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who is the most successful lacrosse coach of all-time

Who Is The Most Successful Lacrosse Coach Of All-Time?

A good lacrosse coach can have the single-biggest impact on a program’s success out of any of its pieces, in my opinion. So, who is the best of the best? Who is the most successful lacrosse coach of all-time? I’ve selected the five coaches who I feel have been the most successful over the years.

Now, I’d like to first put a disclaimer on this article that I don’t necessarily think that a coach’s winning percentage or number of championships defines the impact that a coach has on a program. I personally believe that the best indicator of success is not only the success that his or her players enjoy on the field, but they success those players see off of it, particularly after they hang up the cleats. In my opinion, the best coaches are those that mold young men and women into high-character individuals that have an appetite for doing good and giving back to their communities.

But, the reality is that a coach’s job security is largely determined by the worth that we place on that individuals number of wins, conference or national championships or number of All-Americans produced. It seems in the last decade there have been more and more crazy stories of coaches getting fired after a period of time that hardly gives that person a chance to make any real impact at a school or professional team. I personally think that a large part of any job is adapting and growing into the role; I think it’s a rare few that come into a situation and immediately save the sinking ship.

At any rate, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at which coaches have the most success based on their team’s on the field performance by using a few pieces of criteria. Here’s my criteria for selecting these five coaches:

  • A coaches total length of tenure in the coaching industry, and their overall winning percentage during their career.
  • A coaches length of stay at one particular university or team, and their overall winning percentage at that program.
  • The number of national championships and any conference championships, in addition to the number of appearances in the post-season.
  • The number of All-Americans under their tutelage, bonus points for four-time All-Americans.
  • Finally, coach of the year awards that they received. (Our list is likely not comprehensive of all of the awards they received).

That’s our frame of reference. If you disagree with my methodology, then we’ll probably disagree on who should be on this list of five of the most successful coaches. I personally won’t take any offense to any suggestions for how I can improve the criteria I used to select these coaches, or any suggestions of your own for who you feel should be included on this list should you feel I left someone out. Also, it goes without saying that this is not a male-specific article, as there have been a countless number of legendary women’s coaches who are every bit as deserving of making this list as their male counterparts. Also, we are not discriminating between divisions in the NCAA, although we are not going to include professional lacrosse given that most of the pro leagues have a relatively short history compared to the NCAA’s existence with lacrosse. Also, we are not taking into consideration a coach’s international experience, as that could be another article for another time.

So, let’s take a look at who is the most successful lacrosse coach of all-time!

NOTE: It should be noted that there was quite a bit of a discrepancy between different sources of records in terms of wins and losses. I referenced the various athletic departments of each coach for their official data as those are likely the most reliable sources available. What information was available is what I used.

Who Is The Most Successful Lacrosse Coach Of All-Time?

Top 5

5. Missy Foote: Middlebury (1978-1983, 1987-2015)

Highlights: 

  • National Championships: 5
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances:
  • Conference Championships: 9 (7 NESCAC, 2 ECAC)
  • Total Wins: 422
  • Total Losses: 114
  • Career Win Percentage: .787
  • Years Coaching: 34
  • Longest Consecutive Stay At One Program: Middlebury (28 years)*
  • Record At Longest-Tenured Program: 422-114 (.787 win percentage)**
  • No. of All-Americans:
  • Coaching Awards: US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame (2012), IWLCA Hall of Fame (2017), IWLCA Coach of the Year (5x), Division III Regional and National Coach of the Year (1994, 1998, field hockey), Vermont Sports Hall of Fame (2017)

*Note: I considered a “consecutive stay” to be consecutive years coached at a program. Foote totaled 34 years at Middlebury, however, the most consecutive number of years Foote totaled was 28.

**Note: While we did calculate the longest consecutive stay at one program, the record at the longest-tenured program expresses the total win-loss record for time at that program as opposed to the win-loss record during the length of the longest tenure at that program.

