Milliman takes over at the helm after two straight losing seasons -- the first such stretch in 20 years.

Zach Silver | Sun Sports Editor

Milliman takes over at the helm after two straight losing seasons -- the first such stretch in 20 years.

June 4, 2017

Milliman’s Message Is Simple: We Need to Be Playing Better Lacrosse

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Cornell men’s lacrosse is at a critical point in its legacy. It has been 20 years of conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances since the team had back-to-back losing seasons like the Red had in 2016 and 2017.

For a team that prides itself on its winning tradition — one that has captured three NCAA championships and dozens of conference titles — these past two years have been black marks on a decorated history. But not long ago, Cornell was a giant in the collegiate lacrosse world. And the quest to get back on top comes with a new coach.

Peter Milliman, who in May was named interim head coach for the 2018 season after Matt Kerwick resigned, knows the time is now for Cornell to ascend back to national stardom. With so much young talent and so much promise across the roster, the upcoming season will be about finally putting it together.

“Our biggest area of focus is going to be playing better lacrosse,” Milliman said in his first interview since being named head coach. “I think our guys are excited and motivated to take a step forward. I don’t think we have been a very good team the last couple years, and that doesn’t fly at Cornell.”

Looking to get Cornell back on top, Milliman enters his new role with a wide array of past coaching experiences. A year before coming to Cornell in 2014, Milliman was an assistant at Princeton. Before that, he was in a head coaching role for Division II Pfeiffer, where he earned conference Coach of the Year honors twice, and assistant stints at RIT and Siena.

Even before coaching, Milliman was a three-time Division III All-American at Gettysburg, taking part in two national title games before winning a Major League Lacrosse championship with the Rochester Rattlers in 2008, when he was an assistant at RIT.

“I would say that I have a great desire to be successful and I really want to serve the guys on the team and give them the best opportunity they can have to be successful,” Milliman said of how his past experiences could help his next. “I think this is the best program in college lacrosse, this is a great opportunity to lead some of the best young men in the game.”

In his time at Cornell as an assistant, Milliman has taken on a big role as the recruiting coordinator. Those efforts have paid off handsomely.

Milliman brought in the first ever No. 1 Inside Lacrosse prospect, Jeff Teat, who just finished 2017 as the highest scoring freshman in program history with 72 points, passing Rob Pannell ’13. Teat was ranked the No. 3 freshman at the mid-season point this year, behind TD Ierlan of Albany and eventual Ivy League Rookie of the Year Michael Sowers of Princeton. Fellow Cornellian Brandon Salvatore came in at No. 12 on that list.

Milliman has a strong young core to work with next year, including rising sophomore Connor Fletcher (pictured).

Michael Wenye LI / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Milliman has a strong young core to work with next year, including rising sophomore Connor Fletcher (pictured).

Teat and classmate Connor Fletcher combined for 104 points to become the highest scoring freshman duo on program history. As just freshmen, the duo finished the season No. 1 and 2 in team scoring.

Even before the promising class of 2020, Milliman brought in six U.S. Lacrosse All-Americans with the class of 2019 — the most for Cornell since 2009. Of that class, Clarke Petterson just wrapped up a 32-point season to earn himself All-Ivy honorable mention.

But despite the talent, Milliman noted the need for his team to be able to close it out in tough situations — such as the games against Virginia and Penn this past season. In both cases, Cornell held the lead as the game was winding down, but the Cavaliers and Quakers both pulled it out in the end with one-goal victories.

Had those two games gone the other way, the conversation about Cornell’s 2017 campaign would be much different — one about a winning season.

“We don’t have a lot of experience on the roster in the wins column,” Milliman said. “Now, we have guys who have played a lot more minutes, we have a lot of returning starters. … The biggest challenge is going to be the experience of winning games and how to win close games in tough situations, and that’s going to be something that we try to build.”

Of the older talent, such as defender Jake Pulver, who just finished his junior year as captain, and Christian Knight, who intends to return to Cornell in 2018 after missing his entire junior season, Milliman will look for them to impart their wisdom to hopefully flip games like Virginia and Penn.

“I think we have a really great senior class,” he said about the class of 2018. “I am excited about them, I think they are as committed as any group that I’ve ever worked with and they’re dedicated to make Cornell successful and you can’t ask for anything more from them.”

