Towson University and the University of Maryland always seem to be very competitive when it comes to mens lacrosse. Both are two of the elite programs in the area and they always seem to be in the thick of it when it comes down to the end of the season and the playoffs begin.
But each program fell short of expectations this year and have struggled as of late, and both schools this off season began actively looking to either replace or re-evaluate their coaches.
Longtime Maryland coach Dave Cottle resigned at the end of the season this year, after his #3 seeded Terrapins were upset by Notre Dame in the second round of the NCAA playoffs.
With his contract up at the end of the year anyhow, rumors floated around that Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow and the Maryland Athletics Department were not going to guarantee Cottle an extension unless the team went deep into the playoffs.
That left Maryland with a gaping hole in its coaching staff, one that the Terps felt like they needed to fill quickly in order to keep an edge on recruiting and preparing for next spring.
Cottle had been in College Park since 2002 after an 18-year stay at Loyola. Cottle in his nine years at MD led the Terps to .630 winning percentage per season, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament eight times. He won two ACC titles, but that NCAA Championship-which has eluded the program since 1975-is what may have worn out Cottle’s welcome.
But now, Yow and the Terps athletic administration feel like they now have one of the top young coaches in the country now with the hire of John Tillman, who has coached Harvard the last three years.
And for Tillman, he wants to make sure that while Maryland fans are probably calling for a championship now, Tillman said is a guy who takes it one day at a time and there is only so much he can control.
“I try to block all that stuff out,” Tillman told “The Morning Reaction” Wednesday. “Obviously a championship has eluded Maryland for a number of decades, and that is something that has taken place before I got here. What we can control is the 2011 team and the men in the locker room.”
Tillman even said that the team’s focus may have been the issue for Cottle over the last several seasons.
“Instead of worrying about what’s going to happen in May, we need to make sure we do the little things and having the right attitude every day before May.”
“I know everyone wants that trophy at the end, but you have to make sure you’re willing to make the sacrifices…and do the things you need to do everyday before then or you put yourself in a bad spot.”
Tillman’s record at Harvard was 20-19, but don’t be fooled by those numbers. Tillman rebuilt the program from the ground up, and finished the 2009 campaign with a record of 8-5, which was the highest for the school in almost a decade.
His recruiting methods are also considered second-to-none as his latest recruiting class at Harvard was rated 3rd best in the nation by Inside Lacrosse.
Tillman is the ninth coach in MD’s 85-year lacrosse program, and he is more than honored to have the job placed in his lap.
Tillman was actually surprised by the call because he felt like he was a few candidates down the list and he was too tuned into his job at Harvard.
“I wasn’t looking for another job,” Tillman said. “Then I got the call, and with the tradition here that Maryland has and the prestige of the program, it’s always something you have to consider…it was too good to turn down.”
What really caught Maryland’s eye was the stats that just seemed to surround Tillman’s resume.
He raised the Crimson’s offensive rank to 40th in the nation in the first two years while reaching 15th best in the country in his final year. His defense was third in the nation last spring. He has wins over Duke and Princeton in his career, who Harvard had not beaten in the last two decades.
What got Tillman to Harvard, and eventually to College Park was his outstanding work as a top assistant coach at Navy, where he spent 12 years. While there, Navy went 104-63 with Tillman serving as offensive coordinator and assistant coach for much of the time.
His prowess on the sidelines was nationally recognized in 2004, when the Midshipmen made a run at the title. On the way, Tillman directed the third-best scoring offense in the nation and for his efforts, he was awarded his first Collegiate Lacrosse Assistant Coach of the Year Award.
All in all, Tillman knows he has big shoes to fill, but he assures the Terps’ fans and administration that even if his team struggles, their effort will be like a Top 5 team.
“I can guarantee that we’ll work very hard, that these guys will develop as young men, and they’ll give everything they can for the University of Maryland.”
Meanwhile, up the road in Towson, with 12-year coach Tony Seaman’s contract up and the team not having a winning season since the 2006 campaign, questions remained about Seaman’s future as Tigers head coach.
But fourth year athletic director Mike Hermann brought Seaman back into the fold with a three year deal, which was announced two weeks back. But questions arose this week when Hermann himself resigned with no reasonable answer given at this time.
While that may be the most concern in Towson for the foreseeable future, the Towson athletic program stood behind Seaman, who is 96-83 over his dozen years at the school, and put any rumors about him being fired off to the wayside for the team being.
Seaman, who has also coached Hopkins and Penn, is eighth all-time in wins (253) and winning percentage. During his time coaching the Tigers, he has won four conference championships.
One question fans and outsiders had begun to wonder was with Towson’s struggles over the last four years, why was Seaman continuing to schedule the top notch programs, who just continued to come in and beat them to a pulpit?
Seaman defended his actions said that is makes his team better in the long run, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We ended up with the 3rd toughest schedule at the end of the year,” he said. “But everybody we play around here we need to play. We need to play the teams that are in Maryland. They all happen to be very good.”
Seaman understood why the school might have had to think about his future, but he felt relieved that the school had enough confidence in him to allow him to coach the team for another three years.
“We battle on. It’s a great place to work…and we’ll move on from there.”
Tune into “The Morning Reaction” to hear more interviews with coaches from all over the Baltimore area! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!