ride home he said, "I'm fine with your decision. I'm happy for you. But I think you need to take just one more look. Take a look at Hopkins." And my father, then, understood some things that I didn't. He understood the magnitude of a Hopkins education. He said, "Look, I want you to do me a favor. Just listen to your father and go take a look at Hopkins." My father had talked to Coach Zimmerman alot and coach Tierney who was the assistant here and I already had strong feelings for coach Tierney. I really liked him. He was really a guy that I kind of connected with in the recruiting process. So I came down, and it was over the minute I arrived. I remember coach Tierney picked me up and we drove over to Hopkins. The first three people I see are John DeTomaso, Dell Dressel, and Brian Wood. I was one of those guys that I knew everything about everybody from reading all the magazines. So there's my idol and it was unbelievable for me.
Coach Zimmerman really did a great job when I was visiting campus, helping me to understand the academic support they offered. They helped me to realize that I needed to really think about this decision and think about what was best for me in the long run. And for me a smaller school with the academic support that Hopkins provided was no question a better fit for me. And I believe that even more now than I did then. I also saw the importance of lacrosse and they were coming off a national championship. The thing that was the most interesting was that while lacrosse was so important here, they still treated me like I was one of the guys. They didn't treat me like I was a recruit. I remember going to a room with Joe Rzempoluch who later on turned out to be my roommate and a great friend. We go to a room and this guy's in there playing a guitar. He's friends with a couple guys on the team. The guy I was with runs to the bathroom and I'm alone with this guy. He says, "Hey, who are you?"
I introduce myself and he asked "What year are you here?"
I said, "oh no no no, I'm a recruit." And the guy who doesn't know me from a hole in the wall says, "Oh, my god. You got to come here. This place is awesome!" And he went on to talk about the guys on the team very glowingly. The thing that kind of struck me on the ride home was that the guy didn't have to spend any time talking to me, but he did. And that's kind of always depicted Hopkins and Homewood for me. It's a place where people take the time and go the extra mile to do the right thing and to take care of you. So, I went home, and to my father's pleasure, that was it. And, as they say, the rest is history.
E-LACROSSE: It has been said that Bill Tierney is/was your mentor as far as coaching defense. Was he your defensive coach as a player?
The defensive coach when I was a freshman and a sophomore was a gentleman by the name of Fred Smith and I think he's coach Tierney's mentor. He was with the defense but was an assistant to coach Smith. I'll tell you what. I've never met a man like coach Smith. We have a picture of him that my wife and coach Zimmerman gave me when I got the [Hopkins] job. We have it in the locker room because we think he embodies Hopkins lacrosse and we want our guys to know about that kind of stuff. So he was the defensive coach. In my two years with him, he never called me by my first or last name. He always called me "number 43". He was the only guy that when I had my earring in, I would take it out because he was coming. He was like one of those guys, you know, like the wise old man. He always knew the right thing to say and the minute to put his arm around you and the minute to give you a kick in the ass. He had an uncanny ability of knowing that.
I didn't play much my freshman year. I was bad. I was a bad lacrosse player. I had no idea what it took to be successful at this level. I wasn't a hard enough worker. I got mononucleosis and missed the whole first portion of the season, which didn't help. My inability to understand what it took to be successful at this level and how hard you had to work really put me in a bad position. I didn't play until late in the season when we had a couple guys get hurt. We went to the final four to play against a Carolina team that we had beaten 16 to 4 in the regular season. Here I am playing on a sprained knee from the Towson game and I was in way over my head. I got abused. I was horrible. I must have given up at least three goals in that game. Pat Welch and Brett Davies enjoyed playing against the young freshman. And I had never been so embarrassed in my entire life. And I vowed that moment on I would never let it happen again.
E-LACROSSE: They won the game?
Oh, they won the game. Yep.
E-LACROSSE: And they go on to win the tournament.
And win the national championships. They win the game in overtime. And I vowed I would never let that happen to me again. I would never be embarrassed like that and thankfully, I never was.
E-LACROSSE: So '87 obviously is your championship year. It's the last time Hopkins has won one. That's probably added slightly to your legendary status.
Gary Gait's a legend. Ask a person outside of lacrosse and people don't know much about Dave Pietramala. They talk about Casey Powell, Ryan Powell and those kinds of guys - a Gary Gait or Paul Gait.
E-LACROSSE: You retired from playing at the top of your game. That's a rare thing, sticking with it. But you have never come back.
