(Photo Courtesy of Navy Athletics)
In many cases, year two of a college coach’s tenure can serve as somewhat of a turning point. Year one is all about establishing your culture, putting in your systems, and getting acclimated to a new environment and in some cases a new role. That second year is when things usually start to come together. Year two rosters are made up of inaugural recruiting classes, veterans recruited under the previous staff, and – increasingly in this new era – transfers. Learning from the challenges in year one and managing that roster is challenging. And some coaches certainly handle that second-year challenge better than others.
Brown went 7-7 (1-5 in the Ivy League) during Lars Tiffany’s first season in Providence. In year two they went 11-3 (5-1 in the Ivy League) and shared the conference title with Cornell. Tiffany’s first year in Charlottesville saw the Cavaliers go 8-7 (0-4 in the ACC). They went 12-6 (1-3 in the ACC) and made the NCAA Tournament in year two.
That type of second-year success is certainly not a given, and exactly what success in year two for a coach is does vary from program to program. Some will show incremental progress, some may lead the program to completely bottom out before rebuilding it over the next few seasons, and very few will lead complete turnarounds or keep a program at an elite level.
Here is a look at all seven head coaches who are entering their second year on the job and what we could expect this spring:
Andy Whitley – Bellarmine | 2020 Record: 2-6
Outlook: Whitley arrived in Louisville with his work already cut out for him. The Knights had just gone through a second coaching change in as many years, their best player had just transferred out, and they hadn’t had a winning season since 2014. It’s safe to say that there was much more beyond the play on the field that needed to be addressed. During the shortened 2020 season, Whitley led Bellarmine to a 2-6 record. They beat St. Bonaventure and Hampton to earn their two wins. Two of their losses, Marquette and Cleveland State, only came by one-goal. Growth was shown last season and sustainability has been retained at a program that so desperately needed it. In 2021, Bellarmine should churn out some more wins but there should be no outside expectations at all. While they do return a heap of their roster from last season and bring in a strong recruiting class, this program is in no place to move up the pecking order in the SoCon just yet. The foundation has been laid and now the real building can start.
Andy German – Cleveland State |2020 Record: 2-5
Outlook: German was able to ascend to the role of head coach at a place where he was already employed and got to do so following the exit of Dylan Sheridan who built the program. Essentially, the infrastructure and everything around that stayed the same. The only thing that changed was who the head coach was. Last season, the Vikings’ two wins came over No. 16 Air Force and Bellarmine. They only lost to Marquette by one in overtime and put up a strong effort in a three-goal loss against Mercer. With almost their entire roster coming back, including nine fifth-year seniors, those types of close games that they lost last season should be wins in 2021. In the second year of the German era, Cleveland State is on bounce back watch. They could very well churn a similar season to 2019, where they went 8-7 and had a winning record for the first time in program history. In the short term, the future looks bright on the banks of Lake Erie.
Andrew Baxter – Fairfield |2020 Record: 5-2
Outlook: In the summer of 2019, Andrew Baxter took a drive across the state of Connecticut from New Haven, where he served as the defensive coordinator at Yale, to Fairfield where he was tasked with heading a program that has plenty of potential but certainly hasn’t hit their ceiling yet. During the shortened 2020 season, Baxter led Fairfield to a 5-2 record. Their wins came against Stony Brook, Merrimack, Quinnipiac, LIU, and Siena. They lost to Georgetown and Harvard. Offense was the headliner for Fairfield in 2020, as they led the CAA with 16.43 goals per game. While that trend of high-powered offense should hold up in 2021, the defense is another story. Allowing 15 goals per game, defense was the death of this team last season and could be in 2021 if things don’t change. If things do change, a possible CAA appearance could be in store. That would certainly get things rolling in the right direction.
Gerry Byrne – Harvard | 2020 Record: 2-2
Outlook: After a 12-year stint in South Bend, Ind. as the defensive coordinator for Notre Dame, Byrne made the jump back into head coaching and Harvard ended up being the one job that was able to pull him away. Now he is tasked with getting the best out of one of the most underperforming programs in the Ivy League. During the shortened 2020 season, Harvard went 2-2. They beat UMass and Fairfield and lost by one to both Holy Cross and UAlbany. And, for what it’s worth, they never got to play a home game. Whether the Ivy League plays in 2021 is up for debate, but if they do Harvard should be a pretty fun and somewhat young team. Austin Madronic will be their offensive leader once again and goalie Kyle Mullin will do the same on defense. The Crimson the No. 5 ranked freshman class, according to Inside Lacrosse and those freshmen could see some significant time, especially with only freshmen on campus this fall. Don’t expect too much from Harvard this spring, but things are going up in Cambridge and this could be the year we start to see the rise.
Andrew Stimmel – Marquette | 2020 Record: 3-4
Outlook: Returning to Marquette, where he served as the Golden Eagles’ defensive coordinator in 2017, following a three-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Yale. He is now tasked with upholding that standard that has over their first seven seasons as a program. In Year one, Marquette went 3-4 but that could’ve easily been 4-3 or better, as they only lost by an average of 1.5 goals per game. Coming into the 2021 season, the Golden Eagles return talent, young and veteran, up on both ends. Ranked 43rd in scoring offense and 22nd in scoring defense last season, this is a team that will be improved and can certainly make some noise in a pretty competitive Big East this spring. Will the second year of the Stimmel era see a Big East title brought to Milwaukee? Probably not. But a Big East Tournament berth could certainly be attainable.
Joe Amplo – Navy | 2020 Record: 3-2
Outlook: Joe Amplo proved himself as a builder at Marquette. Now at Navy, he must prove himself as a rebuilder. And the problems, at least on the field, that needed to be addressed were pretty clear. In year one, Navy went 3-2 and those problems seemed to have been addressed. They went 3-2, beating Manhattan, Furman, and Colgate. Their losses came against Richmond and Lehigh, who were ranked No. 18 and No. 18 when they took the field against them. Coming into the 2021 season, Amplo has this program in the right place. They brought in the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the 2020 cycle and return a ton of talent on both ends of the field. While having to replace Ryan Kern in cage, they have proven talent everywhere else. Navy might not be ready to take the Patriot League by storm just yet, but they are certainly headed back in that direction. Expectations should be higher for Navy this season than they have been in recent years, but don’t expect too much. A Patriot League Tournament berth is certainly in the realm of possibilities. Anything beyond that is fantasy land at the moment.
Anthony Gilardi – Stony Brook | 2020 Record: 5-2
Outlook: After a stint as the offensive coordinator at Towson, Gilardi shipped up to Long Island where he accepted the task of leading the Stony Brook Seawolves, which is one of the best programs in the America East. The main thing that everyone will be watching is whether or not Gilardi can get Stony Brook back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. Judging by last season, that is very much achievable. Stony Brook went 5-2 last season. They earned wins over the likes of Brown and Rutgers and their only losses came against Fairfield and Bryant. Coming into the 2021 season, the Seawolves are expected to be one of the top two teams in the conference, along with UAlbany. With eight fifth-year returnees, in addition to the number of talented underclassmen on both ends, many feel optimistic about this squad coming into 2021. And America East title game appearance is and should be, the expectation for Stony Brook in year two of the Gilardi era.