Blue Jays' job toughest in lacrosse


It used to be that coaching football at Notre Dame was, at once, the best and the worst job in the country.

It was the best because of the school's tradition and following and its attractiveness to recruits.

It was the worst because of the high expectations. The Irish were expected to win every game. The alumni, subway and otherwise, would accept no less.

Lou Holtz understood that when he left Minnesota to go to Notre Dame in 1986. By 1988, he had developed a team that did win every game (12-0). It even won the national championship.

Still there was grumbling, which Holtz understood only when one old grad told him: "What we want is for you to win every game big."

The Notre Dame coach no longer has the hardest time satisfying his constituency.

Proof: Last fall, the Irish not only failed to win every game; they lost five of them -- and tied one (6-5-1). Holtz is still there and there is no "dump Lou" campaign.

The toughest job in the business now would appear to be at Johns Hopkins.

Coaching lacrosse there carries somewhat the same kind of pressure Notre Dame coaches have long faced. Except that the Hopkins alumni won't tolerate a single loss.

Proof: A week ago, the Hopkins team was undefeated (13-0), ranked No. 1 in the country and top-seeded in the NCAA Division I tournament. Coming up was a semifinal game against Maryland at College Park.

At a tailgate party in the parking lot before the game, a Hopkins midfielder of a decade ago was talking about the Blue Jays' coach, Tony Seaman.

"Tony's a great guy," the alum said, "but if he doesn't win this tournament, he's gone."

"Win the tournament?" I said. "Tony could lose to Maryland today."

"If he loses today," the man said, "he's definitely gone."

As people all over the country know -- the NCAA semifinals and finals were televised nationally by ESPN2 and ESPN, respectively -- Hopkins lost to Maryland, 16-8.

And as people all over the country also know now, Hopkins is a pressure-cooker for a lacrosse coach. On ESPN, announcer Leif Elsmo was telling viewers about the grumbling over Seaman that would be forthcoming.

The game wasn't over five minutes when several old Hopkins greats gave me a thumbs-down on Seaman, who has coached this team for five years and hasn't won a title.

Said one: "If Tony can't win with this team, we'll never win a national championship."

In the athletic department at Hopkins yesterday, athletic director Bob Scott was talking about alumni criticism of Seaman. He was disgusted by it.

"People who talk that way are ridiculous," said Scott, who will step down from the AD job June 30. "Those people remember the Henry Ciccarone days when we were winning three straight championships."

Tom Calder, who will assume the athletic directorship July 1, could hardly believe anyone seriously thought the team would be better off with another coach.

"Tony was 13-0 and then lost one game," said a frowning Calder.

That loss was not the shocking upset some thought it was -- not when Hopkins and Maryland had met on the same field a month before with Hopkins winning, 16-15, in the final seconds.

But it was an upset in which the Maryland players played the game of their lives, outhustled and outplayed Hopkins and deserved to win.

The key to the whole Final Four was the brilliance of Brian Dougherty in the first quarter against Hopkins. The Maryland goalie made 12 saves and took Hopkins out of the game.

At halftime, with Maryland leading 10-4, Scott Giardina, a former Hopkins goalie, now an assistant coach at Virginia, said to me in the press box:

"What can Tony tell his team to do now -- take better shots? He has the two best shooters in the game [Terry Riordan and Brian Piccola] and they've had good shots."

It didn't matter what Seaman told his team. That simply was Maryland's day.

Syracuse, the new NCAA champion, played two strong games and took everybody else out of the tournament, Virginia on Saturday, 20-13, and Maryland in the final, 13-9.

Some of the best players Hopkins has had in years finished their careers in the loss to Maryland.

Riordan scored more goals (184) than any player in Hopkins history. Riordan, Piccola and faceoff ace Peter Jacobs, all seniors, made first-team All-America.

Junior Milford Marchant made second team. Four others

received honorable mention.

I feel sorry for Tony Seaman. During the regular season he beat everybody -- Syracuse, Maryland, Virginia, Princeton, Loyola (twice). The whole crowd. You don't go 13-0 against that competition unless you can coach.

"I feel sorry for our seniors," Seaman said yesterday. "They're great kids and they worked so hard."

For some Hopkins people, that's not enough.

People say no school can dominate any longer, at least not the way Hopkins once did, but Syracuse has won five of the last eight NCAA championships. That's pretty dominant.

That sort of thing is enough to make a Hopkins coach feel as if . . . well, as if he's at Notre Dame.

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