There are no timeouts for Hopkins' Seaman Jays' expectations run nothing but high Lacrosse preview

February 26, 1993|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. . . .

Will time run out for Johns Hopkins lacrosse coach Tony Seaman Lacrosse preview

before the Blue Jays win a national championship?

"I'm confident in my ability and I believe we're making progress," said Seaman, 50, whose contract expires annually. "Security? I'm pretty secure. I think we have done as much as possible in the first two years."

Except win a national championship. Johns Hopkins hasn't won the title since 1987.

An appearance by the Blue Jays in the quarterfinals of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I tournament in 1991 and a Final Four berth last season may be impressive at schools such as Brown or Duke, but this is Johns Hopkins.

The Johns Hopkins. Winner of seven NCAA Division I and 42 national titles. Home of 152 first-team All-Americas. Owner of a 702-220-15 record in 109 years of intercollegiate lacrosse.

"Tony's honeymoon hasn't ended because Tony never had a honeymoon," said Jerry Schnydman, director of alumni relations at Johns Hopkins and a former Blue Jays All-American midfielder in the 1960s.

"I told him when he first came here that he had great fans, great support, great players and great tradition. Now just win baby, just win," said Schnydman, also a former Blue Jays assistant. "When you're hired to coach at Johns Hopkins, you're expected to win a national championship -- maybe two or three."

So far, the Blue Jays' big brother alumni have remained calm and supportive of Seaman. No late-night phone calls. No diagrammed plays in the mail.

But Seaman knows they are there watching. Sometimes, he feels like the world is eyeing his program through a gigantic microscope.

The Blue Jays have one of the biggest, if not the largest, following in lacrosse. One to two bus loads of fans travel with the team for each away game. Before the season opener, the Blue Jays have Face-Off night, where 100 to 125 former players attend a dinner and meet the present players. Then each alumnus tells why one of his years was the best in Johns Hopkins history.

"The expectations there are so high," said Don Zimmerman, an assistant at Loyola who was the Blue Jays' head coach from 1984 through 1991. "I was from Baltimore, played at Johns Hopkins and later coached under Henry Ciccarone, so I knew about the pressure before I took the job. Most of it is self-imposed because of the tradition. It comes with the job. Actually, I've always found the alumni to be supportive, but not intrusive."

Mike Morrill, an All-American attackman who graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1988, has seen a different side. He was an assistant coach last season.

"Lacrosse at Johns Hopkins is like football at Notre Dame," said Morrill. "There are no alumni in Division I lacrosse as interested, even to the point of interference, as the ones at Johns Hopkins. They have no problem calling a coach up on Monday morning and telling him how to coach the team."

"There is a perceived pressure, but one that is also very real," said Schnydman. "I don't want to sound arrogant but Johns Hopkins has a reputation around the world for excellence in academics. So there are no excuses if we fail in that effort to maintain that tradition. It's the same in lacrosse."

Seaman came to Johns Hopkins after eight years as the coach of Penn, where he earned the reputation as a coaching wizard. Poof. Four Ivy League titles and six Division I tournament appearances. Poof. Matchup zone defenses and goalkeepers who double-teamed the ball outside the crease.

And he did it without scholarships.

But not even Seaman could make the Blue Jays' problems disappear.

He has tried not to tamper with the Johns Hopkins tradition. The team wore the same uniforms until the Blue Jays came out in all black in a playoff win over Towson State last season. Johns Hopkins still has the same pre-game warm-up drills. They still have the same band. Face-Off night never may end.

"If it wasn't broke, why fix it?" said Seaman.

But when he arrived, the school's problems were two-fold. In the past, most of the great high-school players went to the traditional powers, such as Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Maryland and Syracuse. But as the sport began to grow so did the number of outstanding prospects.

Thus the emergence of programs such as Duke, Loyola and Princeton, which won the title last year.

Also, the game became quicker but Johns Hopkins didn't. More teams, such as Loyola, North Carolina and Princeton, duplicated the fast-paced attack that carried Syracuse to three consecutive titles from 1988 through 1990.

It doesn't help that Johns Hopkins plays the toughest schedule in the country.

"That was the biggest drawback when I was deciding to take this job," said Seaman. "I didn't know if the people here understood that parity in lacrosse was much greater than people anticipated and the dominance that the university once enjoyed probably wouldn't happen again."

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