Commentary

Bates takes experience to Princeton

Analyzing the Tigers' new men's lacrosse coach

Updated: June 30, 2009, 12:13 PM ET
By Christian Swezey | Inside Lacrosse

Drexel coach Chris Bates was named the head coach at Princeton on Monday. The move caps a nearly monthlong process after Bill Tierney left Princeton for Denver.

Along the way, longtime assistant Dave Metzbower turned down the job and left the program. The school settled on a list of five finalists; the pleasantly varied names included an Ivy League assistant and head coaches from Division II and Division III.

Below is a quick analysis of Bates and Princeton.

Chris Bates
Courtesy of Princeton UniversityChris Bates returns to his Ivy League roots in taking over the Princeton program.

Who is Chris Bates?

He was an All-Ivy League attackman at Dartmouth in the late 1980s. He has a bachelor's in psychology from Dartmouth and a master's in education from North Carolina. He had been at Drexel, as either the head coach or an assistant, for all but one year dating from November 1993.

Bates, 40, went to John Jay (N.Y.) High and has recruited well in the Lower Hudson Valley, but his primary focus and success came in recruiting the Philadelphia area.

He also was heavily involved in bringing lacrosse to inner-city Philadelphia.

His career highlight was an 11-10 victory over defending national champion Virginia in 2007. It marked the first time Drexel had beaten a team ranked No. 1 in any sport.

Is he the next Bill Tierney?

Yes, in the sense that he's the Princeton coach who follows Tierney. But Bates also has taken more than a few cues from his predecessor.

In a 2008 interview, Bates said he based his program on things Tierney did at Princeton. "Coach Tierney has always done it the right way," Bates told the Baltimore Sun.

Was this job search difficult? Or a sign of how things will be in the future?

A little of both. High-profile lacrosse jobs do not open very often. Consider that Syracuse has had only three coaches since 1931. Dave Pietramala was hired at Johns Hopkins from Cornell in nine days in 2000. It was almost perfect timing -- Pietramala had been USILA coach of the year that season, and Johns Hopkins was still stung by the defection of John Haus to North Carolina. Going for an alum who would not make the same move was almost a prerequisite.

Sports institutions such as Notre Dame football and the Dallas Cowboys have had arduous coaching searches recently (two such searches, in Notre Dame's case). The Cowboys hired Wade Phillips in 2007 after owner Jerry Jones conducted more than 90 hours worth of interviews with 10 candidates, according to published reports.

Time was not something Princeton had, considering it was without a head coach and a top assistant in a busy recruiting period.

Given its druthers, Princeton's first choice to coach the team in 2010 almost certainly was Tierney. Metzbower was second.

The third choice apparently was Cornell assistant Ben DeLuca. Numerous sources said he was the leading candidate after interviews were done, though he later withdrew from consideration.

The wild-card scenario revolves around Hofstra coach Seth Tierney. One of the great "what if?" questions in lacrosse is, what if Tierney had not signed a five-year contract extension just days before Metzbower made his decision? Would he have been a candidate?

Of course, Bates can render all of this moot by having a monster season in 2010 and beyond.

Bottom line: Princeton, one of the top jobs in the sport, featured a list of finalists that included an in-conference assistant and coaches from Division II (Dan Sheehan of Le Moyne) and Division III (Mike Murphy of Haverford). And that was an exciting development, one that hopefully will be emulated in future coaching searches, regardless of the fact that Princeton's detractors used the list to decry the job's potential.

One thing with which to find fault: The Princeton-Cornell rivalry, simmering for years, nearly dissolved in enmity this year. There was a tangible edge when the teams met in a tense quarterfinal game won by the Big Red, 6-4. And it was extremely difficult to imagine DeLuca, a Cornell graduate, wearing Princeton colors anytime in the near future. Assuming Princeton pursued DeLuca so hard -- and that is the word among sources on both sides and among coaches -- it seems surprisingly naive.

What does this do to the Ivy League in 2010?

Princeton went 13-3 and reached the NCAA quarterfinals this past season. It is expected to have back its starting goalie, two starting defensemen, leading goal scorer Jack McBride (35 goals, 7 assists), and another starter each on attack (Chris McBride, 24 points) and midfield (Scott MacKenzie, 29 points).

But Bates and his staff will have to hit the ground running to keep up with Harvard, Cornell and Brown. Those coaching staffs are marked by hungry assistants and head coaches who seemingly work nonstop. Those also are programs with a lot of momentum.

Add in the new staff at Dartmouth, and the Ivy League recruiting battles will be fun to watch. On the field, Penn has back a lot of experience and could be in for an upswing in 2010.

One oddity: Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni is now the longest-tenured coach in the Ivy League; his first year was 2001.

One certainty: The Ivy League tournament will be very interesting.

Who will be Princeton's assistants?

Bates said he is planning to bring Greg Raymond and Stephen Brundage with him from Drexel. Raymond particularly will be a help at the start because he spent three years at Princeton -- he left last year for Drexel -- and he will know most of the current Princeton players. Because school is not in session, that could be very helpful for the staff to hit the ground running.

Any early candidates for the Drexel job?

This job, like Princeton's, is unusual in that it will not go to anyone in-house since Bates is bringing both of the assistants with him.

Murphy became a celebrated name this summer. He was the leader at Dartmouth before he withdrew after final interviews, and he was a finalist for Princeton. By all accounts, Murphy is happy at Haverford, but Drexel would be smart at least to gauge his interest in their opening.

Another possibility is former Denver assistant Jon Torpey. He was among the finalists for Fairfield last year but became surplus to requirements when Tierney took over at Denver. Dartmouth is hoping to add Torpey as an assistant. However, he is very well respected in coaching circles and might be ready for a head-coaching job.

Another option is Navy assistant Stan Ross. He has head-coaching experience from the now-defunct Butler program.

Whoever gets the job, Drexel has new facilities and a strong commitment from its administration.

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