I want to be a great coach. I want to be a great coach more than I wanted to be a great player. And I want the teams that I've been associated with, and most importantly the teams here, to experience what I experienced in college. My years at Hopkins were awesome. I couldn't have asked for more. They treated me well. They taught me how to be a young man. They taught me how to be polite. They taught me how to work hard. You know they taught me how to care about something and be passionate about it. I owe Hopkins an awful lot.
E-LACROSSE: Are you, in part, paying something back by coming back.
My whole staff and I are doing that. I mean, for us to have an opportunity to coach at our Alma Mater - that's something pretty special.
E-LACROSSE: Let's talk a little bit about that. You get the chance to come back to your alma mater when John Haus takes the chance to go back to his alma mater and I think it seemed to many that all in the world was right, so to speak.
Well maybe all in the world is right for John Haus and Dave Pietramala.
E-LACROSSE: Yeah. Well that's what I mean. And for North Carolina and Hopkins fans. I always think it odd when someone coaches a previous arch rival. I mean I'm a Redskins [Washington football team] fan and when we hired that Cowboys coach, it was like, "Wait a minute!"
I completely understand what you are saying and I agree. Look at John Desko. He's at his alma mater and he loves it there. He's got a passion for it and he knows the place. It's in his blood. How can people criticize John Haus for doing that? They can't and I don't think they can criticize me for coming back here. It's just that an opportunity to be a head coach is a privilege. And it's a great responsibility, even more so to be a head coach where you were a player and where they gave so much to you. They mould you as a young man and to be able to go back to that place and do the same for other young men - what a privilege that is. So for me, this is unbelievable. It's a dream come true.
E-LACROSSE: Where did you go after college? You played pro lacrosse in the old MILL, right?
Yeah. I played indoor lacrosse for the Pittsburg Bulls. We were a bad indoor team but man we had a lot of fun. I mean those years of lacrosse after college were great. We would go to practice and we would beat the hell out of each other. It was great. Guys loved practicing. It was new, the indoor league, and your getting paid to play lacrosse. Although it might have been like 150 bucks and you probably spent that much that night, it was great. I was living with my close friend, Ron Klausner and we were on the same indoor team and the same club team. Our club team was unbelievable. I played for Mount Washington. Here I am in my club years playing with the guy everybody thinks is my arch enemy, Gary Gait. I'm playing against the best player to ever play the game every day in practice. I'm playing with Rob Scheck, Mike Morrill, Mark Millon.
We had a great club team and the whole league was pretty good then. I remember at practices there was a passion for lacrosse and that changed after a while as we got older. But in those first like 4 years, we would practice and then after practice, Ron Klausner, Brian Voelker, Mat Wilson from Washington College, Gary Gait, Rob Schek, Mike Morrill, Todd Curry, Butch Marino and I used to stay and do one-on-ones for an hour. But after a while we all change. You have different jobs and some guys then had families and wives and your focus changes. And for me I got into coaching and my focus changed. I'm very thankful to coach Tony Seaman for even giving me the opportunity. He gave me a chance to come back here and to coach and learn how I wanted to be a coach. Everything changed from there. I realized I wanted to be a coach and club lacrosse was changing for me. All the sudden the desire to stay and do one-on-ones wasn't there and guys were missing practice…
E-LACROSSE: It became club ball.
Right. It changed and I really kind of got disenchanted with it. And I was so enthralled with the opportunity to coach. I just didn't want to be one of those guys that everybody sat in the stands and said, "Wow, you know what? He used to pretty good but look at him now." I never wanted anybody to say that about me.
I realized that if I wanted to be a coach I had to make a name for myself as a coach and not as a player. I had to have a work ethic that was above and beyond and I couldn't do that and play too. So I finally decided that if I want to do this coaching thing and I wanted to be great at it, then playing [had to end]. I had done what I wanted to do while playing and now I had set new goals for myself.
E-LACROSSE: You also played for the US team in the World games.
E-LACROSSE: Does it also make for an easy transition from player to coach having reached that pinnacle as well?
Yeah. You know, I think there wasn't a lot of unfinished business. And for me, you can always achieve but there were other things in another arena that I really wanted to achieve. And working for Tony Seaman and then working for Dave Cottle, I really learned what it took to be a coach and I knew I wanted to do it. I mean, honestly, when I stopped playing, I don't think I've ever said I missed playing because I don't. I have never missed playing.
US Lacrosse World Games Program Photo
E-LACROSSE: Who are your coaching influences? What did you take from your time with Smith, Tierney, Seaman, Cottle and Zim?
