Bill Tierney’s 14-year run coaching the University of Denver men’s lacrosse team is coming to a close in this, the final year of his 42-year head coaching career, capping nearly 50 years of coaching in total. Tierney will leave college coaching as a true legend, with an unmatched level of excellence, winning seven NCAA titles as the greatest coach in the history of the sport.
So it comes as little surprise that ‘Bill Tierney Day’ will see Denver men’s lacrosse (4-4, 0-1) face Villanova in the Pioneers’ second-to-last home game of the season on Saturday, April 8th at noon MT at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.
True to form, the self-effacing Tierney likely fought the idea of a day to honor him but has likely relented to the many other fans, players, and officials who want to recognize his decades of excellence, both at Denver and Princeton.
According to Lacrosse All Stars, a blog by Quint Kessenich, it’ll be a “Special day on campus as Denver celebrates and recognizes the career of Coach Bill Tierney. Family, friends, and alumni from Princeton and Denver will be in attendance. Coach Tierney’s family will be recognized at halftime of the game. The Big East Commissioner and sport administrator will be in attendance.”
Tierney is an amazing 161-58 guiding the Pioneers since 2009. During his entire coaching career, ‘Coach T’ made 30 NCAA Tournament appearances (28 in Division I) including 25 trips to the NCAA Quarterfinals (23), 15 NCAA Division I Championship Weekend appearances, nine appearances in the Division-I title game, and a record seven national championships. The two-time National Coach of the Year won 14 Ivy League Championships with Princeton, three ECAC regular-season titles, an ECAC Tournament title, seven BIG EAST regular-season crowns, and two BIG EAST Tournament championships with the Pioneers.
The “Godfather” of men’s lacrosse said in the press release announcing his retirement, “They say, ‘When you know, you know,’ and as my career draws to a close, I’m at peace with this decision,” Tierney said. “The list of people to thank who have impacted the last 48 years of my life is endless. Most of all, I want to thank my wife Helen, who has stood by my side and followed me to two high schools and four college stops throughout my career, and has been the rock for me and our children. Our family is all over the country now, and I’m looking forward to having the time to give back to them after all they’ve given for me.”
Perhaps greater than all his accomplishments in winning college lacrosse games was his willingness to travel west from Princeton to our lacrosse outpost and turn DU into the trademarked “Lacrosse Capital of the West”. The traditionally East Coast men’s game has indeed grown west over his time in Denver and not only are future college lacrosse players being developed all over North America — there is even a D-I men’s program at the University of Utah now, which Tierney helped grow into existence.
Growing the game all over the country has been good for the sport in general, but over the last seven years, other schools are taking advantage of that growth boom at Denver’s expense. DU’s former recruiting dominance in Colorado, Canada, and California is now shared with far more schools than it was a decade ago. As a result, the Pioneers have struggled to win the end-of-the-season Big East Conference Tournament and DU has not been to Championship Weekend since 2017. More recently, the emergence of the shot clock and COVID have also certainly hurt Denver (and many other programs) during recent seasons. However, from 2013-2019, Denver went an astounding seven conference regular seasons without a loss. That is a DU accomplishment that may never be matched in the future.
The highlight of the Tierney era at DU, of course, was the magical 2015 DU season when ‘Coach T’ guided Denver to its first and only NCAA Championship, downing Maryland 10-5 on Memorial Day of that year in Philadelphia, after a thrilling OT win against Notre Dame in the NCAA semi-final. That 2015 DU high water mark remains the only time a school west of the Appalachian mountains has ever won an NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse championship and remains the biggest highlight of not only Denver’s program but of the western growth of the game to date.
Denver has not yet named a replacement for Coach Tierney, but his associate head coach and (DU alum) Matt Brown, is widely expected to be the leading candidate (though there’s no logical reason why the department has dragged its feet like this in making the announcement). While Denver is still a Top 20 program today, the new coach, likely Brown, will be challenged to take Denver back to a consistent Top 10 program and contend with Big East leader Georgetown and also with improving Big East teams like Marquette and Villanova which are also on the rise.
Finally, all of us here at LetsGoDU send our very best to Coach Tierney and his family. We’ve been incredibly blessed that Tierney chose Denver back in 2009! And we’ve seen so many fantastic teams, games, and moments over the last 14 years that have elevated our school, our community, and all of our lives. To have the greatest coach in the history of the sport choose Denver is a huge honor that every Denver fan cherishes, and we owe all of that honor to ‘Coach T’. Best wishes for a wonderful retirement!
Saturday’s Game will be broadcast on Altitude 2 TV, Pioneer Vision, and on the radio at 104.3 The Fan HD3.
We have extended sales from the LetsGoDU lacrosse store until April 10th. You can order Denver Boone and Denver Bonnie lacrosse clothing HERE.
Top photo of Tierney Credit: LaxGoalie Rat