Generation X and O: Lehigh at Denver Not Just Any Game

"Despite the huge age difference [between Kevin and myself], we have a lot in common," said Tierney. "Our beliefs are very similar. What we do in athletics is a worthy and worthwhile occupation. It's about teaching and mentoring as much as it is about winning. I think Kevin, as successful as he's been as an athlete, has always been willing to give back and has always been a humble superstar. That's a rare statement this day in age."

It was a give and take as the session was incredibly helpful for Tierney and his Denver staff.

"Although Kevin came here with his staff, we got as much out of it as them," said Tierney. "I feel really good when a young coach like Kevin or any young coach asks me for my opinion on things. It's something in lacrosse I've always believed is part of 'what you do'. You give back to the game as best you can.

"It's very flattering when you have someone like Kevin ask if he and his staff can come out. I want everybody to understand that the meeting was as meaningful to us as it was for them."

The connection between Cassese and Tierney goes back to Cassese's Comsewogue High School days in the late 1990s. Kevin's college choices were down to Duke and Princeton, with one of the biggest draws to Princeton being Coach Tierney.

"My eventual choice was Duke, but my relationship with Coach Tierney continued and grew even stronger between 2002-2006 when I played for the U.S. National Teams that went to Australia in 2002 and Canada in 2006, alongside Coach Tierney's son, Trevor," said Cassese. "Towards the tail end of that time, I was just starting my career in college coaching as an assistant coach at Stony Brook and Duke. Coach Tierney served as a mentor and a reference as I pursued the head coaching position at Lehigh and eventually became the head coach in the summer of 2007."

"I always admired Kevin. Obviously, he was a great player in high school, but I got to know his family through that process," said Tierney. "There were a number of common connections [between families]. I have great respect and admiration for Kevin and his family.

"As he moved into the coaching world, I knew he'd become a superstar. It was just a matter of time," Tierney continued. "His handling of being the interim coach of Duke when that whole event went down showed maturity of someone a heck of a lot older than he was at the time. I knew Lehigh was getting a superstar."

Flash forward back to today. Cassese has transformed Lehigh into a top 10 program and National Championship Contender while Tierney continues to win wherever he goes. He's led Denver to the NCAA Tournament each of his three years, including a National Semifinal appearance in 2011 and National Quarterfinal appearance last season.

When Cassese heard Denver was looking for participants in its annual Face-Off Classic, he knew it'd be a worthwhile opportunity. Lehigh's current seniors participated in the event as freshmen, beating Air Force and losing to Denver. It's a great opportunity for the Mountain Hawks and Pioneers to play top-notch NCAA Tournament caliber competition.

As Tierney said, "Being 2,000 miles away from most Division I lacrosse programs, any time you can get a top 10 team to come to your place, you grab it."

"For a team that's looking for a top 10 game in and is willing to make the trip, we want to help them as best we can," he continued. "It worked out that way. Then secondly and most importantly, with their season last year, it's very important that you continue to play a great strength of schedule."

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2013-02-21



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