Editor’s note: A good friend of Lax All Stars’ has moved into the NCAA coaching ranks. His name is John Wright and as of this week, he’s officially on staff as an assistant coach at Pfeiffer University. A North Carolina native, Wright spent the past 6 years playing and coaching in the great State of Oregon.
As a nod to all those who have wondered what it might be like to be an NCAA College Lacrosse Coach, John Wright has agreed to share his new experiences with Lax Nation on a weekly basis. Below is his first post which gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to join a new program. If you get a chance, drop a line in comments and give him a welcome! And now, without further ado…
Greetings fellow lacrosse enthusiasts,
My name is John Wright and I am the new #1 assistant coach at Pfeiffer University, an NCAA D-II school located in the small village of Meisenheimer, North Carolina. You may remember me from such previous adventures as being the Co-Head Coach at the University of Oregon (MCLA) from 2008-2009, or perhaps you read about some of my accomplishments as an assistant coach at Churchill High School in Eugene, Or., where I served from 2006-2008. Some of the older crowd might remember me playing at the U of O 2003-2005, or maybe UNCW 2001-2003, or perhaps Grimsley High school, in Greensboro, North Carolina.
After 6 years of living in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve finally made the journey back to my home state to be closer to my family, and to get back to the culture that I love. Whole fryed chickens with cinnamon and apple stuffing. Potato Pancakes and tomato gravy. Local limas, buttered of course. Watermelon and cantaloupe, taking turns impressing. Bourbon and cold ginger ale, iced, and served on the steamy back porch. Grasshoppers and sweat bees sing to us, and huddle around the bird feeder. My Grandmother’s wise smile, and the promise of sugar from time to time reminds me that I am truly back home.
Today I am preparing to become a full-time employee of the University. I met with the Head Coach, Peter Milliman on Saturday, and I really likes what I saw. The campus is old southern red brick like what you would find at Guilford College or the old High Point College, with pine trees lining the campus like lazy onlookers to a country rodeo. There is a pond in the middle of campus, and supposedly it is stocked with some nice bass. I arrived and met with Peter, and we discussed the details of what he was looking for. Peter seems to be a lacrosse genius; he racked up many honors playing at Gettysburg College up in Pennsylvania, and then went on to play professionally for the Rochester Rattlers. He showed me a spread sheet of some of his offensive plays, and I felt an old excitement about the game that I haven’t had for awhile. I knew right then that I would be learning a tremendous amount about the game from this man.
We toured the facilities, and I got to see something I hadn’t seen in my 6 years at Oregon: a playing field that was 100% Bermuda grass. In talking about this, Peter mentioned that they saved a lot of money by having the coaches do the lawn care, so I got kind of excited about getting to control the grass height of our own field!
For those of you unfamiliar with Pfeiffer, it’s a small liberal arts school about 20 miles northeast of Charlotte, NC. In the 1990’s the Falcons (Pfeiffer’s mascot) were a power house, competing with Limestone for dominance, and producing many All-Americans. In the mid 90’s there was a coaching change and the program suffered. There was a stretch where the team went 16-68, sometimes only winning one game in a season. Peter Milliman came in last year and took a class of seniors that had won a total of 4 games in the previous three years, and ended up winning 7 games and finishing second in the Carolina’s division of D-II lacrosse.
My main role will be as Defensive Coordinator and to help with recruiting from the West Coast. On Tuesday I am going down to meet with Human Resources and with the Athletic Director to talk about what I’m going to do for the program. Later this week or early next week I’ll be semi-moved down there, I hope. I’ll be living with the assistant coach for the women’s volleyball team in an apartment on campus, and staying down there for most of the week. Occasionally I’ll head back up to Summerfield, NC where I’m living now just to make sure I don’t lose touch with the community again.
I’m excited about the prospect of being involved with a quality D-II program in my home state. I have been working at lacrosse for 13 years now and it’s a nice feeling to see that this extended effort is finally paying off. Stay tuned to hear updates about how things are run at this level, and for comparing and contrasting vs. the University of Oregon system that I am so familiar with. Stay tuned to see how things develop!
– John Wright