Jen Adams never thought about becoming a head coach.
Happy for the past two years as a hands-on assistant coach for Maryland's women's lacrosse team, Adams never intended to leave the program that made her a superstar. She turned down several lucrative head-coaching offers from other programs to stay with her alma mater.
Until Loyola came calling.
"Originally, I kind of cast [the inquiry] aside. I didn't even think much about it," Adams said. "Then, they asked me to come down and interview and I thought I'd give them at least that courtesy."
Once on campus, Adams liked what she saw.
"Instantly, I had that feeling where I was, 'OK, I might take this a little more seriously.' "
Although that surprised Adams, it might have surprised Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan even more.
"She's a rock star. She really is," Boylan said. "When we started looking for a coach, she was someone we'd certainly think about, but I didn't think we had a chance."
Adams, 29, is perhaps the best player ever - and certainly the most recognizable name - in the sport. From a three-time Player of the Year and four-time national champion at Maryland to the leading scorer for the victorious Australian World Cup team four years ago, she has inspired girls all over the world.
"It's like getting Michael Jordan in the lacrosse world," said Teddi Burns, Loyola associate AD. "We've already been getting phone calls from student-athletes who would never, I don't think, have called us in the past."
Aside from the upswing in potential recruits since she became Greyhounds coach in June, Adams also brings a coaching style that has been honed as she moved through the ranks in Australia and as an assistant to her best friend and former Terps teammate Cathy Reese, at Denver for three years, then at Maryland.
Reese said Adams has a way of reaching her athletes, on the field and off.
"She has the ability to communicate effectively to the people she's working with, and she has a way of getting through to them," Reese said. "She's really creative and has a great mind for the game, but she's a good teacher as well."
Adams' World Cup teammate Stacey (Morlang) Sullivan, who played for Loyola and was a Greyhounds assistant coach from 2003 to 2005, agreed.
"I have not met a more passionate, skillful, innovative and inspiring lacrosse player in my life," Sullivan said in an e-mail. "The players should feel so unbelievably lucky to be coached by not only the best player in the world but a genuinely great person that understands how to bring out the best in people."
One of Adams' main concerns was the small size of Loyola's program, one dwarfed by Maryland's huge athletic department. Still, Adams said she found it has all the resources she needed, especially academic support for her players. There's even a new stadium, the Rev. Harold Ridley S.J. Intercollegiate Athletic Complex, scheduled to open next February.
However, it wasn't until she sat down with a panel of players that she decided to take the job.
"There was a point in that interview where I was like, 'I'm going to do this. I can see myself doing this,' " Adams said. "Really just the things they were saying, the things they were looking for were the things I know I'm best at as a coach."
Most of all, the players want to learn, said Adams, who still gets out onto the field to demonstrate the tricky stick maneuvers that made her famous. She has already seen the players spending extra time trying to master some of them.
The Greyhounds still seem a bit in awe of Adams, who plans to play in her third and final World Cup this June in Prague, Czech Republic. They've picked up on her energy as well as her creativity and up-tempo style.
"It's a completely new game for us, and it's an exciting time," said sophomore midfielder Cara Filippelli. "I think in practice you can tell that the energy's there, and if we believe in what she's teaching us, she'll get us where we want to go."
When Adams traded her Terrapins red for Greyhounds green, she took over a program in need of a fresh start. Since the death in June 2003 of charismatic coach Diane Geppi-Aikens, the Greyhounds have struggled to find a new identity.
Geppi-Aikens, who died after a long battle with brain cancer, turned Loyola into a national power and took the Greyhounds to the final four six times, including a month before her death.
Former Loyola All-American Kerri O'Day took over, deftly guiding the Greyhounds through the emotional transition period before resigning after last season to devote more time to her growing family.
Adams, who coaches her first game at Stony Brook on Wednesday, inherits a program that is bruised - four straight losing seasons - but certainly not broken.
"You're going to see changes and you're going to see things done in a different way," Adams said, "but one of my big aims is to keep a link, the traditions, a sense of history, because there is so much pride in what's happened in the past here. We're going to carry that into the future, but we're going to forge our own path."