Why Missy Foote is No. 5:

Missy Foote’s Middlebury women’s lacrosse team had an incredible 14 consecutive trips to the NCAA Final Four, winning national championships during five of those years during 1994-2007. Foote spent a total of nearly 40 years total at Middlebury, whether on the field as a lacrosse coach, a field hockey coach or as an administrator. Speaking of Foote’s field hockey coaching career, Foote finished her career with a 180-95-12 record and a national title in 1998. Yes, this is an article about the most successful lacrosse coaches of all-time, but being successful in a second sport certainly solidifies one’s greatness. Missy Foote’s 422 career wins are second all-time among Division III women’s lacrosse coaches, while she ranks third in total wins in any division of women’s lacrosse.

4. David Urick: Hobart (1980-1989), Georgetown (1990-2012)

Highlights:

  • National Championships: 10
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 21
  • Conference Championships:
  • Total Wins: 345
  • Total Losses: 129
  • Career Win Percentage: .728
  • Years Coaching: 33
  • Longest Consecutive Stay At One Program: Georgetown (22 years)
  • Record At Longest-Tenured Program: Georgetown (223-99, .693 win percentage)
  • No. of All-Americans: N/A
  • Coaching Awards: US Lacrosse National Lacrosse Hall of Fame (1998), Kraus Award – Division III Coach of the Year (1980, 1981), Cortland State Athletics Hall of Fame (1986), Hobart College Hall of Fame (1990), Upstate New York Chapter Lacrosse Hall of Fame (1991), Potomac Chapter Lacrosse Hall of Fame (2006), ICAC Coach of the Year (1976, football)

Why David Urick is No. 4:

David Urick will always best be remembered for the dynasty he had at Hobart College from 1980-1989. Winning 10 consecutive national championships, Hobart dominated the Division III lacrosse scene. Urick is actually one of four coaches in NCAA history in any sport to win 10 straight national titles. Urick never matched the same success he had at Hobart while he was at Georgetown in terms of championships, but he led Georgetown to a 223-99 record while with the Hoyas that included 11 NCAA tournament appearances. Their appearance in the 1999 tournament ended with Georgetown in the semifinals. Georgetown never had a losing season under Urick, and were the No. 1 ranked team in the country for periods during the 2003 and 2007 seasons. Urick also served as the chairman of the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Committee from 1990-93.

Urick was also the head football coach for Hobart beginning in the 1976 season, where the team finished with a 7-2 record, with Urick earning ICAC Coach of the Year honors. Urick actually was technically the co-head lacrosse coach of Hobart in 1979, and stepped down from the football program when he became the sole head coach in 1980.

3. Cindy Timchal: Northwestern (1982-1990), Maryland (1991-2006), Navy (2008-present)

Highlights:

  • National Championships: 8
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 28
  • Conference Championships: unavailable
  • Total Wins: 525
  • Total Losses: 138
  • Career Win Percentage: .792
  • Years Coaching: 37 (entering 38th year)
  • Longest Consecutive Stay At One Program: Maryland (15 years)
  • Record At Longest-Tenured Program: Maryland (260-46, .849 win percentage)*
  • No. of All-Americans: N/A (but, I bet it’s probably a lot)
  • Coaching Awards: US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame (2012), National Coach of the Year (1999), ACC Coach of the Year (4x), University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame (2012), NCAA’s 25th Anniversary Team (2006), IWLCA Hall of Fame (2017)

*Note: Record was calculated from taking Timchal’s career record and subtracting the wins and losses from her records at Navy and Northwestern according to her coaching profile on the Navy Athletics website. The calculated record may not be 100 percent accurate.

Why Cindy Timchal is No. 3:

I know. It’s unusual to see Cindy Timchal’s name associated with anything other than first place. Timchal has had an incredible career and is certainly right up there with our No. 2 and No. 3 picks. It’s tough choosing between so many legends, but someone has to be ranked third. Timchal has been a winner at every program she has been at. Timchal was the first coach at Northwestern when the program officially competed in the NCAA in 1982. She had a 76-40 record while with the Wildcats, and was a huge part in setting that program off in the right direction. She then took over at Maryland in 1991, where she led the Terps to eight national championships, seven of which were won consecutively from 1995-2001 — a streak that is third all-time in NCAA Women’s Division I history in any sport. Her eight national titles are the eighth most by a coach in a women’s sport in NCAA history, and the 26th most in all sports, men and women combined. She has been coaching at Navy since 2008 after leaving Maryland in 2006, and has led the Midshipmen to nine Patriot League titles and seven NCAA tournament appearances, making the Final Four in 2017. Timchal has a knack for creating something out of nothing, while also being able to win at the highest level.

