2009 E-Lacrosse Feature: New era at North Carolina: The Joe Breschi InterviewThe biggest coaching change in the offseason was the move from Ohio State to North Carolina by Baltimore's own Joe Breschi. Breschi, a North Carolina alumnus, led the Buckeyes into the upper echelon of college lacrosse over the past decade, and has always been a friend of E-Lacrosse. When Breschi first took over at OSU, E-Lacrosse enlisted him to write NCAA tournament previews as his team wasn't in the field. We were so pleased when Breschi could no longer do that job because he had the Buckeyes in the playoffs. In the era of static or even diminishing big-college coaching opportunities, the North Carolina job opening was huge. Breschi was one of only a few that I thought would have a chance at this amazing post. And as you'll see in the interview below, he is just the person to bring the UNC program back into the top tier of college lacrosse. I can't imagine a Joe Breschi North Carolina program taking more than a few years to make the final four and perhaps even take the crown.
John Weaver: Congratulations! I know you loved OSU, but you've been a UNC guy for a long time. Does it feel like home? Joe Breschi: Thanks, John. It's beginning to feel like home ... but home is getting the family settled, and my wife, Julie, and the girls are getting in the groove this fall. The players and administration have been terrific, so things are coming together very smoothly.
Are you still on a honeymoon of sorts or has the real work started?
Joe Breschi: I think the honeymoon ended the day I took the job. Between moving my family, hiring my staff and organizing the fall schedule, I had to hit the ground running. I'm surrounded by great people in assistant coaches Pat Myers, Greg Paradine and Brian Holman, and together we are as passionate about the Carolina family as anyone on campus. We are pinning our ears back, attacking this new opportunity to take UNC lacrosse to the top with everything we have. What's not to love about living in Chapel Hill or going to school in the best college lacrosse town in America? We've had a lot to do this fall. Implementing a new philosophy and system into a program always takes more time, but the players have embraced it every step of the way and I'm very impressed with their passion for success.
Who took over the Ohio State program? Will they be OK? I understand you will play them in the spring.
Joe Breschi: Nick Myers, my longtime assistant took over at OSU. He will do an awesome job there. Nick is passionate about the game and people. I know the program is in great hands as long as Nick is coaching the Buckeyes. We will continue to play OSU yearly in the Baltimore area for a couple reasons. We started a bull roast three years ago the Friday before the game for parents and alumni of both programs to help raise money for my late son Michael's memorial scholarship at Ohio State. Secondly, it's a neutral travel destination for both teams and we can drive there. Finally, it's fertile recruiting grounds where both teams have had success attracting stellar student-athletes from the Baltimore area.
Last year you played UNC and beat them for the first time. Did they subscribe to the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" theory when they hired you?
Joe Breschi: No, I think we (at Ohio State) had a solid team with great senior leaders who stepped up and played a great game. I remember how hard we played and I was extremely proud of the assistant coaches and the team's effort throughout the day, which in turn helped us have a terrific season!
Do you have specific expectations for your team in Year One? Year Two?
Joe Breschi: I'm a huge fan of taking one "play" at a time, much less one game at a time. The bar has been raised by the staff and players, so I think the expectations are what we as a team determine they are each week in preparation for the next opponent. I do know that we will play hard and fast each game, and the coaching staff will have the team mentally and physically prepared to compete.
How has the recruiting response been?
Joe Breschi: I'm very proud of the coaching staff and our effort to find the best student-athletes in the country to join the Tar Heels lacrosse family. When you're selling what we feel is the best university in college lacrosse, it really makes our job a lot more about building great relationships and trust with prospects. With that being said, the staff has attacked recruiting with everything we have and that has really made an enormous difference in the interest we've generated.
Will you tap into the traditional UNC pipelines in Baltimore and the traditional Breschi pipelines, too? In other words, will we see a lot of Loyola and Calvert Hall kids in blue?
Joe Breschi: John, I want the best people in Carolina Blue. Our staff will recruit across the country to find the best student-athletes to be a part of the Carolina lacrosse family. There are a lot of great players out there and our goal is to find the best students, players and people who have the drive to be champions both on and off the field.
UNC has always been a family team -- lots of kids on the sidelines. Does this continue under the Breschi era?
Joe Breschi: Yes, with my four girls all under age seven, there is no doubt there will be kids on the sidelines for years to come! Carolina lacrosse is the blueprint for a family experience. We break our huddles each day with "family," which tells you a little bit about the character of these young men and their brotherhood.
Speaking of family, we all know of the tragedy your family went through and how you turned it into as much a positive as possible with the Michael Breschi scholarship at Ohio State. Will that continue? How will you stay involved?
Joe Breschi: We started a bull roast three years ago the Friday before the UNC-OSU game for parents and alumni of both programs to help raise money for my late son Michael's memorial scholarship at Ohio State. Mike's scholarship is currently the largest athletic memorial scholarship at OSU, something my wife and I are truly honored by. My family and I are fortunate that this event will continue with coach Myers being at OSU.
How is your family adapting to Chapel Hill?
Joe Breschi: We are adapting well to the move to Chapel Hill. I don't think you really get settled for a year or two, but since Chapel Hill is such a college town, Julie and I have found our way around pretty easy. We are also fortunate that so many alumni have stayed in the area, and they have helped us with the transition.
What's your goal for the fall?
Joe Breschi: As a staff, the goal of the fall was to get a chance to meet the team and get to know the guys personally. They are terrific young men and they trust the direction we are taking them. Secondly, we wanted to implement our philosophy and system for the program. Although we have only scratched the surface of who we will be as a team this spring, we focused on playing hard, fast and smart in the fall. We know that confidence will come as the guys continue to understand schemes and systems as we move forward. Finally, we wanted to attack recruiting from all ends in trying to land the best people and student-athletes in the country.
Whenever I call down there, the team is in the weight room? Will this team be pumped up?
Joe Breschi: I hope so. These guys are working hard to get bigger, stronger and faster for the spring season. I'm extremely pleased with their effort and appreciate their passion for success.
If there's a Breschi mantra that you bring to a team, what is that and does it change at UNC?
Joe Breschi: "Family." Everyone who joins the Tar Heels lacrosse program will be a part of the UNC family for life. Carolina has always been a special place to go to school but our staff hopes to make everyone's (players, alumni, parents) experience a great one.
Can UNC be a contender in a couple years? What do you have to do to make that happen?
Joe Breschi: Any time you coach a team or compete at a very high level, you need to set goals for the program. Obviously, if we work hard as a staff and the players execute, we can do just that.
Is this the only job you would have left Ohio State for?
Joe Breschi: Yes, at this time in our family's life, UNC is the only place I would have left Columbus for.
Is there a difference between the program-building that you did at Ohio State and bringing back a great program at UNC?
Joe Breschi: I believe in the family philosophy behind building a program and that was the same approach I took at Ohio State. It's truly about the experience for the student-athlete.
October 15, 2008