Twenty with Tierney – Q&A with Denver's Coach

By Mike Baldassare

With over a 20-year tenure at Princeton University and a resume that includes winning six NCAA championships and 14 Ivy League titles, mentoring countless All-American players, and being one of just five active college coaches inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Bill Tierney needs no introduction. He is one of the most iconic coaches of the modern era of collegiate lacrosse.

In 2009, Tierney made a ground-shaking move when left Princeton and headed west to take on a new challenge as the head coach at the University of Denver. Left with a good foundation by former coach Jamie Munro, Tierney hopes to turn Pioneers from a contender to a championship team.

Here are Coach T's answers to 20 questions that LaxPower posed:

1. How do you maintain accountability with your players on and off the field?
I think the key to this is earning your player's trust and respect and them doing the same with you. When student-athletes come to your office and you are there to talk, experience an organized great practice, see a game plan come to fruition, or hear you talk about an opponent after hours and hours of watching film, they know you are working hard for them.

When they do well on their school work, stay out of trouble, work hard to get better individually, care about one another, and play with all their ability, you know they are working hard for you. This leads to the players, even in the roughest of times after a bad loss or after they don't play quite as much as they think they should, maintaining an honorable decorum both on and off the field.

2. Your coaching style has been analyzed and described by many in the game. How would you put into words what your coaching style is and what you try to accomplish as a coach?
I believe in putting pressure on my players from a psychological, emotional, and numerical standpoint in practice. I believe that if each player is held accountable in practice, he will be able to perform at a higher level in games. One of the great misunderstandings about my style is that it is all tough and hard. I think my players (old and new) would tell you that I have a decent sense of when to push them harder and when to ease up and give them great praise.

All I want to accomplish, through hard work and success, is that a young man comes out better prepared for the realities of life, having experienced me as a coach. The many notes and calls I get from ex-players reinforces to me that it works.

From a lacrosse standpoint, I want to always accomplish overachievement by my players. We will play whatever style it takes to win, because there are times when the other team just has better personnel. There were many times too, where we were favorites and had more talent, and in that case trying to avoid upsets by concentrating on the ‘little things' has been the goal.

3. What tactics to do employ to develop your already talented recruits?
With the proliferation of early recruiting, all of us at the college level are recognizing that, oftentimes, the player we recruit isn't quite the player we get. Therefore, we try very quickly to evaluate what the strengths and weaknesses of a young man are as soon as they arrive on campus.

It is the head coach's job to help develop that player by identifying and giving him the tools necessary to improve his individual skills. If it's footwork, strength, stick skills, motivation, or academic issues, we must be there for our players to give them the guidance necessary for great results. We must also be able to adjust the jigsaw puzzle of available talent each year.

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