Some thoughts on Dave Pietramala and where Johns Hopkins goes from here
Just before noon on Tuesday, Johns Hopkins announced that the University and long-time head coach Dave Pietramala have mutually parted ways.
For nearly everyone, it came as a huge surprise. One of the greatest lacrosse players and lacrosse coaches at a traditional blueblood program won't be on the sideline (at least for Johns Hopkins) next season. In all, Pietramala spent a total of 27 seasons at Johns Hopkins (four as a player, three as an assistant coach, 20 as a head coach). His final record at Hopkins was 207-93 (230-110 if you include his three years at Cornell).
First, a little about Petro's head coaching tenure at his alma mater. From his first year in 2001 to 2012, Pietramala took Hopkins to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals every year except in 2010, when the Blue Jays were eliminated in the first round and finished with a 7-8 record, the only season the Blue Jays were under .500. During that span, he won a pair of national championships in 2005 and 2007, the first coming from an undefeated 16-0 season. Johns Hopkins had 63 All-Americans during that period with players such as Kyle Harrison and Paul Rabil going through the program. The Cordish Lacrosse Center opened up in 2012 on the south end of Homewood Field.
But things changed in 2013. Hopkins, an independent at the time, went 9-5 and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1971. After one more season as an independent, the Blue Jays became part of the new Big Ten conference as an affiliate member. In their first season in the Big Ten, Hopkins began the season with a 4-6 record before winning seven straight to win the Big Ten Tournament and return to Championship Weekend for the first time since 2007. A pair of 8-7 finishes and first round exits followed before the Blue Jays won the Big Ten Tournament again in 2018 before losing in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. An 8-8 season followed in 2019 along with another first round exit in the NCAA Tournament, a trip that didn't look possible before two wins over Maryland in under a week.
In terms of coaching, if Bob Scott was the program's version of John McKay, then Dave Pietramala was the program's version of Pete Carroll. The former two brought their programs into a modern era as top teams, and the latter two brought their programs back to the top in a more recent era.
There's a lot of questions as to the timing of why this decision happened. There are many players entering the transfer portal, headlined by Princeton's Michael Sowers. The Hopkins season was cut short after a come-from-behind overtime victory at home against Mount St. Mary's. That ended a four-game losing streak and put the team's record at a disappointing 2-4 four days before playing Navy for the first time since 2017.
There's also the question of who succeeds Pietramala and perhaps the rest of his coaching staff (Bill Dwan, Bobby Benson, and Larry Quinn are assistants).
The obvious candidates to start are Towson's Shawn Nadelen and Hobart's Greg Raymond, both current head coaches and Hopkins alumni. In nine seasons with the Tigers, Nadelen has accumulated an 83-56 record with a trip to Championship Weekend in 2017 and a pair of #1 rankings in 2019 highlighting his current reign. In seven seasons with the Statesmen, Raymond has accumulated a 50-47 mark with an NEC title in 2016 and helped coach a talented Hobart offense for the past two seasons.
Other alumni like Albany's Scott Marr and Hofstra's Seth Tierney should be on the list as well, perhaps even Drexel's Brian Voelker, Utah's Brian Holman, or former Hopkins assistant and current Denver head coach Bill Tierney. But what about other non-Johns Hopkins alums, the general pool of candidates for a head coaching job or an upgraded head coaching job?
With Gerry Byrne now at Harvard as their head coach, Virginia's Sean Kirwan has become the best assistant coach in the country. He was also a finalist for the Harvard job last summer. J.L. Reppert at Maryland could also be a candidate if Hopkins went the assistant route.
But it's very likely the Blue Jays will hire a current head coach. If it's not one of the candidates already listed, it could be Joe Alberici (Army West Point), Kevin Warne (Georgetown), Jon Torpey (High Point), Kevin Cassese (Lehigh), Dan Chemotti (Richmond), or Taylor Wray (Saint Joseph's).
A Hopkins degree is still worth a lot, with or without the lacrosse. The program will not lose any luster just because of a change at head coach. But it needs to find the right person to lead Johns Hopkins into a new era of college lacrosse.
It can't be a Rich Rodriguez.