Duke hires Hofstra's Danowski as men's lax coach

Updated: July 21, 2006, 7:52 PM ET
Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. -- As the father of a Duke lacrosse player, John Danowski read every headline about the allegations of rape that ended the Blue Devils' season, forced their coach to resign and led to the indictment of three of his son's teammates.

John Danowski
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeJohn Danowski faces a rebuilding effort on a number of fronts.

But none of those headlines scared the longtime Hofstra lacrosse coach from accepting the challenge of leading the Blue Devils as they start to rebuild.

"Bad things happen sometimes," Danowski said Friday as he was introduced as Duke's new coach. "You get stronger, you learn and improve, or you can go the other way. But certainly here, it appears to me that everybody's working really hard to learn from past experiences and push forward."

Danowski, whose son Matt is a Duke senior and an All-America attackman for the Blue Devils, will take over for Mike Pressler, who resigned soon after a woman told police she was raped by three men at a March team party where she was hired to perform as an exotic dancer.

A grand jury has indicted three players -- Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J.; Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y.; and David Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md. -- on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. Defense attorneys strongly have proclaimed the players' innocence.

The rape allegations led Duke to first suspend the team from play and later cancel the season. They also led to criticism of the program and the players' behavior, which included a history of problems tied to alcohol.

By bringing in Danowski -- who was offered the job after meeting with university president Richard Brodhead on Thursday -- Duke is hoping to put all that to rest.

"Today's all about moving forward, not looking backwards," said athletics director Joe Alleva.

In 21 seasons at Hofstra, Danowski compiled a record of 192-123, taking the Pride to the NCAA Tournament in seven of the past 11 seasons. In his 24-year career, Danowski has a record of 219-139, making him one of eight active head coaches in Division I with 200 wins.

"I think he's the right man for the job, not only because he's my father but [because] his track record speaks for itself," Matt Danowski said. "It's a step forward for our program, just to get back to a sense of normalcy. We've got a coach and everybody's looking forward to late August to get back here and start playing again."

Last year, Danowski led the Pride to a 17-2 record, matching an NCAA record for victories set by Duke the previous season. He had said it would take something pretty special to lure him away from the program he had led since 1986.

Ultimately, coaching Matt and the Blue Devils -- who reached the national championship game in 2005 and were considered contenders for a national title in 2006 -- fit that description.

"He has an opportunity to coach his son," Hofstra athletics director Jack Hayes said. "Not too many people get that chance, so we certainly were understanding of his pursuit of the job."

Last month, Duke appointed assistant coach Kevin Cassese, a two-time team captain and U.S. national team player, to serve as interim coach while the school searched for a permanent replacement. Alleva said Cassese would serve as an assistant coach.

Brodhead canceled the highly ranked team's season April 5, following the disclosure of a vulgar e-mail sent by player Ryan McFadyen in which he joked about killing strippers. A university investigation later found a history of disciplinary problems involving team members, including underage drinking.

But a faculty committee recommended the team be allowed to resume play, with its members' conduct strictly monitored. Brodhead agreed to reinstate the program, but only after all remaining players agreed to a mission statement that emphasizes academics, tolerance and a code of conduct that, among other things, prohibits underage drinking.

"There is no way Duke could hire somebody and that person would guarantee that things would run perfectly," said Virginia coach Dom Starsia, who led the Cavaliers to the national championship in May. "But in John Danowski, I don't think they could've made a better hire for themselves.

"I'm glad Duke's back up on its feet and running again. There's no reason Duke lacrosse can't get back to where they were before all this happened."

Also Friday, a judge ruled District Attorney Mike Nifong can subpoena the home address of any uncharged lacrosse team member he plans to call as a witness. But Judge Kenneth C. Titus declined to give Nifong access to records of activity on the students' Duke identification cards, which can be used to purchase items and gain access to campus buildings.

Attorneys for the uncharged players argued the information is protected by federal privacy laws and that Nifong's subpoenas seeking the information were flawed.

Nifong has said every member of the team is a potential witness in the case and having the home addresses would ensure he could call the players to testify at trial, which is unlikely to begin before spring 2007. He wanted the information from the key cards to confirm what the players told investigators about their whereabouts following the March 13 team party.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press