During his time as an assistant coach with the Loyola Maryland men's lacrosse team, Ryan Moran marveled at how popular head coach Charley Toomey's peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich sessions on the eve of road games were among his players, about 20 of whom crammed onto beds, chairs and the carpet in Toomey's hotel room.
Moran, introduced Wednesday as UMBC's third head coach in program history, said one of his first goals will be implementing a similar tradition on road trips.
"I hope they like peanut butter and jelly," Moran said in an interview before his news conference.
Taking what he has learned from mentors such as Furman coach Richie Meade, Maryland coach John Tillman and Toomey could be crucial for the 34-year-old Moran, who is tasked with reviving a program that last made the NCAA tournament in 2009 and has failed to qualify for the past two America East Conference tournaments after earning berths in the first 11.
The team's slide has coincided with a downturn in its offense. The Retrievers scored just 8.5 goals per game in 2015 and nine this spring.
That's where Moran, an All-America midfielder with the Terps who was the offensive coordinator for Maryland and the Greyhounds, steps in. Under Moran the past two seasons, Loyola averaged 11.1 goals over 33 games. The unit finished 2015 ranked 20th in Division I in scoring (11.2 goals). Attackman Zach Herreweyers scored 47 goals as a junior to finish tied for fifth most in a season in school history and ranked seventh in the country with 3.1 goals per game.
This spring, the Greyhounds (14-4) ranked 22nd (10.9 goals per game) and advanced to the NCAA tournament semifinals. The offense was sparked by freshman attackman Pat Spencer (Boys' Latin), who tied the single-season school record of 89 points and ranked second in the nation with 52 assists.
Moran said he needs to spend some more time reviewing the Retrievers' returning players, but noted that he prefers the up-tempo style Loyola played.
"In an ideal world, I find I've had the most fun coaching teams where you can be extremely athletic in between the yellow lines, between the restraining lines, and really putting a lot of focus on your rope unit, your long-stick middies, your short-stick defensive middies, and allowing them to have some freedom to be aggressive and attack early on the offense," he said. "And I think that's where defenses are most vulnerable."
Moran succeeds Don Zimmerman, who is scheduled to retire July 1 after announcing his decision to step down May 2 following 30 years as a college head coach.
Zimmerman, who attended Moran's introductory news conference, said he hopes the program does not face unrealistic expectations early in Moran's tenure.
"I would hope there's not a lot of pressure put on Ryan immediately," said Zimmerman, who won three NCAA titles in his seven years at Johns Hopkins and went 237-171 overall. "It's going to take him a while to settle in, and I think the key is that the people who support UMBC lacrosse should know that they've got a good man who's going to be at the helm, and I hope they're excited about watching him go about doing his thing."
Moran said he'd be lying if he didn't feel pressure to replicate Zimmerman's success at UMBC, which includes four America East regular-season titles and three tournament championships.
"When you follow a coach who's won national championships and had success wherever he's been and is easily a Hall of Famer and is someone that everyone looks up to, that's definitely something that is somewhat daunting," he said. "But just like anything else, any challenge you take on is going to present some adversity. What I do know about Coach Zim is that he's very supportive. I've had one or two conversations with him, and in those conversations, he's been nothing but nice and supportive to me."
Toomey predicted that Moran would not bow to the pressure.
"I don't think Ryan's going to go in there and try to be Don Zimmerman or even worry about who he is following," Toomey said. "He's going to do the best job that he can, and the part about Ryan's personality that stands out is he's a terrific talent evaluator and an excellent coach, both offensively and defensively. I was always amazed by some of his comments in the film room at some of the things we could be considering on the defensive end. He's going to be himself, and that's the biggest thing. You can't worry about who you're following. You've got to stay within your own identity."
Moran inherits a team that graduated its top player on attack (Nate Lewnes), midfield (Jack Gannon) and defense (Zach Esser) but is expected to return seven starters. The Retrievers lose more than 43 percent of their goals and 34 percent of their points, suggesting that the rebuilding process could take some time.
Moran was not prepared to outline a timetable for returning the program to its past glory — UMBC won its three America East tournament titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009 — but he said that is the priority.
"We're here to develop young men, and we're here to get degrees and do really well in the classroom, but when we're on the field, we want to win championships," he said. "And the first championship you have to get before the second one is the America East championship. So the concept and the mentality and the culture of a championship effort and a championship approach will hopefully instill in the back of their heads that this is what we're shooting for here."