I owe a lot to Don Zimmerman. Don Zimmerman was my coach. You know I think the preparedness that we had when I was a player, I take that from him. We were prepared. Always. I don't think I ever left a game and said, "We lost because we weren't prepared or coach didn't have us prepared." We were always prepared. Don Zimmerman taught me discipline and I was not a disciplined young man when I got here. Fred Smith and Coach Tierney taught me an awful lot about defense. And this is the highest compliment I can play those two. They taught me about being a good person; about doing the right things; about how to handle people and those kinds of things. You learn that right is right. And I've had to make some decisions as a coach that are tough decisions. But they're not as tough as you think because your mentors the people that you've learned from have taught you what's right.
Petro with Bill Teirney
Dave Cottle and Bill Dirrigl, when I was at Loyola, taught me how to work as a coach. My year at Loyola with Dave Cottle and Bill Dirrgl was an awful lot of fun. I learned a lot about being a coach and scouting. That year, Skip Prosser who's now the basketball coach at Wake Forest was there, and Joe Boylen, who's the AD. I mean, those were four great coaches and I had the great fortune to be around all of them. Coach Seaman taught me not to be afraid to be a little different and to do some different things. He taught me alot about the riding and clearing aspects of the game, recruiting and to allow his assistants to grow. Coach let me grow and he let me make some mistakes and he certainly told me when I made them but coach really helped me in those areas.
E-LACROSSE: What are some of the biggest mistakes that a young Dave Petimala the coach would make?
Oh, trying to just do too much defensively. You know, feeling like we had to put in these elaborate defensive schemes and you know maybe doing too much and I've learned over the years that sometimes less is more.
E-LACROSSE: Is it sometimes really hard to orchestrate a defense when you can't jump in and do it or do you sometimes in practice jump in and show it?
I'm more of a hands-on guy so I don't mind getting out there and showing it. I'm not sure I can do it right now (laugh). Our guys, I know probably think the same thing, but I'm a hands-on guy and I'm not afraid to grab a stick. I'm not afraid to stand in the mud and show them how to do it. That's my job.
Brian Voelker and Petro
E-LACROSSE: You had much success at Cornell but understandably, felt the calling to come home to Hopkins. What was that time at Cornell like and was it hard to leave.
Cornell was an unbelievable opportunity for me. I take all those things we mentioned earlier from the Bill Tierneys and Tony Seamans and those guys and then interweave those with my own thoughts and philosophies. It was a chance for me to run my own program. It was a good situation for me at Cornell. There was tradition there. It was an outstanding academic institution. We felt like we could recruit there.
I had a great assistant coach at Cornell, Jeff Tambroni. He's a great coach and a great friend, so my time at Cornell was dear to my heart and will always be. The kids that played for us there did amazing things in three years. You know, we turned that thing around. That was because of the kids, they worked so hard. They were committed and believed in what we did and I know when I left some of them felt a little bit betrayed. And to this day my relationships with them continue to almost redevelop. You know, I was very close with Ryan McClay and he e-mails me now and it makes my day when I get it. So leaving there was very hard. I'm sure I would not have left there had it not been the Hopkins job. I had no reason to leave other than it being my alma mater. Believe me, we were starting to recruit some very quality players and we thought we could win there.
E-LACROSSE: Was the Syracuse win at Cornell one of your "Hey, I've arrived as a coach" moments?
That was more, "Hey this is unbelievable for these kids moment." That was awesome to see how excited those kids were. You had to be in the locker room. It was awesome. They were so excited and our coaching staff was so excited for them.
E-LACROSSE: It's maybe the biggest upset in a few years.
Uhm. Well. We thought we could win though. You know, I mean it's an upset to everybody else, but we thought we could win. I mean, we knew it was going to take a lot. We didn't go into any game thinking we were going to lose. We thought we had to do a lot of different things to win, but it was awesome, just seeing how excited they were. It was good for recruiting for our program and it showed the guys that all the hard work was worth it.
E-LACROSSE: Do you, one day, want to coach the US team at the World Games? Is that a goal now that you have coaching goals instead of playing goals?
Uh, sure, it would be privilege for me to coach the world team.
E-LACROSSE: It doesn't sound like it is as much a goal as it is, say, to win a championship at Hopkins.
My goal right now is to win a national championship at Johns Hopkins for these young men here at this university. That's my first goal.
E-LACROSSE: Last year was a pretty big success overall considering it was your first year here?
