Athletics & Recreation / Magazine

Legendary lacrosse coach finds new home at DU

Lacrosse Coach Bill Tierney

In his first year with the Pioneers, men's lacrosse coach Bill Tierney led the team to a conference championship and NCAA championship bid. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

When Bill Tierney decided to leave the Princeton Tigers men’s lacrosse team after 22 years and six national titles to take the helm of the Pioneers men’s lacrosse team, the media went bananas. The New Yorker’s John McPhee wrote a feature on Tierney, Lacrosse Magazine named him “person of the year” and The Denver Post called him a “legend.”

The buzz at DU matched the media frenzy.

“We expected that he would increase the visibility of our great university, not only because of who he was but because we expected him to win,” says Peg Bradley-Doppes, vice chancellor for athletics and recreation. “And in his first year here, he won the conference championship and went on to the NCAA championships, so I’d say he’s well on his way to achieving our goals.”

Tierney admits it would have been easy to look toward retirement at Princeton.

“I’m 58 years old, and it would have been easy enough to stay at Princeton and walk off into the sunset. But that wasn’t me. I was excited for a new challenge.”

Tierney, who led the U.S. national men’s lacrosse team to the 1998 world championship and was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2002, became DU’s head lacrosse coach in 2009. (His son Trevor is the team’s first assistant coach.)

In addition to the new challenge, Bill Tierney says he was excited to use the move as a way to grow the sport of lacrosse nationally. In his first year, he set up lacrosse camps and began reaching out to local players.

“One of the things I love about lacrosse is that it’s still got an innocence to it,” he says. “There’s nobody coming to college saying, ‘If I just have a couple of good years of college lacrosse, I’ll go be a millionaire in the NLL or MLL.’ And the best part is that for young men and women to play at the pinnacle of this sport, they’ve got to get a college education.”

The combination of proven coaching and academic expectations paid off for Tierney and his team on the field and in the classroom during his first year. The Pioneers closed out their season with a 12-5 overall record, tying the program’s best season since turning Division I in 1999. Additionally, the student-athletes’ overall grade point average rose from 2.7 to 3.1.

Senior Captain Andrew Lay says he has known who “Coach Tierney” was since he started playing lacrosse in the second grade.

“I went to all of the Princeton lacrosse camps when I was young with hopes that Coach T. would approach me with a letter of intent regardless of how old I was,” Lay recalls. “Obviously, I did not end up attending Princeton, but my dream of playing for Coach T. came true.”

Tierney says he has found a new home at DU.

“This place is special,” he says. “I came from arguably the finest academic institution in the world and I wasn’t sure if I’d find that again. But very quickly I have found it here. I’ve discovered such an honest, family atmosphere at DU. I’m thrilled to be here.”

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *