Observing a Lacrosse Pioneer, McPhee Style

Years ago, Bill Tierney stood on top of the world. He then threw the lacrosse world for a loop by stepping down as Princeton’s Head Coach after winning 6 National Championships. Where did we go next? He moved West. Many read it as a rebirth for him and his family and for a chance at recapturing something he lost a long time ago. Like many people, he wanted change. He wanted to take advantage of something before it turned into regret.

Yesterday, New York Times writer, George Vecsey, wrote an interview about Tierney’s departure from Princeton and his arrival in Denver with help from Pulitzer Prize winning author John McPhee (pictured below with Mark Kovler and co). McPhee was an Academic-Athletic Fellow for Tierney’s teams at Princeton.

Stunned, like everyone else, McPhee watched Tierney leave the lap of luxury for a program in much need of work. McPhee now sees Tierney as a visionary. Tierney has brought Denver, a team from way out West, to the Final Four!

Vecsey writes:

“I was stunned,” McPhee said the other day.

The more he thought about it, however, the more McPhee detected the evolutionary aspect of Tierney’s heading toward the Continental Divide, “the idea of lacrosse appearing more places than Baltimore, Hempstead, Syracuse,” McPhee said. “That’s what excited me. They’re playing at the University of Puget Sound. It’s in Texas and Florida.”

On Saturday, the Academic-Athletic Fellow from Princeton will travel to Baltimore, one of the beating hearts of lacrosse, to watch Tierney and Denver take on Virginia in one semifinal of the N.C.A.A. tournament, followed by Maryland against the defending champions from Duke.

“In two years he’s in the Ravens’ stadium,” McPhee exclaimed about the upward surge of Denver — and lacrosse. In recent years, the semifinals and finals have become a certified big event, in major stadiums, a sure sign of the growth and popularity (and beauty and speed) of this native North American sport.

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