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College Lacrosse Coaching Candidates: Harvard v2.0

Updated look at who could be the next head boss for the Crimson

Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletics

A couple weeks ago we dropped our first coaching board for the open Harvard job, looking at who could be in contention to be the next head boss for the Crimson. Now, after new information from our own Chris Jastrzembski, we have a clearer picture of who the favorites are and where Harvard could be going. So let’s take a look.

The Favorites

Gerry Byrne, Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator

  • The man who looks like he’s in the pole position. Everyone knows Byrne’s credentials and status, as he’s been Kevin Corrigan’s head lieutenant during the most prosperous run in Notre Dame’s history. He’s been presumed to be the man who would follow Corrigan whenever Corrigan stepped away from his position as the guy in South Bend. Byrne has been the Irish’s defensive coordinator since 2007, a period where they have ranked in the Top 10 of Scoring Defense nine times, in the Top 5 six times, and never lower than 24th. They had a run of six consecutive years in the Top 5 of Scoring Defense from 2007-2012. Byrne has coached 28 All-Americans in his time at Notre Dame, including eight First Team All-American selections. He’s coached two Schmeisser Award winners, Matt Landis twice and John Sexton. Two goaltenders under Byrne have won the Kelly Award for goaltender of the year, Joey Kemp in 2008 and John Kemp in 2012. Scott Rodgers was also Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. His resume is simply impeccable, perhaps unmatched amongst assistant coaches. His coaching at a prestigious academic institution at Notre Dame could also align nicely for Harvard. Based on what Chris has heard, he will be offered first and is likely to accept.
  • Likelihood of being Harvard HC: 9/10

Kevin Cassese, Lehigh Head Coach

  • Cassese brings the most in the way of head coaching experience, by a longshot. He’s helmed Lehigh’s program since 2008, serving 12 seasons as head coach. He also had three seasons as an assistant prior to that, giving him 15 years of coaching experience at the D1 level. Harvard’s two previous hires - Chris Wojcik and John Tillman - had never been a head coach before and neither are any of the other names on this list. Cassese’s overall record with the Mountain Hawks is solid, going 103-88 and 47-37 in Patriot League play. He’s made two NCAA Tournaments, in 2012 and 2013, winning a combined four Patriot League Conference titles in the process. Those two years were a part of an overall three year run where Lehigh went 39-13, 17-3 in Patriot League play, and finished the year in the Top 20 each season. That’s a solid run of success that Harvard has not really achieved. However since then the record is more shaky. In the last five seasons Lehigh is 39-39 and 21-19 in conference play. The four prior years to the 2012-2014 run they were 25-36 and 9-15 in conference play. It’s worth asking whether those three years were merely an aberration covering up a larger run of relatively fine, inoffensive but largely mediocre play. However there is success there, they were a game away from the NCAA Tournament this year, and the experience could give him a leg up.
  • Likelihood of being Harvard HC: 7/10

Sean Kirwin, Virginia Offensive Coordinator

  • The offensive coordinator of the reigning national champions, Kirwin will be sure to garner interest after his run this season and over the last few years. At UVA he’s helped the Cavs rank in the Top 10 in Scoring Offense all three seasons, including averaging 14.5 GPG in this year’s NCAA Tournament. His offense’s ability to strike quick was prevalent in the Maryland game, where they put up 5 goals in under seven minutes in a furious comeback, and then it’s prolificacy was on display when it scored the most goals against Duke’s vaunted defense all season in the semifinals. At Brown, the Bears were 5th in the country in Scoring Offense and 24th in Offensive Efficiency in Kirwin’s first year implementing his hsystem, up from the mid-30s and 40th respectively in 2014. Then, as we all know, they took the sport by storm in 2016, leading the country in Scoring Offense with 16.3 goals per game, nearly three whole goals ahead of the 2nd place team, and ranking 5th in Offensive Efficiency. His UVA offense’s efficiency numbers in 2017 and 2018 didn’t match the success at Brown, 13th in 2017 and 23rd in 2018 and again hovering in the middle of the Top 20 or so this year. The Ivy League experience and success is also a factor in Kirwin’s favor, as there are difficulties and challenges with the Ivy League that are not prevalent in other conferences, and with Kirwin you minimize that learning curve.
  • Likelihood of being Harvard HC: 7/10

Other (s)

Ryan Wellner, Navy Associate Head Coach

  • Our own Chris Jastrzembski has heard from a source close to the situation that Wellner has spoken with Harvard and is in the discussion for the job. Wellner has been at Navy since 2012, following Rick Sowell after serving under him from 2009-2011 at Stony Brook. Working with the Midshipmen’s defense, he’s led them to ranks of 14th in the country in Goals Against in 2012, 20th in 2014, 13th in 2015, 2nd in 2016, and 15th in 2018. There were five All-American selections for Navy players during Wellner’s time as an assistant, three times for Chris Fennell and twice for Matt Rees. Wellner also serves as Navy’s recruiting coordinator. His experience and success with recruiting, helped Sowell build the British Columbia pipeline of talent that included all time great Kevin Crowley and was a big factor in SBU’s success in the early 2010’s. With how highly thought of he is in lacrosse circles, it’s not a surprise to see him garnering interest.
  • Likelihood of being Harvard HC: 6/10