A Step Down, and A Step Up

New Job Gives New Life To Big Green Assistant

Hanover — The Dartmouth College men’s lacrosse team limps into this afternoon’s game with visiting Harvard with its roster reduced by injuries and suspensions. The Big Green enters its Ivy League opener at 2-3 and has won just 5 of 24 contests against Ancient Eight foes during the past five years.

None of this seems to faze Dartmouth defensive coordinator Tim McIntee. When you spent the previous 15 years at a Manhattan College program with perhaps the worst resources in NCAA Division I lacrosse, every day in your current job is Christmas. Pink-slipped by the Jaspers last May, McIntee is loving life despite having dropped down a notch to assistant status.

“Being fired was the best possible thing for me, but I didn’t know it at the time,” said McIntee, who was 93-136 at Manhattan before relocating his wife and two young children from Long Island to Wilder last fall. “I consider working at Dartmouth the pinnacle of my career.”

McIntee was a lacrosse star at East Islip (N.Y.) High on Long Island’s southern shore. His play as a three-time All-American later helped LIU Post (then known as C.W. Post) advance to the NCAA Division I tournament in 1988 and he played for the U.S. at the 1990 World Championships. After a college assistant’s stint at St. John’s, he guided a pair of high school teams before taking over Manhattan’s fledgling program in 1997 for its second varsity season.

McIntee said he was paid all of $9,000 his first year on the job, which was officially a part-time gig. He also worked as the college’s intramural director in order to be a full-time employee and lived nearby in the Bronx, where Manhattan College is paradoxically located.

“My seventh year, they made me the full-time lacrosse coach, but deducted $15,000 off my salary,” McIntee said with a grim chuckle. “Those were the cards I was dealt, and it was take it or leave it. It was horrible, but it was great, because it made you tough.”

McIntee persevered despite a staggering number of handicaps. His assistants drew no salary, but received Manhattan College room and board, plus 12 free credits of classes per year. The Jaspers didn’t have a permanent locker room and enjoyed no true home games from 2002-06 because their field was unplayable. Practices were held in adjacent Van Cortlandt Park, where the coaches had to paint lines on public space to simulate a lacrosse field.

“Three times, we held our senior day at Sacred Heart (in Connecticut), where their coach was a friend of mine,” recalled McIntee, who also played “home” games at various high schools in the New York City region. “Our kids had to drag their equipment back and forth from their dorm rooms in big bags and the other coaches and I would wash their game uniforms.”

McIntee said he worked his first four years out of an office where he and 14 other Manhattan sports coaches jockeyed for two phone lines. Weight room sessions had to be limited to 15 players at a time, because the space couldn’t accommodate more occupants. McIntee was his team’s strength coach, academic counselor, de facto equipment manager and field maintenance man.

Adding to his crazy schedule, McIntee got married and he and his wife started a family, moving from the Bronx to East Islip and necessitating a two-hour commute to work each way. He would start his day by wrangling a toddler and an infant for five or six hours, then work until 11 p.m. By the 2011 season, he was looking to get out.

“I’d call my wife on the ride back home and tell her I couldn’t do this anymore,” said McIntee, adding that he twice tried to persuade Harvard coach Chris Wojcik to hire him as an assistant. “We had to outwork everyone because we didn’t have the resources, but it just seemed like a nonstop, uphill battle.”

McIntee did see to it that his players traveled in comfort and “ate like fat cats on the road,” and he reveled in recruiting and at times, winning with castoffs and overlooked prospects from the recruiting trail. Manhattan reached the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference semifinals seven times, the finals three times and won the event in 2002, qualifying for what was then a 12-team NCAA tournament. That run cemented McIntee’s reputation as something of a miracle worker in the college lacrosse community.

“Mac is one of the most respected coaches in our sport, both for his mind and his commitment,” said Dartmouth coach Andy Towers. “I could easily be his assistant, because for 15 years he did everything himself.”

McIntee’s last four teams went 10-8, 7-9, 3-13 and 5-9. He was pursuing Division II head coaching slots and Division I assistant’s openings and was saying goodbye to his family in an airport parking lot late last summer when Towers called with a job offer. Less than a month later, McIntee was working in Hanover.

“Being a lacrosse player and coach at Dartmouth is 100 percent better than it was at Manhattan,” McIntee said. “Being here has opened up my mind. I knew it was done differently, but I had no idea how differently.”

As thrilled as McIntee is to be with the Big Green, he stepped into a difficult situation. Not only has Dartmouth struggled for years to be competitive, its coaching staff has been a revolving door. Towers replaced previous coach Bill Wilson in 2010, and he’s since had seven assistants, including a pair of volunteers. Two moved up the coaching ladder and last year’s defensive coordinator, Paul Schimoler, died of cancer last month.

McIntee and offensive coordinator Mike Bocklet, hired early this year, have brought new systems with them and given the Ivy League’s practice restrictions, the schemes are still being processed by Dartmouth’s players. The Big Green might feature more talent than in recent years, but injuries and adjustments have prevented that improvement from showing in its record.

“Things have always been changing throughout my four years,” said senior defenseman Pat Flynn. “Every time you get comfortable, something different is brought to the table.”

McIntee arrived with an encyclopedic knowledge of lacrosse and unbridled intensity. His normal speaking volume is powerful enough that engaging him in conversation seems to gradually nudge the listener backwards. His expectations are sky high.

“His lacrosse IQ is off the charts and he’s made me the best player I’ve ever been in my life,” Flynn said. “But he wants you to be absolutely perfect and it’s unreachable. It’s a no-win situation but it’s for the betterment of the team.”

McIntee sees his current situation as win-win. He marvels at no longer having to work 16-hour days, monitor study halls or restring nets. His job description has narrowed while the resources at his disposal have drastically increased.

“It’s been an unbelievable athletic and administrative experience for me,” McIntee said. “Practically every (high school) player wants to come to Dartmouth; at Manhattan I had to sell ice to the Eskimos.

“I’m blown away by the commitment here. You’re able to be hands-off in so many areas that it adds up in the end. I can truly be a lacrosse coach.”

Notes: Dartmouth is likely to play without seven or eight significant contributors today, including midfielder Patrick Resch, who might be the Big Green’s best player. The junior is out with a broken jaw suffered last week when he was struck by a teammate’s shot in practice and might not return this season. … Towers said freshman midfielder Cam Lee, who piled up four goals and an assist in the team’s first three games, will miss his third consecutive contest after being suspended for a violation of team rules. Lee, 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, originally committed to Duke before coming to Hanover. … Harry Krieger, Harvard’s senior goaltender, was once a top recruit for Dartmouth before spurning the Big Green for the Crimson. … Harvard is 3-3 overall and 0-1 in Ivy play and has won three of its last four games with Dartmouth, including a 15-10 triumph in Boston last year.

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