As members of the white team sprinted onto the field at the men’s lacrosse Blue vs. White scrimmage last Saturday, the scene had all the characteristics of a championship showdown. After all, Kevin Dugan, the team’s new assistant coach, was in charge.
“He was the head coach of the white team, and showed his true intensity,” Dan Brillman ’06 said. “He was more intense than anyone out there, calling time outs to get his team back in order and yelling at the referee, who was our head coach. He was trying to rally his team, and he was doing a great job at it.”
Dugan, a former University of Notre Dame lacrosse star, has already instilled infectious enthusiasm and spread his first-hand knowledge of the game among his teammates, players said. After winning the 2005 Commonwealth Conference Coach of the Year award for his turnaround of the Gordon College varsity team, Dugan was hired and began work at the beginning of fall practice.
While he motivates the Bulldogs, Dugan said the experience has inspired him just as much.
“Every day I wake up and I know that I’m doing what I want to do,” he said. “I’m real excited to be at such a fine institution, real excited to be working for [head] coach Shay and really excited to learn from him and to serve Yale lacrosse in any way that I can.”
Shay said Dugan’s service to the team has already been felt.
“He’s gone full force into it,” Shay said. “This is his passion, and those kinds of guys do very well in college lacrosse.
Though Dugan has dabbled in all aspects of the game, he has specialized in improving the team’s three goalies.
“He works a lot with the goalies and their techniques,” Brillman said. “He works before practice and after practice with them, and they’ve really improved in the past couple of weeks.”
Athletic Director Tom Beckett said Dugan’s own lacrosse talent added to his appeal.
“From a player’s perspective, he certainly understands the game at a very high level, and as a coach, he understands how to communicate all the knowledge he has and the skills and techniques that he’s looking for,” Beckett said. “I think the search was very successful. Kevin is an outstanding young coach.”
Senior Associate Director Wayne Dean, who oversees the men’s lacrosse program, said Dugan’s personality and leadership ability also made him a fine choice.
“If you come watch a practice, it’s easy to see that he’s an immediate fit with our program,” Dean said. “He fits in well with players and they respect him immediately.”
Although what Dugan terms his “obsession” with lacrosse is evident, it may surprise his observers to know that he did not always intend to become a coach. After graduating college, he earned his M.B.A. and became an investment banker at Merrill Lynch in New York City.
“I could kind of feel in my heart then that it wasn’t what I was supposed to do,” Dugan said. “The passion wasn’t there. I feel so much more driven in my career as a lacrosse coach.”
But Dugan said he hopes his business background will benefit the Elis when it comes to recruiting and relating to players. Shay said he was impressed by Dugan’s desire to “do it all” and is looking forward to his help in the recruiting process, during which Dugan hopes to attract players by demonstrating that coaches can help players ensure success after Yale.
Earlier this week, Dugan ate lunch at the Educated Burgher with Gray Ecklund ’06 and discussed investment banking, finance and other business career opportunities with the long-stick defenseman.
“My background helps me relate in different ways to players so that I’m able to talk to them about more than just lacrosse,” Dugan said.
But for many players like Will Sale ’07, the most visible addition to this year’s lacrosse team has come on the practice field, where he said Dugan is encouraging and “rarely standing around.” As most of the team participated in a man-up man-down drill last week, Sale said, Dugan worked with those still on the sideline to hone their skills and take advantage of every opportunity for improvement.
This sort of dedication and intensity may serve the Bulldogs well, especially since they were unable sustain the impressive way they started last spring’s season.
“He’s not here to collect a paycheck,” Shay said. “He wants to win.”