Jon Thompson To Amherst: WTF?


Editor’s note: Swank Lax is back! A well known force on the Laxpower forum poll,  he always brings a sense of total honesty, candor and humor to his posts.

Let’s start this off with a moment of silence for the death of Jon Thompson’s reputation.


To be perfectly clear, the decision by Jon Thompson to leave Colby for Amherst was so indefensibly stupid that I am honestly at a loss for words to describe how mystified I am by Jon Thompson’s willingness to trash his own credibility in such a public manner. Hell, Jon Thompson probably could have beaten and robbed a convent of nuns and his reputation would have suffered less.

By all accounts, Jon Thompson spent his time at Colby talking up the prospect of building a national powerhouse. He sold recruits on a program of excellence, on the idea that in a few years, the middling Mules would be dethroning perennial powerhouses in the NESCAC. He preached accountability and commitment as a means to an ends, fighting to change a lacrosse culture a Colby that he did not like. In a recent magazine article, Jon Thompson said “Three years ago I would have been embarrassed to be the coach of this team for their behavior off the field.”

Today, Colby players, parents and alumni should be embarrassed that they ever bought into the crap that Jon Thompson fed them. For a man who talked an awful lot about commitment and accountability, he displays a remarkable lack of it in being introduced as the new Amherst coach. He offers an overly-sentimental thank you to the Colby administration and community that reeks of insincerity.

“I first want to give a sincere and warm thank you to Suzanne Coffey for presenting me and my family with this opportunity. I also want to be sure to thank [Colby College athletics director] Marcella Zalot and the rest of the Colby lacrosse community for the incredible experience during our time in Waterville. As difficult as it will be to leave some of the relationships that [my wife, Susanna,] and I established in Maine, they will forever be in our hearts and minds.”

Really Jon? You established relationships in two years that you are going to value for the rest of your life? Those words ring hollow against your actions, which say that you couldn’t care less about anyone at Colby aside from the fact that they helped facilitate your latest career move. Don’t insult our intelligence by telling the world that you care deeply about the players you are leaving behind. You owe the athletes, who bought into your system and fought for every win that you listed on your résumé when you applied for the Amherst job, so much better than that. I hope Craig Bunker, Whit McCarthy and Ian Deveau are all getting a healthy chunk of your fat new salary. They deserve it far more than you.

Rest assured, Benedict Thompson will not escape this with repercussions. In DIII lacrosse recruiting, a coach’s word is everything. There is no money on the table to assuage concerns that a coach can’t be trusted, no financial incentive to overcome lingering doubts or an unreliable track record from a coach. After Jon Thompson’s desertion of Colby, how can any potential recruit sit down in his office at Amherst, listen to Thompson’s supposedly impressive recruiting spiel and come away believing a single word he said? They can’t and they won’t. That’s not to say that Thompson won’t get any players. He will. Amherst is too strong of a draw on its own merits that even a terrible recruiter will land a few good players (see Campbell, Dave and Middlebury). However, it is going to be a good long while until his recruiting pitch is anything more than him blowing hot air. To those considering playing for Jon Thompson at Amherst either now or in the future, I offer you the following cautionary words from the parent of a Colby recruit (via Laxpower).

“Jon Thompson is dead to my son and me as well. He misled us, the prior recruits and all of the other players on the team. He spoke about the importance of character and seeing a job through to completion. He is a farce, we are deeply hurt.”

The poster, and more importantly his son, have every right to be hurt given Jon Thompson’s message about commitment, responsibility, accountability and seeing things through to the end. Jon Thompson embodies none of these qualities. He abandoned his players after only two years and accomplished nothing during his time at Colby. A sub-.500 record in NESCAC games. No home playoff games or playoff wins. The Mules were never ranked in the top 20 nationally. No significant out of conference wins. In this light, it is clear that Jon Thompson’s message is really “Do as I say, not as I do.” Recruits, stay far, far away.

