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Dartmouth Dismisses Men’s Lacrosse Coach

Former Dartmouth College men's lacrosse coach Andy Towers talks with Patrick Resch during his final game with the Big Green on April 29. Towers was 20-47 in five seasons at the helm. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Former Dartmouth College men's lacrosse coach Andy Towers talks with Patrick Resch during his final game with the Big Green on April 29. Towers was 20-47 in five seasons at the helm. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Hanover — Dartmouth College has fired Andy Towers, its head men’s lacrosse coach who had been a part of the program for the past 10 years. A former All-American player at Brown, Towers had been with the Big Green for five years as an assistant before ascending to the head job in 2009. He had a year remaining on his contract.

Towers, 45, said the decision came from Athletic Director Harry Sheehy and executive associate athletic director Brian Austin. He said he now plans to exit the coaching field. Exactly where that may take him, his wife and two young children remains to be seen.

“I fully intended to come back, but … it became evident to (Sheehy and Austin) that what was in the best interest of the program was a change in leadership,” Towers said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “They’ve got a tough job to do and I respect their judgment. They were tactful and respectful and they gave me a fair shot.

“All I’ve done for the last 20 years is coach college lacrosse, and that’s the one thing I know I don’t want to do now. It’s a serious grind, and it’s a bigger grind if you don’t win as much as you want to.”

Dartmouth was 2-10 overall this season and 0-6 in Ivy League games. The Big Green’s victories came over lightly regarded Sacred Heart and Holy Cross. It surrendered 10 or more goals in all but one contest. A 19-4 home loss to No. 2 Cornell was particularly demoralizing, although the Big Green’s roster was depleted by injuries at the time.

A Connecticut native and Norwich resident, Towers was 20-47 and 5-25 in Ivy League play during his five seasons at the helm. Dartmouth’s record the past decade is 52-86 overall and 17-43 in league competition.

Dartmouth is 100-248 in Ivy contests since the league was formed in 1956. The Ivies are considered one of the country’s top groupings for men’s lacrosse and placed three teams in this season’s 16-team NCAA Division I tournament.

Dartmouth shared the 2003 Ivy title, but its best finish since 2006 has been fourth. It has finished in the seven-team circuit’s cellar four of the last six years. Towers, a relentless optimist and vocal presence on the field, repeatedly touted his recruiting classes ,but couldn’t translate them to victories.

“I wish we had won more games, but we tried as hard as we could,” Towers said.

Assistants Michael Bocklet and Tim McIntee are also being let go. “I certainly made some mistakes, and could have made better adjustments during games or prepared out team better, but I don’t have any real regrets,” Towers added

The move’s timing, two months after the end of the season, no doubt puzzles some observers, but Sheehy said he didn’t want to rush the process.

“We wanted to look very hard at this situation and not knee-jerk on this,” Sheehy said, adding that he hopes to name Towers’ successor in a matter of weeks. “The conversations we had with Andy were very honest and blunt, and in the end, I had to make a decision.

“I’m genuinely fond of Andy, and I supported him and wanted it to work, but we had gotten to a point where I had trouble envisioning the program getting much better.”

Sheehy said he understands the cost Towers’ exit may have on recruiting, but that the long-term view is more important than any short-term losses. He added that the views of Dartmouth’s current players were considered but not the reason for the change.

“You can’t be held hostage by a recruiting class maybe falling apart,” Sheehy said. “The kids he’s recruited love him, and we’ll do our best to hold the class together, but I’m sure some of those who have committed to Dartmouth are wondering what’s going on.

“I have always emphasized that kids in the program don’t hire and fire coaches, but you can throw up a flare and look to see what’s going on by having substantive conversations with them.”

A prime topic of conversation around Dartmouth athletics in general and the lacrosse programs in particular is when the college will construct an indoor practice facility to augment crowded Leverone Field House. The lacrosse, baseball and softball teams begin practice in early February and must battle for inadequate space with the track squads and other campus groups.

Sheehy said he can’t predict how fundraising for the project will go and therefore can’t give an expected ground-breaking date. However, he said an indoor practice facility is at the top of his facilities wish list and that a push is on to build it sooner rather than later. At the same time, the athletic director emphasized, it’s not a panacea for the men’s lacrosse program.

“The indoor facility is easy to hang your hat on, but that doesn’t mean the job becomes easy once we get one,” Sheehy said. “We’ll train more effectively, but an indoor facility isn’t a magic bullet and it can’t catch and it can’t pass.”

Passing and catching were basic skills Dartmouth all too often struggled with under Towers. It’s clear, however, that he and Sheehy part with mutual respect and that the change was painful because of their friendship.

“Andy was a relentless worker and I know this stings him, because it stings me,” Sheehy said. “He worked hard on improving the culture of the program and has succeeded in that in many ways, but our results were lacking.”

Said Towers: “When my guys look back as husbands and fathers, I hope they understand that the decisions I made, while not always the ones they loved, were the best for their development as people and players. I felt like we knocked it out of the park in that regard, and while that might not matter to others, it’s the most important thing to me.”

Although confident he’d improved his players’ lives, Towers wasn’t nearly so sure by the end of the past season that coaching was the right fit for him as a husband and father. He wouldn’t comment directly on whether Dartmouth is paying the year of salary remaining on his contract, but said the college was “very generous in what it did to help my family transition into the next stage of our lives.”

“I was single when I got into coaching and you do it because you love it,” Towers said. “But the grind eroded my family’s quality of life, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wonder if it was worth it.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.