You know, it was a tough transition just having left Cornell. That was hard for me. I loved those kids at Cornell and they gave their heart and soul for me. It was hard, but the thing that made it easier was that I was coming home. I was coming to a group where I had helped recruit the senior class. You know last year we had some challenges. Conor Dennihan had a bad knee and Robb Frattorola had a stress fracture and we had a bunch of injuries. For last years team to get a first round buy was pretty unbelievable. And a disappointing loss to Notre Dame but to be frank with you, Notre Dame deserved to win that game and I'm not afraid to give credit where credit is due. They did a better job than we did.
E-LACROSSE: As a lax fan, you appreciated the milestone in lacrosse when a western team beats a powerhouse like Hopkins?
I'm not interested in helping other team's milestones. AT ALL.
E-LACROSSE: How about this year's squad. I saw your first game against Princeton but I did not catch the Hofstra contest. But now you have #1 Syracuse coming into town Saturday.
Yeah, we've got our hands full.
E-LACROSSE: But you guys are a handful now too, it appears.
I really like this group. You know, if you know me I'm very tough on our guys, I really am. I'm very emotional. You've seen me coach, I'm loud and I'm boisterous and that's me on the field. It isn't me off the field. We had the chance to recruit the freshman and get to know them. The other guys, we've now had a chance to spend a year with, and I really like this group of young men. They really are doing a great job of acting like a Hopkins player should. They are handling themselves in a first class manner on and off the field. They have a good work ethic. They have some personality. You'd be amazed. An interesting thing, around Christmas, I get a prank phone call from Peter Lasoure, who we recruited and we got to know real well. Peter LeSueur prank phone calls us and then Doneger pranks my offensive coordinator. They are fun to be around. You know, I'm very tough on these guys and I have great expectations for them. I've tried to push them to levels that maybe most people wouldn't push them, but I love them and they know that and I would do anything, obviously within the rules, that I could for them. Even if its in the morning at 3 a.m., a family problem, whatever. There's nothing I wouldn't do for these kids. I enjoy this group a lot.
E-LACROSSE: Is there any surprise at how well some of the freshman did during that first game against a #1 team.
I'm surprised at how we fared in our first game compared to our scrimmages because we didn't feel like we performed well in the scrimmages. And I think our guys would tell you that. But that's why you scrimmage. That's what they're for, to learn. And I think we learned a lot about ourselves and we learned that we are a product of our focus and our emotion. Against Princeton we were focused and we were emotional and we played very hard. I'm not the smartest guy in the world but I know our teams will always play hard. The freshman, we know there's talent there but you never know how they are going to perform in that first game. All you can do as a coach is try to make practice more challenging than the games. And we've tried to make our practices very challenging. I've gone after guys and tried to put pressure on them to prepare them to be successful in the game. You know our first scrimmage in the fall with Pete LeSueur and Kyle Barrie as freshmen, we faced off against the US world team! So we've tried to set it up where these guys have been challenged right from the start. I think that's helped us but more importantly, I think they are just talented young men that care a great deal about what they do. That doesn't mean they're not going to make mistakes. It doesn't mean we're going to win every game. It doesn't mean we are going to win Saturday. But I know this is a group that cares. I'm thankful for that.
E-LACROSSE: Are you excited to have Syracuse coming into town this weekend?
Yea, it's a great game. You know Syracuse - Hopkins, #1 vs. #2. I know a lot of people don't think we should be number 2. And that's great. Better for us. You know, this weekend, there's not pressure on us. We are going to go out and play and do the best we can. They're the team that everybody's talking about, not us. And that's good for our young group.
E-LACROSSE: We are doing an article on Kyle Harrison. I just was very impressed with his game against Princeton.
He's a better athlete than he is a lacrosse player and when he learns the game, watch out!
E-LACROSSE: And Kyle Berry.
Tremendous skills. Tremendous skills.
E-LACROSSE: Came from a little lesser program I understand.
You know what. His program's pretty damn good.
E-LACROSSE: Maybe LSueur comes in with a little more field savvy.
Yeah. Probably. Peter is a tenacious worker. They're all great kids.
E-LACROSSE: I thought Berry was one of the better players coming out last year.
We really are pleased with Kyle and he's got great talent. He's learning how to work hard all the time. He's learning the college game.
E-LACROSSE: Ultimately it's a big transition I guess. He ripped up Homewood field at Champ Camp.
Oh, he sure did. And I hope that he'll do that for years to come.
