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College Lacrosse Coaching Candidates: Marquette

For only the second time in their history, Marquette is looking for a coach. Who could be some of the candidates?

Marquette Athletics

Joe Amplo has taken the head coaching job at Navy, and thus the only coach the Marquette Golden Eagles has ever known is on his way out. So for only the 2nd time, the Golden Eagles must hire a new head coach. This is a program with a recent history of success, as they won the Big East Tournament title in 2016 and 2017 and appeared in the NCAA Tournament. It’s the only program in it’s state and one of the few in the Midwest so there remains the chance to stamp your own footprint in a new area of the lacrosse country. But that also means it’s in a non-hotbed, making recruiting difficult, and is in a conference with Bill Tierney’s Denver, a program with a long record of success and now resurgent in Georgetown, and a program located squarely in a hotbed in Villanova. Still, this job should attract some quality suitors. Let’s take a look at them.

The Favorites

John Orsen, Denver Assistant Coach/Defensive Coordinator

  • Ties to the program always play a part in coaching searches, and Orsen has them. He was part of Joe Amplo’s first staff in Milwaukee, serving as defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014. Following helping start the Golden Eagles program, Orsen moved to Denver to join Bill Tierney’s staff, working with the defense and the face-off group. In 2015 Orsen’s defense ranked 35th in defensive efficiency, but gave up just 9.25 goals per game in the NCAA Tournament and five in the national title game as the Pioneers won the national championship. Following lackluster seasons in 2016 and 2017 where they ranked outside the Top 40 in defensive efficiency, Denver rose to 24th in 2018, and ranked 3rd in the country in Scoring Defense, giving up just 7.88 goals per game. This past season was possibly Orsen’s best, as the Pios ranked 5th in Scoring Defense despite losing top defenseman Dylan Johnson early in the year, being one of only nine programs to hold opponents to single digits in goals on average. And his success with the face-off group is obvious, as he helped coach Trevor Baptiste, arguably the greatest face-off man of all time. Orsen had 11 All-American selections at Denver, including five first team selections. His recent success, coupled with his history at Marquette, and knowledge of recruiting the Midwest and Western areas makes him a compelling candidate, albeit the struggles at Denver early in his tenure, that were often covered up by Baptiste’s incredible success, could be inhibitors
  • Likelihood of being Marquette HC: 7.5/10

Stephen Brundage, Marquette Offensive Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator

  • If Marquette wanted to continue to build off what they’ve done over the past few seasons, they could look to elevate Brundage to the position of head coach. Brundage was, like Orsen, apart of Amplo’s first staff, and has been the Eagles offensive coordinator since 2015, playing an integral role in shaping the program. Marquette ranked 40th in offensive efficiency and 28th in Scoring Offense in Brundage’s first season as OC, before improving to 15th in offensive efficiency in 2016 as they won the Big East and made their first NCAA Tournament. They got back to the tournament again in 2017, ranking 31st in offensive efficiency. The last two seasons have seen struggles though, they were 39th in efficiency in 2018 and 65th and 46th in Scoring Offense the last two years. Brundage also spent five years as an assistant with Chris Bates, three at Drexel from 2007-09 and then two at Princeton from 2010-11. He was the offensive coordinator with the Tigers, where his offenses ranked 31st and 55th in Scoring Offense. You expect his time on staff building the program will merit him inclusion, as will the fact he’s been in charge of recruiting which is not an easy task in a non-hotbed. But there is a distinct lack of any success offensively over a long period of time, making me think this would not be a good direction for MU to go.
  • Likelihood of being Marquette HC: 7/10

Ryan Wellner, Former Navy Associate Head Coach

  • 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. They were also 16th in defensive efficiency in 2015, 2nd in 2016, and 14th 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, helping 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. His success as a recruiter will likely appeal to Marquette seeing as they’re in a non-hotbed, perhaps his connections in both Long Island and Maryland could be fruitful. With how highly thought of he is in lacrosse circles, it’s not a surprise to see him garnering interest.
  • Likelihood of being Marquette HC: 7/10

