The Pioneer bench boss guided Denver to his record seventh national championship in 2015
DENVER – University of Denver William G. Tierney Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach Bill Tierney has announced that he will retire following the upcoming 2023 season, his 14th with the program, his 42nd as a college coach and his 49th in coaching overall.
“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 through 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.”
Tierney enters his final season with a 429-147 (.745) record, making 30 NCAA Tournament appearances (28 in Division I) including 25 trips to the NCAA Quarterfinals (23), 15 NCAA D-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.
“It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Bill Tierney over the last six months, and I look forward to partnering with him this season as we work to further his impressive legacy and that of DU Men’s Lacrosse,” Vice Chancellor for Athletics and Ritchie Center Operations Josh Berlo said. “Coach T has had an exceptionally positive and profound impact not only on DU, but also the sport of men’s lacrosse and the thousands of young men that he served as a mentor to. On behalf of the entire University, we are thankful for all that Coach Tierney has given to DU. He leaves Pioneer Men’s Lacrosse with a rock-solid foundation and a continued bright future.”
A 2002 USA Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee and the 2009 USA Lacrosse Person of the Year, Tierney became the fastest coach in NCAA Division I history to achieve 400 wins, reaching the milestone in just 532 games, 62 games faster than his long-time friend and competitor John Danowski.
Tierney will start his final season in February with a 157-54 record through 13 seasons with Denver. The Pioneers have qualified for the NCAA Tournament 10 times, reached Championship Weekend five times and lifted the first men’s lacrosse championship trophy for a school in the west in 2015. Tierney’s student-athletes have earned the program’s first 11 First-Team All-America honors, nine Second-Team All-America and seven Third-Team All-America awards, 25 Honorable Mention selections and 19 USILA Scholar All-America accolades.
“While I know a lot of the focus will be on this being my last season, I’m really excited to get the whistle back around my neck next week and start the preseason with this great group of student-athletes,” Tierney said. “The opportunity to coach with Brownie (associate head coach Matt Brown) my entire Denver tenure has been a blessing. Matt and his family are like family to us, and I’m thankful to have coached in Denver alongside my son Trevor (Tierney), son-in-law Dylan Sheridan, John Orsen, John Gallant, Ryan LaPlante, Jeremy Noble, Erik Adamson and for my final season, Matt Neufeldt. They have all played an important role in making this program what it is today.
“I’d also like to thank Chancellor Emeritus Dan Ritchie and former athletic directors Peg Bradley-Doppes and Ron Grahame for giving me the freedom of a fresh beginning out here and allowing me the opportunity to grow the sport in the west.”
During his time at Princeton and Denver, Tierney coached two National Players of the Year, 38 First Team All-Americans, 18 BIG EAST Players of the Year, four ECAC Players of the Year, 13 Ivy League Players of the Year, 44 First Team All-BIG EAST award winners, 12 All-ECAC First Team selections and 73 First Team All-Ivy League picks. In total, Tierney coached 39 USILA Scholar All-Americans.
“A true pioneer and leader in his sport and beyond, Coach Tierney has made a tremendous difference in not only our University of Denver lacrosse program but lacrosse programs across the country,” former Vice Chancellor for Athletics Peg Bradley-Doppes said. “An incredible teacher, motivator, role model and coach, he is a living legacy in the sport of lacrosse. A kind and compassionate human being, and a mentor to coaches and players throughout this country, Bill’s legacy transformed and elevated Pioneer lacrosse and Pioneer athletics, making it the Lacrosse Capital of the West.”
In February of 2020, a group of former players, parents, alumni and friends of the Denver men’s lacrosse program combined to commit $1.25 million to the naming of Denver’s second head coaching position, joining a group of now four Pioneer programs to have their head coaching positions endowed.
“Bill Tierney is one of the most iconic coaches in any collegiate sport in the country,” former Director of Athletics Ron Grahame said. “His contribution to the growth and development of lacrosse from the first time he stepped on a field until present day at Barton Stadium in Denver is hard to completely comprehend. Coach T is easily an extraordinary family man, leader, innovator and teacher who has built a legacy in collegiate lacrosse that will be hard to match.”
Winning has been the common denominator in every stop along the way for Tierney. As a player, he helped lead Cortland State to a USILA college division championship in his 1973 senior campaign before beginning his head coaching career at Great Neck South High School on Long Island, New York, in 1976. From there, Tierney moved to Levittown Memorial High School in 1980 before making his first collegiate stop at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Tierney led that program to its first two NCAA Tournament appearances in just three seasons at the helm.
The legendary head coach’s first Division I coaching job took him to Baltimore where he served as an assistant at Johns Hopkins University for three seasons, helping the Jays to national titles in 1985 and 1987 while also serving as the head coach for the Blue Jays men’s soccer team, guiding that team to the program’s first NCAA bid in 11 years and a 35-15-1 record.
Following his time at Hopkins, Tierney setoff for his first Division I head coaching job at Princeton University, which hadn’t won a league championship, made an NCAA Tournament appearance or produced a First Team All-American in the 20 years that preceded Tierney’s arrival in 1988.
“I cherish every day of the 20 years that I spent with Bill Tierney at Princeton. To me, he is without question the greatest lacrosse coach of all time and one of the greatest coaches any sport has ever seen,” Senior Communications Advisor and Historian for Princeton University Athletics, and Tierney’s long-time SID Jerry Price said. “To take one program that had never won an NCAA tournament game and lead it to the national title (and then five more after it) is an astonishing accomplishment. To do so with a second program is extraordinary.
“More than his on-field accomplishments, Bill Tierney cares as deeply about people as anyone I’ve met. There have been so many times through the years when I’ve seen him, away from the spotlight, give his time, attention and warmth to friends, strangers, players, opponents and even officials. I cannot thank him enough for how much he has done for me in my life, as well as my children, and how much the great game that he introduced me to all those years ago has brought to me. I owe all of that to the great good fortune to have met Bill Tierney when I did. I wish him and Helen the very best in his retirement and cannot begin to thank him for his friendship, mentorship, guidance and love.”
A team still rich in history, Tierney revitalized the Princeton Tigers program to get it back to the top of the college lacrosse world. In his 22 seasons at Princeton, Tierney produced six national titles, 26 First-Team All-Americans, 20 Scholar All-Americans and a pair of national player of the year awards.
“There are so many people that made my time at Princeton special but similar to the relationship I have with Matt Brown in Denver, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the impact that David Metzbower had while coaching alongside me at Princeton,” Tierney said.
Following all of his success with the Tigers, Tierney shocked the lacrosse world in the summer of 2009 when he left the Princeton campus to join a Denver program that had then made just two trips to the NCAA Tournament in its Division I history. Tierney took Denver to its first five Championship Weekends and made Denver the first western program to lift the National Championship trophy in 2015.
The son of a beverage truck driver and a nurse has repeated one quote that stands out the most throughout his years with the whistle: “When I go to my grave, I don’t want them putting on my headstone how many national championships I had. I want them to put on my headstone that I loved my players.”
They love you, Coach. They do.
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