43 Brothers for the Coach's Son - by Jerry Price

It's clear that the coach is speaking from the heart about what his players have done for his son.

It's just as clear that when the players speak about their coach, they have been rocked to their core by his strength and character.

"We knew that it was going to be coming to an end," Wiedmaier says. "We knew what he was going through. And yet, when he showed up for work, he never made an excuse. I don't know how he did it. I was like, 'I don't know how you're here. I don't know how you're balancing all of this.' He's been a great coach through all of this. His perspective on all of this, through his life, he values every day we get to go out and practice and get better and enjoy playing a sport for fun at one of the best schools in the world. I think he lives his life to fullest, every moment."

Maybe for Chris Bates, the opportunity to coach his team gave him the ability to step away, even if only for an hour or two during the fall.

"I felt like I owed it to them," he says. "I told them that they came here for a reason. What was going on in my personal life was having a dramatic impact on me and my family, but I couldn't allow myself to have that get in the way of their college careers. I think I was able to create, not a switch, but being able to focus here. I think I owed that to them. They knew. They knew what was going on. At the end of the day, we had two hours together. We had to get better. We're coming off a lousy year. All the while, I'm competitive. I know the job at hand, and we have to do it."

The start of the 2012 season wipes away everything that happened on the field in 2011, when Princeton had a bunch of close losses, big leads that got away and of course injuries.

With a defense led by Fiorito, Wiedmaier and Cunningham and an offense built around the limitless talent of sophomore Tom Schreiber, Princeton is cautiously optimistic. The goals are a repeat of 2010, with a better finish to May.

And if improving on a 4-8 record isn't enough motivation, there has grown a sense of obligation to live up to the standards set by their coach.

"Everyone on this team has bonded with Nick and with Coach Bates," Fiorito says. "If Coach Bates can do this for us, then there's so much more we can give for him."

"As far as adversity goes, they've had it about as tough as it gets," Smyth says. "It gives us a reason to rally around Nick, around Coach Bates."

Cunningham puts it even more succinctly.

"To see your coach go through everything he went through and stay committed to you, how could you not be committed to him," he says. "We want to turn it around for Coach Bates. For him. For nobody else."

A few minutes before Nick first bites into his apple, he walks down the hallway from the training room past the men's lacrosse locker room towards the door to the coaches' room. His dad and his assistants are inside readying for practice, but you see Nick first and intercept him, telling him that you're going to take his picture.

This time, he gives you a puzzled look more than a smile. "Why me?" he asks softly.

You try to explain to him what you're doing, that you need his picture for this story, that you're going to take his picture surrounded by the lacrosse players. Once he hears that, the smile returns.

The Princeton men's lacrosse locker room is split into two rooms, one for the offense, the other for the defense, connected by a doorway much like adjoining hotel rooms. The 43 players are crowded into the defensive side.

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2012-02-21



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