Blogs and Commentary

posted 06.08.2011 at 1.48 p.m. by Clare Lochary

Taking a Spin on the WD1 Coaching Carousel

The recent news that Notre Dame would not renew head coach Tracy Coyne’s contract is big. Coyne has been the coach in South Bend for all 15 of the Fighting Irish’s varsity seasons, and she’s certainly the most established coach to leave her program this season. But Notre Dame is one of 10 Division I programs who have or will soon make a hire this offseason. To give you a quick alphabetical rundown, we have: 

  • Bucknell. On May 23, Caline McHenry stepped down from her post with the Bison to pursue non-coaching opportunities. In her four years in Lewisburg, she posted a 20-45 record and went 3-13 in 2011.

  • Cal. Theresa Sherry, a former Princeton All-American, resigned on May 3, a few days after the conclusion of the Bears’ season. There was no love lost between this coach and this program. As you may recall, the embattled Cal program originally discontinued women’s varsity lacrosse as a result of a state budget crisis, only to have it saved at the 11th hour with a healthy financial assist from the storied Bears’ men’s rugby program. (The rugby supporters agreed to finance 10 years of women’s lacrosse to keep Cal in line with gender equity rules.) Sherry went 9-8 in her final season and 34-38 in her four years as a head coach. Meredith Black, one of Sherry’s assistants, nabbed the head coaching job at the new Marquette program. The other assistant, Nikki Lieb, is also no longer with the program, so there will be a whole new regime in place in Berkeley before long.

  • Detroit Mercy. UDM announced on April 19, with three games left in the Titans season, that three-year head coach Mary Ann Meltzer would step down at the end of the season. As Detroit Mercy’s first Division I head coach, Meltzer went 15-36 overall and 3-15 in 2011.

  • Presbyterian. Three-year head coach Kristina Llanes stepped down from her post with the Blue Hose to pursue a master’s degree on May 2. PC announced her replacement, Julie Redman, on June 6. Redman was previously head coach at DII Converse (S.C.) College.

  • Michigan. Big Blue won’t play women’s varsity until 2012-2013, but they are currently advertising for a head women’s lacrosse coach. This is one of the biggest jobs on the list, along with Notre Dame. The Wolverines will have 12 scholarships to play with, and (unlike the Michigan men’s team) they’re apparently  giving this coach a chance to recruit and get her program up to speed before the launch.

  • Notre Dame. Coyne, the program’s only coach, has a 147-98 (.600) record, and the release announcing her non-renewal noted that since 2006, when the program became fully funded, she is 75-38 (.664). She’s a three-time Big East Coach of the Year to boot. Her 261 career wins rank her eighth among active coaches. Now, it’s been a while since the 2006 semifinal run, and her team missed the NCAA tournament this year, but before that, they danced three years in a row. The Irish usually have the bad luck of facing the Northwestern buzz saw in the first round, too. Coyne has arguably made little postseason headway with some great recruiting classes, and Notre Dame has some serious lacrosse ambitions. (See: men’s lacrosse 2010 tournament run and fancy new Arlotta Stadium.) I can’t imagine Coyne will stay unemployed for long and it’s hard to say who among the nation’s established head coaches or bright young assistants is ready to take on the Irish’s considerable athletic legacy and the challenges of winning in the tough Big East conferencnce.

  • St. Francis (Pa.) Steph Marcon stepped down after five seasons with the Red Flash, who went 5-12 in 2011.

  • Stony Brook. On May 9, Allison Comito resigned after six seasons and a 42-54 overall record. (In one of the more awkward moments of the NCAA tournament, the official NCAA tournament program had a huge article on Comito, as a key player into 2001 NCAA championship game and the coach of the host university.) Weirdly, athletic director Jim Fiore said in the release announcing Comito’s resignation: “We are committed to developing a Stony Brook women’s lacrosse program that has a national profile and annually competes for the America East Championship.” The release further notes that Comito “led Stony Brook to the 2007 America East regular season title and an appearance in the America East Championship, but the Seawolves have not qualified for the conference tournament since.” Ouch. I guess the recent success of the men’s lacrosse team has given the Seawolves some laxy ambitions.

  • Villanova. Jeb Chagan stepped down after seven years at the helm with the Wildcats. Chagan never had a winning season (although he broke even twice), but he did boost a severely flagging program and received Most Improved Awards from the IWLCA in 2007 and 2010.

  • Winthrop. Winthrop (S.C.) University, which will sponsor varsity lacrosse for the first time in 2013, hired John Sung, formerly of DIII Adrian (Mich.) College.

I won’t include it on the official list of hirings/firings, but Fresno State may be due for a spin on the coaching carousel. Two-year head coach Sue Behme resigned in the fall to return to her native New York and coach at DIII University of Rochester. Behme’s former assistants Carlee Buck and Lindsay Gotham were named (and are currently listed) as interim head coaches and posted a 0-14 record in 2011. Fresno State is currently 0-42 in three Division I seasons. A call to the Fresno State athletic department regarding the status of the job was not immediately returned.

There were also offseason hires at USC (Lindsey Munday) and Marquette (Black). And in 2012 we’ll see the debut of the SDSU Aztecs, led by Kylee White, who was hired last year.

This year’s crop of coaching changes is pretty average so far – eight existing programs with vacancies and two new programs. There is still some shifting to be done of course, once the hirings start happening and the dominos start to fall. In 2011, we had 14 Division I coaches who found themselves heading up new programs. Here’s how they fared, in descending order by record:

Albany (18-1) John Battaglino
UMass (17-3) Angela MacMahon
Towson (11-7) Sonia LaMonica
Penn State (10-8) Missy Doherty
Virginia Tech (10-8) Megan Burker
Ohio State (10-7) Alexis Venechanos
American (9-8) Laura Campbell
UConn (9-7) Katie Woods
Delaware (8-9) Kateri Linville
Mount St. Mary’s (8-11) BJ Lucey
Marist (6-10) Laura Campbell
Columbia (4-10) Liz Kittleman
Howard (1-13) Sarah Schermerhorn
Fresno State (0-14) Carlee Buck and Lindsay Gotham