I almost feel bad for the administration and athletes at Amherst. Amherst athletic director Suzanne Coffey added what may be perhaps the most asinine statement of this whole situation when she said that “Jon’s winning attitude and intensity came across forcefully in the interview process. I expect that he will make strong and lasting connections with our student-athletes and our terrifically supportive alumni.” Are you kidding me? You expect a guy who stayed a whole two years a Colby to make strong and lasting connections at your school now? That statement is so inexcusably moronic that I wonder if she actually thinks that JT is going to be a lifer at Amherst. Either way, it shows a dangerous failure to understand the reality that Thompson is jumping for an Ivy League coaching job as soon as he can get one. Please, get a clue.

Amherst lacrosse captain Gabe Mann offered up another entertaining statement when he said “We could tell that Coach Thompson has the commitment and the passion to help push Amherst in the right direction towards competing for both the NESCAC and national championships immediately.” Gabe, I sincerely hope they asked you for that quote after your third Zima of the night because you must not have realized that Colby won just one more NESCAC game than Amherst did in the past two years. Or maybe you just forgot that you handled Colby 12-5 this year, while Thompson was undoubtedly pacing and pouting on the other bench. In any case, the only thing Thompson is committed to is the advancement of his own career. Once he can bolt for a better job, he will. I suspect that day will come sooner rather than later.

In the end, the real losers in these situations are the players. I sympathize with the Colby players, parents and alumni who were deceived by Jon Thompson. He gave all of you a raw deal. Unfortunately, you won’t be the last ones.

Article sources:

– Amherst Names Jon Thompson New Head Lacrosse Coach | LaxPower

– Held to Account |

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  1. So you would not taken a better job for more money just because you said that you were committed to your old job? He probably cared very much for all of his players that he left, but in the end how many chances at D1 jobs does a coach get in his career? He makes a living from coaching lacrosse, he was offered the opportunity at a PROMOTION. Look at it like you would in any other business, he was offered a better job at a better company… Who in their right mind would not take that? Its not like he left for another DIII school i have never heard of, he went to a school that was in the biggest lacrosse game there is in NCAA lax just 5 years ago.

    • It was a promotion. you are right about that. And I do think JT is making more money and getting better support at Amherst than Colby but we're not talking about UMass Amherst here… we're talking about Amherst College. Both AC and CC are in the NESCAC and are Div 3 teams.
      I can see what you're saying but when your motto is “finish the job you start” and you bolt after 2 years for an in-conference rival… at the very least, it's weird.

      • Well i am mistaken, my post was in reference to UMass Amherst, I actually agree with the post now. When i saw Amherst my mind went right to UMass. Leaving the way he did for another DIII school is bush league, and if he is making more money it cant be that significant of an amount at the DIII level. Sorry for my mis informed first post…

  2. I would have to disagree with much of this opinion piece. I am neither an amherst fan nor a colby fan. I feel like JT did a great job changing the culture at Colby. At the end of the day, he left the program in far better shape than he found it. The reality of college coaching is that you do not know when a “better” (more lucrative, more potential to build a power, more prestigious) job is going to open up. You must continue to recruit regardless of where you think you'll end up and surround the players that you originally brought with the best recruits you can. This is NESCAC lacrosse we are talking about. If you or your son chose Colby because the lacrosse Coach than that is entirely your fault. Coaches leave for various reasons. For you to say that the decision was “stupid”, is obviously naive. JT must see something in the opportunity. He may feel he has a better chance recruiting to amherst than colby. If I were a high school student and I was choosing between amherst and colby, I'd choose Amherst b/c of its slightly greater academic reputation (although you're comparing apples to apples). I had a coach at an Ivy tell me last year that they were getting hammered by Harvard on the recruiting trail, and they were essentially getting all harvard's leftovers. Maybe JT feels he can leave the rest of the NESCAC with Amherst's leftovers.

  3. Didnt the Colby administration promised JT a paid assistant coaching position in his contract when he took the job two years ago – and when asked to honor that part of the contract the administration told him no. Moreover told him that until he came to them with another job offer from another school, they wouldn't even consider addressing it?

    Seems like the school owes those students a bigger apology than JT does.

    If I were a Colby fan/parent/player/alumni I would be very interested in asking the AD or President, why a coach like JT was even taking interviews at other schools.

  4. Have you ever been to Waterville? I'd move to Amherst in a heartbeat (or Mars for that matter). He upgraded, get over it.

