Without the comic-book muscles or the nefarious villain, Nadelen is tasked with the Herculean assignment of reviving a school that hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2007, hasn't registered a winning record over that same span, and endured a 3-10 campaign — including a 1-5 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association — this past spring.
For his part, Nadelen said by accepting the opportunity to succeed Tony Seaman, who parted ways with the university on May 9, he also accepted that challenge.
"Every day I wake up in the morning, I strive to be better and be better than my competition," said Nadelen, the seventh men's lacrosse coach in Towson history. "Those are traits that I want to instill in my players. I'm going to demand and expect that from them."
Nadelen, 32, walks into a role that he has been tutored in by Seaman, who hired Nadelen as the team's defensive coordinator prior to the 2004 season. The associate head coach over the past two years, Nadelen is very familiar with the program's tradition, which includes Final Four appearances in 1991 and 2001.
Waddell is confident that Nadelen can re-establish the school as a national contender.
"He brings that type of 'you can't get in my way' and 'you can't tell me that I can't do something' attitude," Waddell said. "Those are the things that make a difference when you're building a program. Those are the things that make a difference in one-goal games. Those are the things that, when you practice that way, you play that way and you can win that way together. I think there's a type of unity that he will bring to our program that he's learned as a prep, as a collegian, as a pro, as a national team member that perhaps we maybe missed out on."
Seaman, 68, was absent from Nadelen's introductory news conference, but a trio of players in senior goalkeeper Travis Love, redshirt junior midfielder Matt Hanzsche and redshirt sophomore midfielder Ian Mills were present.
Hanzsche said the players understood what's expected of them when they endorsed Nadelen's candidacy
"He's a champion, and he's going to teach us how to win," Hanzsche said. "I think he gives us the opportunity to win in the short term and win in the long term. So we're all really excited."
That process won't be easy. The Tigers graduate three starters in attackman Tim Stratton, midfielder Pat Britton, defenseman Marc Ingerman and another everyday contributor in short-stick defensive midfielder Peter Mezzanotte. And the offense didn't even register among the top 50 in Division I after averaging 7.8 goals.
"It's going to be difficult," Mills conceded. "We're going to have to push ourselves. We were 3-10 this year, and we had a lot of one-goal losses. You can't just change automatically. We're going to have to work hard, and I think we welcome that challenge. We want to be at the top."
Without citing a specific number of wins as an indication of the program's improvement, Waddell pointed out that Maryland reached the NCAA tournament championship game under a first-year coach, and that Virginia captured the 2011 national championship after dismissing an All-American midfielder, indefinitely suspending another midfielder, and losing its top defenseman to a season-ending shoulder injury.
"I think winners know how to improvise, overcome and adapt, and that is definitely something that Shawn will be able to manage and be able to handle like a pro," Waddell said.
Nadelen said the process began Sunday when he accepted the job offer and will continue throughout the summer, fall workouts and winter preseason.
"The light flips on for guys at different times," he said. "As a team as a whole, I'd love to say that it will happen by the end of winter or before we leave for winter break and have that. But we don't. There are going to be subtle changes at times, and there are going to be dramatic changes for others at times, and each guy is going to be different. But as a program, we're going to have one attitude and one understanding of who we are, and it's going to be everybody's commitment and drive for that."