A head coach vacancy for a historic program on April 14 prompted a chain reaction throughout college lacrosse — leading to Cornell’s head coach Peter Milliman’s leaving the Red for Johns Hopkins.
Longtime coach Dave “Petro” Pietramala and the Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse program mutually agreed to part ways, opening up the Blue Jays’ head coaching spot.
After leading Cornell to an undefeated start and a No. 2 national ranking through five games in 2020, Milliman is leaving Ithaca. Milliman had helped lead the Red since starting as an associate head coach in 2014. The successes of the team during an interim head coaching term in 2017 prompted Cornell to remove the “interim” from Milliman’s title for the 2018 season, when the Red would go on to win the Ivy League Championship.
Now, just two years later, Milliman is packing his bags — a surprise, given his family ties in the area: Milliman’s wife coaches women’s lacrosse at nearby Wells College in Aurora, New York.
But Cornell ties are present in the Johns Hopkins athletics department — Johns Hopkins’ athletic director is Jennifer S. Baker, a former Cornell Athletics Associate Director of Athletics for Facilities.
Milliman specifically thanked Baker in a press release Monday.
“I want to thank Jennifer Baker and the search committee for the opportunity to serve as the men’s lacrosse coach at Johns Hopkins,” he said.
During her time at Cornell, Baker developed and grew the Big Red Leadership Institute — a curriculum which prioritizes athletes’ engagement and character on and off the field. A longtime lacrosse player herself, Baker served as a volunteer assistant coach for Cornell’s women’s lacrosse program in addition to her office duties. In doing so, connections were forged up and down Campus Road — which perhaps catalyzed this hire years later.
What’s more in the way of Cornell connections — the newly-departed Johns Hopkins coach Pietramala used to coach the Red, starting his three-year tenure in 1997.
But a return to East Hill isn’t in the cards for Pietramala. Instead, Cornell has chosen to promote from within, with now-former assistant coach Connor Buczek ’15, MBA ’17 stepping in as interim head coach.
Buczek, a Premier Lacrosse League professional, has served as a full-time assistant since completing his MBA from Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management in 2017. The now interim head coach was a three-time All-American during his Schoellkopf playing days, with 155 points making him the top-scoring midfielder in program history.
It remains to be seen how Buczek balances coaching with his own professional play. In the league’s inaugural season, he was named to the All-Star team. More recently, his team — the Atlas Lacrosse Club — picked fellow Cornell alum Rob Pannell ’13 with the third pick in the league’s 2020 draft.
Hailed as one of the best midfielders in professional lacrosse, Buczek is known for his sharpshooting.
Buczek will have a strong cohort of players to rely on in his first year leading the team. For the offensively-minded coach, an attack force led by rising senior weapons Jonathan Donville and John Piatelli with the addition of rising sophomore standout Mikey Long looks promising.
With a new head coach and strong core largely intact, the Red will look to pick up right where it left off in 2021.
Correction appended: Connor Buczek plays midfield. This article previously called him an attackman.