Milliman has one year guaranteed at the helm of Cornell, as a search for a full-time replacement will come at the end of the 2018 season, though Milliman has not been excluded from the running.

No matter the potential limit on Milliman’s time as head coach, he has one goal in mind: fully develop the young talent and change the current tide of a storied program.

“I don’t think anything past this year is relevant in my life,” he said. “I’m excited to win the Ivy League … I’m excited to play Yale, I’m excited to get on the field and start practicing.”

  • Reality Check

    It’s impossible to read this article without thinking about the 2013 firing of Ben DeLuca, which led to the unsuccessful Kerwick years. Peter Milliman now begins the path that DeLuca successfully starting navigating nearly a decade ago. I hope he does as well as Ben did. Since 2013, DeLuca has drawn increasingly responsible roles at Duke, Harvard and most recently as the new head coach at Delaware. And Cornell’s secretive Andy Noel regime has never put forward a basis for DeLuca’s departure. Sad.

    Here’s what 268 Cornell signers posted on the Inside Lacrosse website in 2013: “Athletically, the results under Coach DeLuca’s stewardship have been undeniable. In his three years as head coach, the Big Red has won two Ivy League titles and his teams have twice advanced to the NCAA Tournament with one appearance in the Final Four. Ben currently has the highest active winning percentage in all Division I. Ben has coached 12 All-Americans, five of whom were first-team All-Americans, 19 All-Ivy selections, five Academic All-Americans, five Academic All-Ivy, 10 All-Ivy Tournament selections, one Ivy League Rookie of the Year, two Ivy League Players of the Year and one Tewaaraton Award recipient.”

  • Truth teller

    Reality Check’s posting is clueless.

    Kerwick didn’t cause the “unsuccessful” seasons, DeLuca’s two dismal recruiting years did. In those two years, DeLuca brought in a grand total of six offensive players, and one left for Maryland after one season of dealing with DeLuca. So there was no upperclass offensive leadership during the 2016 season and less in 2017. Why do you think so many freshmen and sophomores have seen action on the offensive end the past two years?

    Kerwick and Milliman fixed the mess DeLuca left behind with the talented recruiting classes brought in the fall of 2015 and 2016. DeLuca’s succussful seasons were a result of players (think Rob Pannell, Thomas Keith, Jason Noble, Steve Mock, etc.) brought in during the Tambroni years. Regarding his Haarvard years, many Harvard supporters on the laxpower forum are glad to see him gone.

  • Don’t be Confused

    Truth Teller is accurate on both points (recruiting and Harvard), though I wouldn’t say that Reality Check is ‘clueless’.

    Instead, I would suggest that he accurately reflects what very many in the Cornell community assumed at the time of the firing: that Ben DeLuca got the shaft unfairly. The assumption was that it was simply about an over reaction, even ‘politically correct’ reaction, to the hazing incident two months prior. (Not a coincidence that Reality Check quotes our current President’s favorite Twitter comment: “Sad”). Within much of the Cornell and overall lax community, there was a wholesale denial of what was actually happening within the program at the time of the firing, and AD Noel’s vigilant silence on this sensitive personnel issue never refuted such assumption. Couple that with DeLuca publicly claiming that he himself didn’t know why he’d been fired and that was a situation ripe for controversy.

    It should be understood that DeLuca had a storied personal background at Cornell as player, then hired as an assistant directly out of college. He’d been part of the program for a very long time, under two quite successful head coaches, Pietramala and Tambroni, before being given a shot at the job himself when Tambroni rather unexpectedly jumped to Penn State. By all accounts, DeLuca was a ‘successful’ assistant, albeit to strong head coaches. As a head coach himself, and then later as Associate Head Coach at Harvard, he did not have the same strong governance.

    But it’s quite understandable that many players from those years as a Cornell assistant would rally to him. But I can assure you that it wasn’t a universal response and certainly not from all of those who had him as a head coach. Different players had different experiences.

    Whether he is successful at Delaware or not may largely depend on all that he’s learned over the years from these various experiences, but no one should still think that the issues that led to his dismissal from Cornell were unfounded or unfair.

  • Excited for some good lacrosse!

  • Excited for some good lacrosse!

  • Excited for some gooder lacrosse!