Athletic directors don't hire new coaches because they think they're going to fail. (If they do, there's a level of schadenfreude there that makes me wonder why I never pursued a career in athletic administration, excitingly filling out new employee payroll forms every three years to satiate my appetite for having "Coach, we need to talk . . ." conversations.) Five schools hung vacancy signs above their lacrosse offices this summer -- Georgetown, Lafayette, Manhattan, Mercer, and Providence -- and all came away with, what I can only presume they believe, new navigators destined to chart a course for the Sea of Endless Victories (which is a totally real place that only sees marshmallow clouds and gumdrops falling from the sky instead of rain).
The thing about programs breaking in new coaches is that, in general, these programs aren't exactly in the best positions to win immediately; if they were, some poor soul in the athletic department wouldn't have had to issue a pink slip and then rustle through endless resumes while having redundant conversations about mission statements and five-year plans that a potential coach may have. Not all programs that go through a coaching change, however, are in the exact same position; there are jobs that are inherently in a better situation than others, which compounds the interest in seeing where these new coaches can take their schools in their first year on the job.
Where do the programs in Division I that hired new guides shake out in terms of ranking programs for immediate success/solid production in 2013? The following words written on the Internet attempt to address that without pictures or other visual aids (sorry, lazy people).
The hire of Kevin Warne was a huge coup for the Hoyas who are looking to make things less face-palm worthy than compared to Dave Urick's final years on The Hilltop. Warne is the kind of guy that drinks liquid intensity, spits fire from his mouth, and has the work ethic of a lumberjack looking to clear the whole of Manitoba in a single afternoon. He's walking into a decent situation at Georgetown -- the Hoyas went 7-6 last year and finished 35th in adjusted efficiency margin -- and could have the opportunity to leverage off a big chunk of returning upperclassmen and an attack of Travis Comeau, Brian Casey, and Zac Guy. There is potential for the Hoyas to not only avoid taking a step back due to the growing pains generally attendant in experiencing a regime change, but to actually thrive. Georgetown is behind Notre Dame and Syracuse in the Big East as things stand currently, but could assert itself as the third-best team in the conference under Warne (which has been in dispute in recent seasons).
There's no question that the Hoyas have the best potential among this bunch.
The Leopards are a decent example of a team that was wins-poor in 2012 (3-10) but actually performed slightly above their actual record (which means nothing to anybody that isn't a huge statistical nerd). This isn't to say that Lafayette was good last season -- they weren't, duh -- but rather that the Leopards were among the bottom third of the country rather than the bottom 10. Jim Rogalski will enter a situation in which he'll need to deal with a brutal Patriot League schedule -- the only win that is potentially on that portion of the slate is against Holy Cross -- and a gruesome non-conference schedule -- the only games that look like great opportunities for victories are Manhattan, Wagner, and High Point (Marist serves as an upwardly mobile type of contest) -- which may not assist in increasing the overall win total from a season ago. But Lafayette has the opportunity to be a better team than they were in 2012; the attack, which was young, is now seasoned and the defense has some potential to stand up once again and lead the program as the team's best unit. The Leopards aren't going to knock the faces off of people, but they could finish the year right around the 40th best team in the nation, which isn't a bad mark compared to its peers that hired new coaches this summer.
If we're talking down-the-line considerations, Providence is arguably in a better position than Lafayette. The Friars are investing heavily in facilities -- including lacrosse-specific improvements -- and the hire of Chris Gabrielli (including his hires of John Galloway and Brett Holm) puts Providence on the map in terms of having the right kind of minds sitting at the helm of the program. If we're talking success-in-2013 (which is the purpose of this, after all), Providence winking at victories may be the closest it gets to having some serious action with Gatorade baths: The atmosphere and culture in the Friars program was backwards under former coach Chris Burdick; Gabrielli -- along with shepherding along a team that was among the 10 worst in Division I last season -- is also tasked with changing the environment in which the Friars act (and react). Outside of Andrew Barton, there isn't a lot of talent kicking around Elmhurst (although 6'8" Sean Wright is awkwardly interesting, kind of like gawking at the bearded lady); Gabrielli, for all the ability that he may have, may not have the top hat necessary to magically make four or five wins appear on a schedule that is relatively devoid of "gimmie games."
Manhattan may end up with more wins than Lafayette and Providence in the spring, but the Jaspers aren't appreciable better -- both talent-wise and in terms of program volition -- than either the Friars or Leopards. Steve Manitta -- formerly of Division II Mercy College and having never held a Division I coaching position in his career -- inherits a situation that saw Tim McIntee struggle; as a first-year head coach in Division I, Manitta is walking into circumstances in Riverdale that could be best described as "difficult." The Jaspers return no players that made either first- or second-team All-MAAC in 2012 (the second year in a row that no Jasper was honored by the league) and Manitta will need to start to build a culture in The Bronx with two-thirds of his maiden voyage coming on the road. The combination of all these factors puts heavy potential limitations on the Jaspers' overall performance expectations for the coming season.
This is just a tough spot all around for new coach Kyle Hannan. The facilities are in place (some of the nicest in Division I), but there's a lot sitting in front of the Bears right now: former head coach Jason Childs didn't exactly stock the cupboard with talent; the schedule is cockamamie; Mercer is coming off a season -- only its second of play -- in which it was among the worst three teams in the cohort; and Hannan needs to keep instilling a Division I culture at the institution. Hannan had nice success at Goucher before heading to Macon, and the new head coach has the opportunity to move Mercer from the ranks of the "one win; see ya next year!" club, but unless Hannan has something hidden from view -- like a cannon disguised as a crease attackman -- the Bears aren't going to have all that pretty of a season in 2013. The future is potentially brighter for the Bears, but this coming spring is likely filled with more handshakes made with gritted teeth.