2. Jim Berkman: Potsdam State (1984), Salisbury (1988-Present)

Highlights:

  • National Championships: 12
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 1988-2019 (31 consecutive appearances)
  • Conference Championships: 22 (Capital Athletic Conference)*
  • Total Wins: 575
  • Total Losses: 65
  • Career Win Percentage: .896
  • Years Coaching: 32 (entering 33rd)
  • Longest Consecutive Stay At One Program: Salisbury (31 years)
  • Record At Longest-Tenured Program: Salisbury (566-60, .905 win percentage)
  • No. of All-Americans: 220 (11 national players of the year)
  • Coaching Awards: US Lacrosse Hall Of Fame (2013), Division III National Coach Of The Year (1991, 2008, 2012), CAC Coach Of The Year (1996, 2002-08, 2010, 2012, and 2016)

*Note: Salisbury joined the Capital Athletic Conference in 1995.

Why Jim Berkman is No. 2:

Jim Berkman is certainly one of, if not the most, successful lacrosse coaches of all-time. He’s actually won more national championships than any lacrosse coach at any level. The name Salisbury Men’s Lacrosse has become synonymous with winning and is a very widely respected program across the country. Berkman has won more national championships in our sport than any other lacrosse coach, and also has the highest winning percentage over a career for a lacrosse coach as well — impressive, considering he also has the most wins of at least any male lacrosse coach at the NCAA level, and has coached for over 30 years. In his spare time, Berkman also reportedly hikes Mt. Everest for his morning walk, then swims back to the Salisbury to make it back for practice. The man probably achieves more in his morning than I have in my entire life.

1. Sharon Pfluger: Kean (1984), Montclair State (1985), TCNJ (1986-1997, 1999-present)

Highlights:

  • National Championships: 11*
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 33*
  • Conference Championships: 1**
  • Total Wins: 528*
  • Total Losses: 64*
  • Career Win Percentage: .877*
  • Years Coaching: 35 (entering 36th)
  • Longest Consecutive Stay At One Program: TCNJ (33 years)
  • Record At Longest-Tenured Program: TCNJ (528-64, .877 win percentage)
  • No. of All-Americans: 154 (18 national players of the year)
  • Coaching Awards: US Lacrosse National Lacrosse Hall of Fame (2007), IWLCA Division III Coach of the Year (1987,2004), IWLCA Regional Coach of the Year (1989, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018), Outstanding Achievement Award – March of Dimes (1990), Outstanding Achievement Award – Philadelphia Sportswriters Association (1991,1992), Bea Marwick Award (1995), New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame (1997), IWLCA Hall of Fame (2017)

*Note: Denotes achievements while at TCNJ (data unavailable for Kean (1984) and Montclair State (1985) — if you have a source for the official records during these years, submit it!)

**Note: The New Jersey Athletic Conference, of which TCNJ is a member, wasn’t formed until 1985.

Why Sharon Pfluger is No. 1:

In my mind, in in terms of lacrosse coaching success there is nothing that separates Sharon Pfluger from Jim Berkman. Each of these coaches lists of accomplishments is nearly identical, although I don’t know if I was able to piece together a completely accurate record of Pfluger’s coaching history. Her coaching profile on TCNJ’s website provides probably the most accurate data for the largest portion of her career, but I was unable to find really any data on her records or success while she was at Kean or Montclair State. Regardless of how those two seasons actually went, she is obviously one the most successful NCAA coaches in any gender, and really in any sport. In fact, Pfluger has also won nine NCAA women’s field hockey championships and amassed 606-113-9 record while at TCNJ. THAT is why I’m putting Pfluger as the No. 1 lacrosse coach of all-time. While technically this is an article on who is the best lacrosse coach of all-time, I needed something to be able to separate our tie at the top. The fact that Pfluger is also one of the best coaches of all-time in NCAA women’s field hockey tells me that she is a born winner wherever she goes. The fact that Pfluger has proven herself in two sports to me is the deciding factor.

Have a coach that you think we should have mentioned in our list of who is the most successful lacrosse coach of all-time? Share in the comments or tag us on social media using our handle @LaxAllStars.

This article was originally published Nov. 15, 2019.

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