Lenny Kaplan, New Jersey Institute of Technology's athletic director, indicated to Inside Lacrosse in early November that the school was hoping to have a head coach in place by Thanksgiving. This was part of a plan designed to get the Highlanders on the field for Division I competition for the 2015 season. Kaplan's approach -- an ultra-aggressive one that materialized out of the ether -- earned skepticism from some, but Kaplan has fit an important piece into the puzzle: NJIT now has a head coach.
Division I's newest men's lacrosse program has picked their first head coach; NJIT will debut under the direction of Mount St. Mary's assistant Travis Johnson, a university official confirmed Thursday night.
Highlanders' athletic director Lenny Kaplan previously told IL that he was targeting a 2015 start date and was hoping to move quickly in hiring a coach.
Multiple sources told IL that NJIT interviewed as many as six candidates, and a source indicated that Johnson was set to start in early January.
Johnson served as the Mountaineers' defensive coordinator. Under Johnson's guidance the last three seasons, Mount St. Mary's finished 59th in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2013 and 57th and 52nd in the same metric in 2012 and 2011, respectively. Prior to his time at Mount St. Mary's, Johnson worked at Penn State and Stony Brook, overseeing those program's defensive efforts. This is his first gig as a head coach at the Division I level.
Johnson assumes arguably the most difficult head coaching job in Division I lacrosse: He will have only one summer to recruit Division I-caliber players before starting competition at the highest level of the college game; NJIT isn't currently in a conference, which could create problems in creating a schedule (or even creating a full-length spring schedule); the school only has a light club lacrosse tradition; and Johnson is going to need to develop his program in competition with three other New Jersey schools, including upstart Monmouth.
If you have an excess of good vibes, Johnson could use 'em.