Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Goodbye, Metz

TigerBlog spent the morning finishing his story announcing that David Metzbower was going to be the next men's lacrosse head coach at Princeton. When Princeton AD Gary Walters asked TB to come down the hall and meet with him and Metz, it all seemed so simple.

Until the words came out that Metzbower was in fact turning down the Princeton job and instead leaving the University. Metzbower has spent the last 20 years as the top assistant at Princeton under Bill Tierney, the Hall-of-Fame coach who left last week to become the head coach at Denver.

TigerBlog has known Metzbower for every one of those 20 years. He has given his all to Princeton lacrosse, and he is hugely responsible for 19 winning seasons, 17 10-win seasons, 16 NCAA quarterfinals, 14 Ivy League championships, 10 NCAA Final Fours, eight NCAA finals and of course six NCAA championships.

Since the 1990 season, Princeton men's lacrosse is 230-65. Tierney's record in that time is considered 230-65; Metzbower's is recognized as 0-0.

Tierney would be the first to say that that disparity isn't fair or an accurate representation of what the two brought to the program. In fact, Tierney was the first to say it, back on Memorial Day 1998, when he dragged a reluctant Metzbower to the postgame press conference and gave him equal credit for the third straight national title. To say that Metzbower was taken aback by the attention would be short-changing the situation.

Through the years, any time anyone with the program - former players, current support staff, anyone - ever talked about him, the conversation nearly 100% of the time started with a smile, a chuckle, a quick shake of the head and then the utterance "Metz."

TigerBlog remembers the time about a decade ago when Metzbower said that he'd rather be "David" instead of "Dave" in the roster. TB thought it was funny then and even more funny as time went by, since neither TB nor anyone else in Princeton lacrosse has ever once called him either. He's not "Dave" or "David," or "Coach" or "Coach Metzbower" or anything else for that matter. He's "Metz." Sometimes, in less formal circles, he's "Metzy."

When it became apparent that Tierney was leaving, TigerBlog thought back to his own experiences as a way of defining him as a person rather than just as the head coach that people saw on the sidelines. In that same spirit, when it became obvious that Metzbower was the choice to replace Tierney, TB started to think of Metz in the same way.

TB thought back to the biggest disagreement he and Metzbower ever had. It came when games first started to be televised from Class of 1952 Stadium on a regular basis. Metz liked to set the team video camera up right next to the booth, but that's where the TV cameras wanted to go. Before one game, Metzbower put up yellow caution tape where he wanted his camera; TigerBlog took it down for the TV people. It led to the only mildly heated exchange we had in the 20 years we worked together.

Metzbower was the last person in the locker room after the 1998 and 2001 NCAA championships, as he had to go retrieve the video equipment. It was sort of how he viewed his role. Whatever needed to be done, he did. Whatever he could do to complement Tierney, he did.

Tierney isn't exactly a computer genius. Metzbower is. Before a game, Tierney would do the radio pregame show or talk to the TV people; Metzbower would warm up the goalies. They were the perfect combination, the strong personality of the front man and the ego-free assistant.

TB isn't sure which was more difficult to contemplate, Princeton without Tierney or Tierney without Metzbower. Now it's Princeton without either one.

Was it hard for Metzbower to sit back all those years and see all of the acclaim that came to Tierney? He would always say no, that didn't bother him, that didn't matter to him. In similar cases, the assistant has had to say those things, but at the same time it's obvious that the opportunity to be a head coach is a driving force.

TB always figured that Metzbower was to Tierney as Carmody was to Carril, to borrow from the SATs. It's now been proven not to be the case. Carmody was a loyal Carril assistant for more than 15 years who was mostly in the background while the head coach became a Hall-of-Famer, but Carmody was and remains a great lead singer himself.

That was never Metzbower's style. He loved coaching lacrosse, coaching the army of players past and present who today received an email from him apologizing if he's let them down, as if such a thing is possible after all the time he's been here.

Metzbower looked at the opportunity in front of him and contrasted it with what was important to him at this stage of his life. The easy decision would have been to move forward and be the head coach. The tough decision is to walk away, to say "hey, I've been away from my family too long, missed too much time with my wife and two kids." To say "this isn't what I want."

And that's what he said.

TigerBlog remembers the day Tierney told him that Metzbower's wife had had their first child. Stunned, TigerBlog said: "I didn't even know they were expecting." TigerBlog had seen Metzbower pretty much on a daily basis for the previous nine months, but it wasn't and isn't Metz' style to talk about himself. And now, after all the years away from them, he was simply read for a change.

And so a day that began with this release: "David Metzbower, whose unassuming style often masked his role in building and coaching a six-time NCAA champion and 14-time Ivy League champion, has been named the head coach of men’s lacrosse at Princeton University" ... quickly morphed into this one:

"David Metzbower has turned down an offer to become the head men’s lacrosse coach at Princeton and will be leaving the University."

Metz had good reasons for what he's doing, and in typical fashion, he didn't want to waste too many words talking about it. And especially about him.

So TigerBlog will do it for him. David Metzbower is one of the greatest figures in Princeton men's lacrosse history, and Princeton University has been lucky to have him here for the last 20 years.

He'll be missed.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not good timing regarding the recruiting cycle.

Tierney leaving would not necessarily affect commitments sine Metz was integral part of the team face. Now, who can say?

Anonymous said...

My son started talking with Tierny 2 weeks ago, then with Metz as recently as 2 days ago. Now...

Sheesh

Anonymous said...

I believe that one of the unstated reasons Tierney took the Denver job is so that Metzbower could assume the head coaching position at Princeton while the latter was still a young man.

Mr. Walters should call Tierney and say, "The situation is much different than you thought it would be."

Tierney would not want to leave something he spent 22 years building in shambles.

Bill Tierney (with or without Trevor Tierney) needs to come back and take the helm of the Princeton program again. Tierney thought he was doing Metzbower a favor. Instead, he is leaving a mess. That's no way to leave a legacy.

dinesh said...

I think back to when I first met Dave (I actually called him that) back in 1990, his first year at Princeton I think. We both lifeguarded at Dillon pool. It wasn't until later that year when I discovered he was also the assistant lax coach. Even then, he was a guy who would go out of his way not to brag or namedrop.

Good guy. Princeton will obviously be less without him. Vaya con Dios.

Anonymous said...

Metzy coached my son for 4 years and to this day he is the first one he calls if it involves Princeton lax. He will be missed! He is a great coach and a better person.

Anonymous said...

Wow!

I guess it goes without saying that TigerBlog is actually clueless.

Anonymous said...

"Bill Tierney (with or without Trevor Tierney) needs to come back and take the helm of the Princeton program again. Tierney thought he was doing Metzbower a favor. Instead, he is leaving a mess. That's no way to leave a legacy."

And that's not fair to Bill Tierney.

Anonymous said...

very up setting, how could this
have happened...didn't Coach T &
Metzie talk before this all came
down? Did AD Walters wait too long
to announce Metzie as head coach..
Did Coach T recommend Metzie at his
resignation meeting? Metzie should
have been named intrium head coach
immediately so the program could stay in place and Metzie could keep things in place till a decision could be made.

Anonymous said...

this is very sad but i hope youd be happy to know metz is coaching again.... high school lacrosse at Malvern Prep

Anonymous said...

he is not doing a good job at malvern- i guess it will take time for him to adjust and for all to adjust to him. not impressive at all hard to believe so many nice things are said about him online