    And the shot at Dave Campbell destroys any sliver of hope that you had to seem like a credible NESCAC critic. Let us know the next time you take a new job so we can rip on you….

    • wait, a shot at the guy who hasn't won a NESCAC title in three years diminishes my credibility? Please, go home.

      Is Amherst an upgrade? Of course. Did JT go against everything he preached at Colby in doing so? Absolutely.

      • Wow, give an idiot enough rope and he WILL hang himself….

        Swank…Campbell is 52-19 at Middlebury, 2009 NESCAC Coach of the year, has never missed the NCAA's at Middlebury.

        The fact that he hasn't won the toughest conference in DIII in a few years is hardly an epic drought. In your original hack-piece above, you claim that Campbell is a terrible recruiter. Nobody can have that record and not be an excellent recruiter.

        You claim to understand anything about college lacrosse but fail to grasp those simple facts? You sir are a nitwit, again showing that you have zero base of knowledge to critique any college coach on any decision.

        Look at it this way…If you could find a way to get paid for writing this slop, you would leave this garbage site for another on in a second. Would that make you a bad person?

        • You're the one who shows a complete lack of knowledge about the NESCAC. Campbell took over a program that had never failed to win a NESCAC championship and now they're in the midst of a three year drought. Certainly, there are a few other factors but the main blame must fall on Campbell. Hell, the Panthers didn't even make it to the NESCAC championship in '08 or '09. That, by Middlebury's standards, is an epic drought. If you can't understand that…

          Middlebury, like other schools of its stature, recruits itself, meaning that the academics, campus facilities etc. attract a number of players no matter how bad or good of a recruiter the coach is. Midd's talent level has depreciated noticeably in the past few years and that is directly linked to Campbell's recruiting approach.

          Your final comment merely illustrates your inability to grasp even the simplest of arguments. My point is not that taking more money is a bad thing, but that JT has hurt his own reputation and message by contradicting the very principles he has rather loudly preached to his players. I do not think that JT is a bad person, more so that his recent decision significantly diminishes his credibility as a leader. When I coach, I never ask my kids to do anything that I wouldn't be willing to do myself. If I am asking for commitment and dedication in order to build a program, I sure as hell wouldn't be jumping ship two years into my tenure for an in-conference rival.

          And no, I wouldn't bail on LAS. Unlike JT, I appreciate the people who gave me a chance, be it a head coaching job like JT or the chance to write for an awesome growing lax website. I don't need to make money off of this, I do it for fun and it is fun to right for LAS.


          • Again, A terrible recruiter does not have the record that Campbell has. You are way off, therefore losing credibility.

            You say that you would not leave this site for a better paying job at ESPN or You are either very stupid or a liar…seems like you didn't realize that you were living in that glass house before you started throwing rocks.

            ps-One word closing retorts may work well in rap battles or action movies…not so much in writing.

          • What is your basis, other than record, for saying that DC is a good recruiter? That record was built largely with players from the previous coach. record and recruiting do not directly correlate in this case. You display an alarming unfamiliarity with the situation at Middlebury. Perhaps it's time to try a different tact?

            Your comparison to me makes no sense. I never preached about commitment and dedication then skipped out for greener pastures in such a short time later. Again, I don't need to make money off this. I don't and probably never will get paid to write, and that is just fine with me.

          • Campbell has NEVER missed the NCAA's….that doesn't just happen with the kids who show up on campus. If you want to credit Erin Quinn for that, then you must give Campbell all of the credit for Conn's great year this year. There were 8 seniors (Quinn's recruits) on this year's roster, the rest were brought in by DC. Three of the top five points leaders on the team were brought in by Dave, as well as the starting goalie. Since you choose to ignore Campbell's tangible record, how do you measure his skill as a recruiter? Shocking unfamiliarity would be an accurate description of your overall lacrosse knowledge, and all things NESCAC for that fact.

            You stated a few posts above that you would never leave this website for greener pastures….then you threw it in reverse and denied that you preached dedication. Again, if you could make a living by writing for espn, you would do it. Think about it, it may take some of your JT hatred away….

