(Photo Courtesy of Michigan Athletics)
One week ago, St John’s announced the hiring on Justin Turri as the program’s fourth men’s lacrosse coach.
Turri arrives in Queens after a four-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Michigan, where this past spring he oversaw an offense that ended the season as the 11th-ranked scoring offense (14.07 goals per game) nationally.
“The people within the athletic department at St. John’s, the university as a whole, the student body, the faculty and staff, it’s a really passionate group and that’s what I felt going through the interview process,” Turri told Lacrosse Bucket in an Interview. “It was a really welcoming family atmosphere and something that you walked away from and wanted to be apart of it.”
Turri brings with him nearly a decade of experience as an assistant coach. He started off as a volunteer assistant at Providence before spending time at Army West Point and Harvard prior to his arrival in Ann Arbor.
Now as a head coach for the first time in his career, Turri says that there is “A lot” of lessons that he will bring with him that he learned at each of the stops he’s made throughout his coaching career thus far, as well as from his days as a player at Duke.
“I was fortunate to learn from mentors and coaches throughout my career.” Turri said.
“being at a place like West Point and learning from Coach A (Joe Alberici) of how to run a program but more importantly how to take care of, and care for, your players and how to recruit nationally…and then to places like Harvard and Michigan, while they are all different, it was how to build a holistic student-athlete and how to put in the resources and spend the amount of time to do that and then excellence in the class room, in the community and on the field, and how those are all tied together,”
Maybe the most important lesson Turri said he carries with him from his experiences is that while there are different ways of doing things, the end goal is always the same. “If you focus on that (the end goal) and developing people that way and your team with a focus in those areas, the stuff on the field will start to take care of itself.”
At St. John’s, Turri takes over a program that has struggled. The Red Storm are coming off a 2-12 campaign this past spring and haven’t won a Big East contest since 2016. The program is also a decade removed from its last winning season (2013) and 11 years (2012) removed from its last postseason appearance, in which St. John’s reached the Big East Championship game.
While success in the win column hasn’t been great for St. John’s in recent years, Turri looks at the current roster with optimism as he takes on the task of trying to build this program back towards success.
“I have to give Coach Miller a lot of credit for what he built and the state of the program when it comes to the guys in the locker room,” Turri said. “I think there is a lot there and you know it was in the not too distant past that St. John’s was competing for a Big East championship and beating No. 1 Notre Dame…It will certainly be a lot of work, but the opportunity to build a roster that is reflective of the school and the area [New York], which is tough, diverse, blue-collar, It is a really exciting prospect for me and my coaching staff.”
Playing a home-and-home in 2019 and 2020 against St. John’s while at Michigan was the last time Turri came into contact with the program he now heads. But he said through watching film he is specifically excited about what he saw from many of the players last season, and in particular some of the freshman and sophomores who made a sizable impact. He also noted some veterans whom will also be leaned heavily upon in the immediate future.
“I look at some of the returners such as returning captain Corey Hall who transferred in from Furman, returning starting defenseman Braeden Pratt who started as a freshman. We have some depth at midfield with guys like Connor Kalmus and Jack Lutfi, and then bringing in a graduate transfer in Sean Duffy who had a ton of success at Hampden-Sydney and was a DIII All-American, and then I look down at attack to guys like Caleb Zuhoski who played a lot of minutes and Brian Kelly who started as a freshman…And in goal Caden Quirk got thrown into the fire as a freshman and had some ups and downs, but that will only help him grow.”
While there may be a lot he likes about the current roster in front of him, Turri noted that recruiting and continuing to build up depth and talent is very much crucial to improvement. And in terms of recruiting, Turri helped put together some stellar recruiting classes during his time at Michigan. In the 2020 and 2021 cycles, Michigan signed nine players ranked in the Inside Lacrosse top 100.
For Turri, he said while his role now may be different as a head coach, his philosophy has not.
“Our goal is always to recruit and retain,” Turri said. “And you do that by doing the work up front to make sure you’re getting a guy that fits you, your locker room, and your university. We do that by asking the right questions off the field…and while the talent is what everybody sees, it is those questions that help build not only a high-level recruiting class but a class that is going to come in, love it, enhance the locker room, and put in the work to develop and maximize themselves over the course of their career.”
In terms of what style of play you can expect from Turri’s teams in Queens, the coach stated that he wants a team that plays a full-field style. “We want to play full field offense, and full field defense. We’re gonna try to create tempo in certain situations and you can use transition and the ride to do that, but from a simple perspective we want to impose our will on our opponents and make them uncomfortable just by being really good at what we do.”