E-LACROSSE: What's your biggest concern for this weekend with Syracuse. Is Michael Powell all that?
Michael Powell in one word is special. He's as good a lacrosse player as I've ever seen. That's saying a lot. That kid's special. He does it all. Yeah, we better be worried about him but I'll be honest with you. We better be worried about Josh Kauffman and Michael Springer, as well. You know, my concerns in that game are with the tempo of the game. We need to defend very well as seven people, seven players, playing as one. And we need to value the ball on offense. It doesn't mean we need to sit on it or slow it down. It just means we need to keep from turning the ball over unnecessarily.
Pietramala with John Desko
E-LACROSSE: Do you have what it takes to win the championship this year?
I think there are a couple teams that have what it takes to do it. I just don't know if any of us have proven it yet. We're a work in progress and with a young team the great thing is, we are going to become more mature and there's only one place to go but up. We're going to become more mature, more experienced, more savvy and we'll gain a better understanding each and every game. You know, the question is "Can we survive through the march that we play in?" And the games that we've played in and so far, we fared well. We don't think we've played our best lacrosse yet. We think we're a good solid team right now but not a great one.
E-LACROSSE: Who else is in the hunt this year?
I think you look at a Syracuse, Towson, Virginia and Princeton. You know, Princeton has lost two games and you're going to be hard pressed to find me counting them out. I think a team like MD, Georgetown or Loyola can challenge. I think there's any number of teams. I mean look at the scores. Look at the overtime games.
E-LACROSSE: And the parity?
All over the place.
E-LACROSSE: Are you a little tired of Princeton or Syracuse winning it every damn year?
Yeah. Very. But you know what? They've earned. And I'm tired of us not having earned it. That's what I'm tired of. The teams that have won it have earned it. Princeton deserved everything they've got. Syracuse deserves everything they've got and now Hopkins and any other teams out there have to earn what they get.
E-LACROSSE: Is there pressure on you to win?
Yeah. I live with pressure everyday from the guy you're talking to. I have no pressure externally other than what I feel from myself. The only pressure I'm concerned with is the pressure from my team, my staff, and me.
E-LACROSSE: When you came in, did they hand you the responsibility of just training young men, or do they want some rings?
Johns Hopkins has made a commitment to the sport of lacrosse. It's the most storied tradition and history in our game. And Johns Hopkins makes a first class commitment to that. So sure, they want to win the national championship. And you know what, that's why I want to be here. I don't want to be somewhere where they don't.
E-LACROSSE: Tell me about your seniors. You're the only coach I've ever interviewed that didn't divert every other question into something about their seniors.
Because it's our team, it's not just our seniors. We've got a whole team here. Our seniors, I think, the greatest thing they've done this year is how they've handled this freshman class and I'll include our captains with our seniors because they carry great responsibility as well and two of them are juniors. It's a big freshman class, you know. They come in with great credentials and these guys have handled them great. They've been there for them academically, socially, and on the lacrosse field. They've shown them the right way to do things. They've been tough on them when they need to and put their arms around them when they need to. They've treated them as equals and that has been unique. There is not classification of seniors down to freshman. I mean, we've got seniors calling freshmen to go out on a Saturday night or to go to the movies. We've seen our captains up here on a Sunday calling some guys saying, "hey, why don't you come shoot around with me?" They have done a terrific job of making those young men feel every bit a part of this as anybody else. They've really done a good job of helping them with the transition.
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E-LACROSSE: I saw you getting on Michael Peyser at the end of the Princeton game after he tried to do an over the shoulder check in the last minute.
You know, in those situations, right is right. Whether you're winning by two goals or you're losing, you still want to do the right thing. I'm sure Michael didn't do what we wanted him to do. It's important. That's a teaching moment. And just because your winning or you've won the game doesn't mean you overlook a teaching moment. I think as human beings we tend, when we have success, to not analyze things as much. When you know what, you can win a game and still play pretty shitty. And we didn't play great against Hofstra and we didn't play great against Princeton. We played hard but I don't think either team played great that first game. We have to learn from our mistakes whether we're winning or losing. And, to a fault, I have difficulty letting a teaching moment pass. I just worry that it may come back later on and cost us a game. And if it does then I've done that young man and our team a disservice. Michael knows how to take me and these guys know that I only want them to be the best players they can be.
WHO'S WEARING REBEL WEAR THIS YEAR?
Western New England
St. Marys Ryken
Crease Monkeys L.C.