May 29, 2012

Loyola University Maryland Men's Lacrosse Coach Charley Toomey Profiled by NCAA.com

(Courtesy of NCAA.com; Story by Lee Feinswog)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Charley Toomey just loves Loyola.
 
It’s his alma mater, where he was the goalie for the lacrosse team that made it to the 1990 national championship game. It’s his job. It is, outside of his family, the biggest part of his life. It’s a place, how as the school’s seventh-year head coach, about which he gets emotional.

When his Greyhounds beat Notre Dame on Saturday in the national semifinals to get back to the title game for the first time since he played in it, Toomey was obviously ecstatic. But after Monday, when Loyola overpowered cross-state foe Maryland 9-3 to win the 2012 Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship, well, you can just imagine.
 
“I thought Saturday was a pretty cool day for the Greyhounds,” Toomey said.
 
“Today’s (Monday's) special.”
 
In so many ways, from the path Loyola took to Toomey’s friendship with the coach he beat to take home the trophy.
 
Loyola, which had the 1976 Division II men’s soccer title to its credit, won its first DI title in any sport. It concluded a season in which the Greyhounds (18-1) were not even ranked when it started yet they entered this tournament as the top seed. The goalie, sophomore Jack Runkel, didn’t start the first three games of the season, but then took over and capped the ride by holding Maryland to the lowest goals total in championship-game history.
 
The unseeded Terps (12-6) scored their last goal – that also gave them their last lead at 3-2 — with 10:40 to halftime. After that it was all Loyola, especially graduate student Eric Lusby, whose four goals gave him an NCAA Tournament record 17. He had five against Notre Dame. In their first meeting with Maryland since the 1998 national semifinals, Loyola was dominant.
 
“We talked a lot about returning this program to its glory days, to what it was like when coach Toomey and [assistant coach Steve] Vaikness were playing here,” Lusby said. “He’s like a second dad to all of us and he really sets the tone for the team every game and gets our minds right and he was more ready to go than anybody and I wouldn’t want to play for anybody else.”
 
Another assistant, Matt Dwan, is also an alum who serves as the team’s defensive coordinator. He started the year after Toomey graduated, but Toomey had stayed on as a coach. Then they were assistants together.
 
“Everybody works hard. Every Division I coach works hard. But he’s somebody who prepares a ton and he’s a guy the kids really enjoy playing for because he’s a pretty genuine guy,” Dwan said of his boss. “He’s not much of a coach-speak guy. Whatever he’s feeling he’s gonna tell you, good or bad. I’m just so happy for him and all of our older alum guys, like me, who helped build the program up.
 
“We’ve only been a Division I program since 1982. To some of these guys that’s a long time ago, but to me it’s not that long. We’ve put in a lot of time and a lot of effort over the years to build this program up, so I’m just excited for him.”
 
Toomey, however, controlled his excitement. That’s because his best friend in lacrosse is second-year Maryland head coach John Tillman, whose Terrapins were making back-to-back title-game appearances.
 
“It’s weird how things circle back,” Tillman said. “When I was coaching at Navy, I lived in Annapolis, and I lived a block from coach Toomey and his family. Charley is one of the finest people I know, and probably the closest guy or friend that I have as a coach in the coaching business. He’s as good as they come in terms of character and friendship and what he does with his players on and off the field is impeccable.

“He’s a good coach. He’s a better friend. His wife was very, very nice to me. She knew I was a bachelor, so I was invited over for dinner a lot. I got to know his kids really well, and I still get to spend a lot of time with them. They’re just great, great people.”
 
Toomey told the story earlier this lacrosse weekend about a time his Christmas tree falling down.
 
“My wife’s first phone call went to John Tillman, and he was at our house picking up the balls and rectifying that situation for me.”
 
Before the championship game they chatted at midfield and agreed that the outcome, no matter what, would be bittersweet. When they embraced after, Tillman told his friend how proud of him he was.
 
“If we’re not going to win it, I’m just so happy for a guy that does everything the right way,” Toomey said. “That’s a first-class operation. He’s not allowed kids to play this year because they weren’t doing the right things in school. He’s given those kids the discipline and life lessons they’re going to use for a long time. And he’s stuck to his guns even if it hurt his team’s ability to win games. To have the courage to do that in a sport where sometimes people define you by wins and losses just speaks volumes about him.”
 
Toomey felt his friend’s pain after the game. After all, he’d been there as a player in 1990.
 
“He’s just a special human being,” Toomey said. “The way he goes about his business with his program, the way he talks to his athletes, those kids play awful hard for John and I think you see that on the sidelines and I think you see that on the field, for sure.
 
“We’ve talked a lot about how we talk to our teams and we want them to play hard for the coaches, we want them to play hard for the universities. Nobody does it better than John Tillman.”
 
They own lacrosse camps together. They hang out. They save Christmas trees. And they both love what they do, regardless of who wins championships.
 
“He’s a guy I’ll probably be in the car with tomorrow,” Toomey said, “driving to Long Island to start recruiting.”