“…I’ve said for 1,000 years, it’s much easier for a coach to change than it is for a group of players to change. If we’ve done anything ‘right,’ I think it’s that we’ve changed our way of thinking. We still only want to give up seven, but we we’re certainly willing and happy to win a game 13-11, as opposed to 7-5. It’s just who we are now….”
Bill Tierney, Denver Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach
Last fall, former Lacrosse Magazine writer Matt Forman interviewed Bill Tierney about his shift in philosophy from Fred Smith protégé/quick slide architect/defensive genius at Princeton to suddenly becoming the ringmaster of the greatest offensive circus on Earth at Denver.
“There was a very clear moment in time where that shifted: one of my first meetings with [assistant coach] Matt Brown here at Denver. When I came here four years ago, he was 28 years old, he had more maturity than I do. I sat down with him, and we were talking about him staying on my staff, and I said, ‘Matt, you know I’m a defensive guy, it’s hard to be an offensive coach. You might want to call [former Princeton, current Loyola offensive] coach Dave Metzbower. It’s hard to be an offensive coordinator when the head guy is such a stickler for ‘perfect’ defense. My goal has always been to keep opponents at seven goals or under.’
“And he said, ‘Coach, with these guys, you’ll never be able to play and win like that.’ I said, ‘Well, tell me what we can do then.’ And he said, ‘We can score a lot of goals. A lot of goals.’ Not begrudgingly, more out of due respect for Matt and our players, I didn’t want to change their mindset. It’s a positive, go-to-the-goal mindset.
Wow. If that quote doesn’t deserve its own standalone plaque somewhere in the coaching Hall of Fame, I don’t know what does.
Here’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame skipper, known for inventing a grinding, possession-oriented brand of half-field lacrosse, who quickly embraces another way to play. It takes a lot of confidence for a coach to admit that his schemes — schemes that, in Tierney’s case, won him national championships at Princeton — may not work at a place like Denver.