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DU Lacrosse Prepares for Final Season With Coach Bill Tierney

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Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

News  •
Bill Tierney

The last thing Bill Tierney wants to hear about is a farewell tour. As he enters his 49th season of coaching lacrosse, the University of Denver men’s head coach has already announced this season will be his last. But his legacy will not soon be forgotten.

Tierney has won an NCAA-record seven national championships, including one with DU in 2015. He’s the only coach to win national championships with two different programs. And he is one of only two coaches in Division I men’s lacrosse to reach 400 career wins. While the accolades are nice, they are not the reason Tierney has spent five decades coaching lacrosse.

“We’ve tried to do our best over the years to help people grow from 18 to 23 years old,” he says. “You hope along the way that you get some of those notes when they are 30 or 35 that say, ‘Thank you for having me.’ That’s the most gratifying part of it all.”

When Tierney decided to leave Princeton after more than 20 years and six national championships, one of his primary goals was to grow the sport of lacrosse in Colorado and the West. Today, the University of Denver is the only school in the country with its own youth lacrosse program, and lacrosse continues to be one of the fastest growing sports in the United States.

“Any sport that is going to grow, any sport that is going to become popular, has to start at the grassroots level and you have to have kids excited about it,” Tierney says. “It’s an easy game to fall in love with. As a coach, you hope you had something to do with it and the explosion we have seen with the sport, but I certainly don’t take the credit for it.”

Jack Thompson
Jack Thompson

Tierney heads into his final season expecting to bounce back after missing the NCAA Tournament in 2022. The tournament has also been on the minds of many of the student-athletes on this year’s team.

“We had big expectations last year and we fell short,” says senior goalie Jack Thompson. “It has definitely made us hungrier this year and given us more motivation to prove to ourselves that we fell short last year, and this year is another opportunity to showcase what we are all about and what we can achieve.”

Thompson is surrounded by an experienced defense that is considered the strength of this year’s team. However, the opposite is true on the offensive end, where senior JJ Sillstrop will lead a much younger group of student-athletes.

JJ Sillstrop
JJ Sillstrop

“It’s really special for me because I was a young guy who looked up to Ethan Walker (BA’20, MA ’21) and now I get to be in that role,” he says. “There’s going to be growing pains and we know that. But you don’t win championships in February; it’s a long season, and this is going to be a good group.”

Knowing they will be the last group of college students that Tierney will ever coach also incentivizes the team to make sure they give it everything they have this season.

“Coach T definitely has a history and a legacy, and to be a part of it and especially to be the last ride is something special,” Thompson says. “I feel like that puts some more motivation in the team to have a good year and another opportunity to prove ourselves.”

The season launches this weekend, when the Pioneers host the University of Utah at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. Throughout the season, the Pioneers will have road games at Duke, North Carolina, Yale, Georgetown and Marquette. But Tierney knows, no matter who is on their schedule and where the game is played, no one is going to care about what he has meant to the sports once it’s time to faceoff.

“I know that every team that we play on the road or at home wants to kick our butts, they want to beat us. So, don’t tell me what a great guy I am the last time I am at your place. I don’t want this to be some sort of victory tour because when the whistle blows, no one is going to say, ‘Let’s let Coach T win.’”