"He just told us that we’ve got a new member to the family and he’s going to be a great coach and a great friend and a great leader," soon-to-be senior defenseman Max Schmidt said. "That’s how we’re going to welcome him – as a member of the family."
The hiring of Tillman ended a
3023-day search for a successor to Dave Cottle, who stepped down the day after the team’s 7-5 loss to unseeded Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament on May 22.
During that time, Cornell head coach Jeff Tambroni, Bryant head coach Mike Pressler and Syracuse women’s head coach Gary Gait – who was an assistant coach for the Terps women’s lacrosse team prior to the hiring of Cottle in 2001 – each pulled their names from consideration for the vacancy.
While that might normally be alarming, Schmidt said he wasn’t overly worried.
"I knew our athletic department had the best intentions in mind, but I was anxious," he said. "It had been almost four weeks of us being in the dark, and we kind of hadn’t had any information on what was going on. But I knew that the athletic department was going to do what was best for us and what was best for the school, and I’ve heard from many different people that that’s what we’ve got."
Regarded as one of the finest offensive minds in the sport, Tillman will likely bring his coaching philosophy and style to College Park. What that means for defensive coordinator Dave Slafkosky and assistant coach Ryan Moran – and the players who have come to regard the pair as family – is uncertain.
"I don’t have enough knowledge to be concerned," Schmidt said. "Like I said, I really don’t know him as a coach. I think he’s going to do what’s best for the team. I think he’s already game-planning on who he wants to bring in, different assistant coaches on whom he thinks will be a great fit for our team. I think he’s going to do whatever it takes to lead a national championship-caliber team. I’m not going to put him in question right now because I have no idea about his coaching philosophy or anything like that. But we’re trusting our administration and we’re trusting our athletic department that they’ve hired the right guy, and that’s all we can do right now."
Tillman spent 12 years as an assistant coach at Navy – including the final six as that team’s head assistant coach. Schmidt joked that the players won’t hold that against the incoming head coach.
"We’ll welcome him with open arms," he said. "Navy was a couple years ago, so we don’t have to worry about that. And we don’t have Harvard on our schedule. So I’m not too worried about where his allegiances are going to fall."