Others

Jon Torpey, High Point Head Coach

  • Perhaps the man considered to be the next elite coach in Division I, Torpey’s reputation has skyrocketed after 2019, but he’s done a tremendous job over his entire seven year run as the only coach in High Point history. Torpey’s accumulated a career 54-53 mark as HPU’s coach, achieving winning seasons in four out of his seven years as coach, including a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2015 as SoCon Champions, and 13 wins this past season, as the Panthers pulled off wins over Duke and Virginia and spent parts of the season in the Top 10 and virtually the entire season in the Top 20. His reputation in lacrosse circles is outstanding, and as a young coach who’s already proven himself in a similar way to the way Amplo - in a young program, as their only coach, and having strong success, makes him a compelling candidate
  • Likelihood of being Marquette HC: 6.5/10

Chris Feifs, Vermont Head Coach

  • Another coach who would make sense based on his status as an up and coming coach in a non premier job who’s proven himself, Feifs has burnished a reputation the last two seasons at Vermont. Following a five-win first season in 2017, Feifs has led the Catamounts to a 20-11 combined record the last two seasons, including a program record 12 wins in 2018, a runner-up finish in the America East Tournament and stints in the Top 20. Vermont returned to the America East Championship Game in 2019, losing by just a single goal to UMBC, and recording another winning season at 8-7. Being just 34 years old, and also having connections to the ACC from his playing days at Maryland (when the Terps were a member) and his seven seasons as an assistant at North Carolina where he helped lead the Tar Heels to a national championship, there are lots of pluses to Feifs’ candidacy.
  • Likelihood of being Marquette HC: 6.5/10

Keegan Wilkinson, Marist Head Coach

  • If Marquette’s looking for a coach with a sustained and proven track record this decade, it’d be hard to look past Wilkinson. Taking over at Marist before the 2012 season, Wilkinson has put together a sterling 68-57 record, with five winning seasons in eight years. The Red Foxes had won just 23 games in the four years before Wilkinson took over, and then won 36 in his first four seasons. They’ve made NCAA Tournament appearances twice, in 2015 and 2019, including being apart of the Final 16 of the field in 2015. This year they put together a strong record of 10-7 and dominated the MAAC, going 8-1 in regular season and conference tournament play. Marquette is a difficult place to recruit, so someone who has maximized the talent he has at a difficult job could be a strong choice. However there’s always a curve coaching at jobs like Marist compared to in the Big East, and he doesn’t quite have the recruiting track record of some other names.
  • Likelihood of being Marquette HC: 6/10

Chris Kolon, Detroit Mercy Head Coach

  • Coaches with success in the Midwest figure to be ones to look out for in this search and Kolon could fit the bill. He’s had three winning seasons in his five years as the coach at Detroit, including consecutive winning seasons in 2018 and 2019. Those were the only three winning seasons in Detroit history, and twice he’s set a record for most wins in the program’s history. He’s also put together a strong 18-12 record in MAAC play, and the Titans were just one goal away from making the NCAA Tournament in 2018, losing in overtime of the MAAC Championship. A successful run like that, getting a lot out of a program that previously achieved little, merits his inclusion
  • Likelihood of being Marquette HC: 6.5/10

Andrew Stimmel, Yale Offensive Coordinator

  • Another coach with ties to the Marquette program which could help his case, Stimmel has a unique history as a college coach which may be found apealing. He started his D1 coaching career at Yale, working with their defense in 2014 and 2015. They finished Top 10 in Defensive Efficiency both of those years, along with being 9th in Scoring Defense in 2015. He then moved to Marquette as defensive coordinator in 2016, putting together a Top 10 Scoring Defense and 15th ranked defense in efficiency as the Golden Eagles made their first NCAA Tournament. After one year he returned to Yale, but switching over to the offensive side of the ball. He had immediate success, ranking 9th in Scoring Offense in 2017 and 15th in Offensive Efficiency. Then a year later he led the #2 Scoring Offense, which won the National Championship and featured Tewaaraton winner Ben Reeves. The Bulldogs were again elite this year, 3rd in the country in Scoring Offense and going all the way back to the title game. A coach who’s led elite, Top 10 units on both offense and defense and has a championship pedigree is not something you get often. His history at Marquette also should give him a shot. But he hasn’t been around the Midwest besides that single year in Milwaukee and after losing Andrew Baxter, you’d expect Andy Shay to work hard to keep Stimmel in New Haven
  • Likelihood of being Marquette HC: 6/10