          • You underestimate how easy it is to recruit at Middlebury. No point in belaboring this any further. Just know that a Middlebury team that fails to win a NESCAC championship isn't really a success by their standards.

            Conn only had 6 seniors so not sure why all the credit would go to Campbell.

  5. Dude, it's his career and his job that he relies on for life. Anyone in the working world knows that situations change, and opportunities arise. He'd be an idiot if he didn't pursue opportunities to further his career. There's no shame in giving something 110% like he did, and then later moving on. It happens. It's life. Anyone that sent their kid to any program should understand that this could happen. And if they don't, then they're either ignorant or naive.

  6. Dear JT: Please remember: “Action speaks louder than words….” I feel sorry for you, and for the negative public reaction you'll be receiving but not as sorry as I feel for the players you recruited to Colby. Amherst: Good luck to you.

  7. Have to agree with Depamla…your display a serious ignorance of NESCAC lax. In this day and age, with the level of competition for the type of recruits eligible for NESCAC schools, recruiting at Middlebury is no easier than any of the other quality programs out there.

    Plus get your facts straight if you're going to bag on DC's recruiting ability. If he is such a poor recruiter, how come the only All-Americans and 1st team All-NESCAC players in the past 4 years at Conn were all players he brought in?

    Steve Dachille – HM AA in 2010, 1st team All-NESCAC
    Pete Crisafulli – 3rd team AA in 2010
    Mark Moran – HM AA in 2008 and 1st team All-NESCAC in 2008

    All DC’s guys.

    Now look at his recruits at Midd: he’s coached the 2x NESCAC player of the year at Middlebury, and had multiple All-Americans each year he’s been there. And by the way David Hild and Matt Rayner, both all americans this year for Middlebury, were DC’s recruits.

    Tough to be a Camel huh?

  8. Calling out and berating JT is one thing. But why did you feel the need to bring an Amherst captain into your article only to belittle him. What did you want him to say? “I think our new coach sucks”

    Gabe Mann is one of the most upstanding players on and off the field in the Nescac.

    Shame on you.

  9. Middlebury and Williams are the best schools in the NESCAC, and Tufts is the only city school. They have a recruiting advantage over every other NESCAC school, I am not talking coachs program rep or any of that stuff they are the top everyone else is playing second fiddle. So everyone that says Swank doesn’t have a clue realize this, I go to a NESCAC not mentioned yet because their academics were too good for me. Campbell has an advantage over every coach in the league (minus maybe Daly with the Championship) Swank is right he is not a great recruiter. Swank is right Thompson was a great recruiter. But Swank doesn’t know Thompson well enough, Thompson was offered almost a double in salary, but more importantly he was offered an extra free pick (ie two ian deveau’s a year) and 2 full time assistants to the 0 he received at colby thompson doesn’t bullshit and he will be able to sell recruits on this. “Colby told me they wanted to win but they wouldn’t give me a full time assistant, Amherst gave me 2 and more control over my team which i will use to help you win a national championship” if you don’t think Thompson can sell that you have never met JT

    • I don’t know Jon directly but people who do know him have said similar things. Jon did not go out looking for another job, the Amherst opportunity presented itself and he made the decision after carefully weighing all factors, including the negative barbs that would be thrown his way.

      Amherst is serious about taking the program to the level of Tufts, Middlebury, Wesleyan and now Connecticut College. It was not only the Amherst financial offer, but their committment on assistants and recruiting. Colby had the opportunity to keep him, but didn’t. That speaks volumes about Colby’s committment to men’s lacrosse. The new Colby coach, Justin Domingos, currently has a part time assistant who is also the offensive coordinator and recruiter for the football team. How much time do you think he spends helping to recruit lacrosse players? I coach summer elite teams and and I can tell you I have rarely seen a Colby coach at a summer tournament. Supposedly Justin is looking for another assistant, but it will not be a full time job. They will have to coach a fall sport as well.

      The NESCAC is more competitive than ever. One player can make the difference between playing in the NESCAC championship or finishing in the middle of the pack. The programs that make the committment to their coaches will prevail. The timing may not look good for Jon’s decision, but unless the AD and administration changed their approach, he was going to be a one man band, killing himself to build a contender.