Thursday, June 16, 2016

Head Coach Matt Madalon

Matt Madalon has everything under control.

Whatever it is, he seems to have it all figured out. The more there is to do, the more he smiles, chuckles and makes you feel like none of this is a problem. He's on it.

He's also calm. He speaks with a very deep voice, so maybe that masks any kind of stress he happens to be feeling. Or maybe he's just really good at dealing with stressful situation.

He also cares. About people. About his players. About the program. Not in a "what can you do to help me" kind of way. In a genuine way, one that extends well beyond the playing field. 

He's also tough. You'd call him "old school" if he happened to be, well, older. Whatever his age, he's a no-B.S. type of guy. The caring that TB mentioned in the last paragraph may extend way beyond the playing field, but he's deadly serious about what goes on on the field.

He's also funny. He laughs easily and makes those around him laugh at the same rate.

And he loves lacrosse. Especially Princeton lacrosse.

Matt Madalon officially became the head coach of Princeton men's lacrosse yesterday. He has spent the last two-plus months as the interim head coach, having taken over for the final five games of the 2016 season.

TigerBlog has known him since the first day he showed up here, three years ago, to become offensive coordinator. He impressed TB from Day 1, and nothing that has happened since makes TigerBlog change that first impression.

He became the interim head coach on April 6, and he guided Princeton through some trying waters for the rest of the season. Along the way, basically anyone affiliated with the program or the department who came in contact with him saw what TigerBlog knew all along.

TigerBlog has spent hours and hours talking to Madalon through the years. He knows his stuff. He knows people. He has a real plan for the program moving forward.

Matt Madalon is the 11th head coach in the history of Princeton men's lacrosse. Of the first 10, eight won at least 50% of their games and six won at least 60%.

Princeton has an all-time record in men's lacrosse of 669-468-19. There have been six NCAA championships and six more USILA national championships before there was an NCAA tournament. There have been 27 Ivy League titles.

Clearly this is one of the most successful lacrosse programs in the history of the sport. Some of TigerBlog's favorite people of all time have played lacrosse at Princeton, and he has been fortunate to have been there to see so many of the greatest moments the team has known.

So when Madalon was named the head coach, he wanted to let some of those who love the program so much know what kind of guy they have here.

When Madalon became the interim head coach, it reminded TigerBlog a bit of when John Thompson III became the head men's basketball coach in September 2000. It wasn't quite the same thing - Princeton was 2-6 in the lacrosse season when Madalon took over, while the basketball team hadn't started practicing yet for the 2000-01 season.

But there was something about the situation last April that definitely conjured up the situation with JT3. Like Madalon, he was being thrown into the fire, and like Madalon, he had to immediately right a ship. In Thompson's case, it was due to the departure from the program of the former head coach (Bill Carmody) and top assistant (Joe Scott), as well as the top two players (Chris Young, Spencer Gloger).

Thompson led Princeton to the 2000-01 Ivy League championship and then two more in the next three years before leaving for Georgetown, where has been to eight more NCAA tournaments.

The point of the story isn't how it turned out, though.

No, the point of the story is that during that whole time back in the late summer and fall of 2000, John Thompson III never once seemed frazzled. TigerBlog expected him to be bouncing off of walls, overwhelmed by the looming start of practice and the chaos of trying to stabilize an unsettled program.

There was none of that. There was just a calm young coach who knew what he had to do and went about doing it. It was impossible not to be impressed by him.

That's how it was with Madalon this past April.

TigerBlog expected the same thing he expected from Thompson, and again that's not what he found. Instead, Madalon was calm and confident, and above all else, like Thompson, he was very much in charge.

Like Thompson nearly 16 years earlier, it was impossible not to be impressed by him.

Madalon is now the head coach. The program is in his hands, and TigerBlog for one thinks he has an incredibly bright future ahead.

That's his hope for him anyway. But this isn't based on hope. It's based on getting to know him pretty well these last three years.

Because of that, TigerBlog can say that Princeton got itself a really good one.

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