July 15, 2010

Anguish: Thompson Chooses Lord Jeffs

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive | Twitter


It was just a kitchen table, a cell phone and Jon Thompson.

The former Colby coach, who had just accepted the offer to become the new head man of NESCAC rival Amherst, paced back and forth in his Central Maine house, eyeing the Blackberry sitting on the Thompson family buffet with contempt.

It wasn’t the device; it was what was waiting on the other end.

Twenty or so Colby players, about to be blindsided by the announcement of his departure, were unknowingly gliding through their summers and the prospect of shattering their peace was nearly unbearable.

While it was quiet in his house – the tears streaming down his face made no noise – Thompson knew things were about to get really loud.

The easy route would be to send out a brief email to his players, pack up the wife and flatware, and hop the next bus to Northampton. It would be a clean break; painless, allowing everyone to just move on.

The longer he stared at the phone, Thompson understood that was impossible. He had spent the previous two years looking for players of high character, and now it was his turn to return the favor.

The device he had been so wary of didn’t disappoint in the level of pain it inflicted.

“Everytime I picked the phone up, the wound opened and got more and more raw,” said Thompson. “It got harder and harder. But they earned the right for me to make the call. At this point, three or four days later, I’m finally out of tears.”

Thompson wasn't looking to leave Colby, but Amherst reached out to him.

With Tom Carmean having moved on to Guilford at the conclusion of the season, the Lord Jeffs were in need of a coach. Suzanne Coffey, who was the AD at Bates before taking over at in-conference rival Amherst, targeted Thompson.

It was somewhat flattering for Thompson, but was it the right time?

“I was actually considering not going, but once my wife and I looked at it, we saw it as a way to explore some other options,” said Thompson.

To keep those options open, Thompson traveled to Amherst at Coffey’s invitation. By the time he was done with the campus tour, he knew he had a tough decision ahead of him.

“Amherst was so aggressive and so assertive in finding their new head coach, and once I was told about their newfound dedication to the program and dedication to winning, I said, ‘Oh, my gosh. This could be ridiculous,” said Thompson. “It could be incredibly long-lasting. The Amherst brand is an incredible brand, and now that they are putting their resources into the lacrosse program, the potential is extraordinary.”

Thinking about the Amherst job had his heartbeat racing, but on the drive back to Waterville Thompson and his wife had to pour over what their next step would be.

Could they really leave Colby after just two years? Would they ever be able to sell their house? Where do they want to raise their children? Was it a good career move? Was it fair to the Colby players?

“We really enjoyed it up at Colby,” said Thompson, who was out scouting on Tuesday morning, whistles and horns sounding in the background. “My wife and I were really excited about being there for a long time, but the way the whole thing shook itself out, it was the best it could have been for both sides, but not the best situation for my wife and I. We’re really excited about going to Amherst even though it is going be hard transition.”

Just a week after officially applying to Amherst, he was announced as the new head coach, leaving him with the excitement of a new challenge and the angst of officially ending his previous commitment with his players.

“I was literally in tears for three days,” said Thompson. “During the decision process, one of the problems was how can I leave these guys with all of the work we’ve put in? The easy way out was to email the guys and not follow up with any phone calls.”

After the long stare down with his cell, he did make the calls. Now he takes over a program looking for a new beginning with a bunch of players who will be more than happy to receive a phone call from Jon Thompson.

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