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ESPN's Anish Shroff: Detours Lead to Better Destinations

US Lacrosse Magazine welcomes ESPN play-by-play announcer Anish Shroff as a contributor for the 2020 college season. Shroff’s columns will run every Tuesday on USLaxMagazine.com, including “Deleted Scenes” from ESPN broadcasts and weekly top-10 rankings.
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A failed baseball player. A high school football coach at heart. A college soccer coach.

That unlikely cocktail gave us the most successful coach in the history of Division I men’s lacrosse.

Bill Tierney looked to lacrosse after baseball didn’t work out at Cortland State. His ultimate dream was to coach high school football on Long Island.

But sometimes, detours lead to better destinations.

While he served as an assistant lacrosse coach at Johns Hopkins, Tierney doubled as the head men’s soccer coach. His turnaround of the Hopkins soccer program played a big part in Tierney landing the head lacrosse gig at Princeton.

Tierney inherited a total rebuild when he arrived at Princeton in the late 1980s, so he looked to Pete Carrill’s Princeton basketball program for ideas and inspiration.

“I watched his practices. I knew that we were a microcosm of what he was going through,” Tierney said. “He was trying to be an Ivy League basketball team that could compete on a national level with 300-plus teams, make NCAA tournaments and win games like that. We were trying to win a couple of Ivy League games.

“I was influenced by his ability to get young men to buy into the reality of who we were, what our strengths and weaknesses were, and buy into a system that would allow them to compete with teams that, at the time, had more talent than them. As time grew, he taught me a lot about things like zone offenses, pace of games and other things like that.”

Princeton basketball operated with a smart, methodical approach. It milked the shot clock, waiting for the best shot instead of the first shot. A similar blueprint helped Princeton lacrosse accelerate its ascent and eventually win five national championships under Tierney.

Lacrosse has always benefited from the influence of other sports.

Pat Spencer, the 2019 Tewaaraton Award winner, would watch James Harden jab-step and create separation and then replicate those moves on the lacrosse field. Spencer’s done well on the hardwood, too. He’s currently the No. 2 scorer for Northwestern basketball.

Myles Jones’ football background shines through with his bull dodges. TD Ierlan often credits his wrestling background when asked about his faceoff prowess. Countless coaches want their ideal X-attackman to have played point guard in basketball and quarterback in football. Tierney had a great one at Princeton in Ryan Boyle, now an analyst for ESPN.

But this story works in reverse too.

About a year ago, I worked a basketball game with John Thompson III. During the Tierney years, Thompson had been both an assistant coach and head coach for the Princeton basketball team. So naturally, we began to talk about lacrosse.

Thompson recounted how Tierney would be a regular at Princeton basketball practices. The two would occasionally watch film together, discuss coaching philosophy and the concepts that overlapped their sports.

I’ll never forget Thompson’s words: “I didn’t really know much about lacrosse, but I learned SO much from [Tierney] about coaching.”

The same John Thompson III whose dad is a Hall of Famer and basketball legend cited Bill Tierney as one of his biggest influences in coaching.

Thompson eventually took his Princeton offense with a dash of Tierney’s teachings to Georgetown. In 2007, Thompson took Georgetown to that place Tierney has frequented so many times — the final four.

Lacrosse has always benefited from the influence of other sports.


THE OKLAHOMA KID: One last addendum to the above story. While covering the Southwest Regional of the Little League World Series, I found out that the catcher for Oklahoma’s team also played goalie for his lacrosse team. He said both his baseball and lacrosse coaches told him the same thing: “Don’t let the ball get by you.”

LACROSSE: THE MOVIE: The casting call continues. Tweet your best responses to @AnishESPN and check back next week.

  • Michael Kelly as Lars Tiffany

  • Will Ferrell as Gerry Byrne (H/T @RyConw on Twitter)

  • Mark Hamill as Joe Breschi

  • Max Casella (Vinny from Doogie Howser) as Joe Amplo


(as of Monday, Feb. 17)

1. Penn State (3-0)

There’s a real sense of unfinished business in State College. Penn State aced its first three tests and got all the extra-credit questions right. It’s time to level up.

Here comes some serious Ivy League coursework. Penn State hosts Yale this weekend. Andy Shay’s squad was the only team to beat Penn State last year — in the regular season and in the national semifinal.

The Nittany Lions visit Penn to close out February and then square off with Cornell in Charlotte. The Ament-O’Keefe combination continues to be unstoppable. Ament has assisted on nine of O’Keefe’s 16 goals this season. If Penn State plays deep into May, this duo could be hoisting the Tewaaraton together and perhaps another trophy, too.

2. Virginia (2-0)

It’s easy to overlook Kyle Kology among Virginia’s galaxy of stars and blue-chip recruits. The junior defenseman was headed to play club lacrosse at Cal before walking on at Virginia. At first, coaches were skeptical if he could even make the team. But Kology impressed Lars Tiffany and his staff with instincts and lacrosse IQ.

Kology earned high praise from Tiffany after a stellar performance of seven ground balls and five caused turnovers against Lehigh. With Logan Greco having graduated and Cade Saustad still on the mend, Kology has become an integral piece to UVA’s defensive puzzle.

3. Syracuse (2-0)

You have to feel for Colgate’s Sean Collins and Binghamton’s Teddy Dolan. They combined to make 33 saves against the Orange but still gave up 38 combined goals. Syracuse has taken 110 shots (71 on goal) through two games. Syracuse will get a stern test from Army goalie Wyatt Schulper (83.8 SV%) on Saturday.

4. Yale (1-0)

Yale practices rule for three reasons.

1. Handsome Dan is the best bulldog mascot in collegiate sports. 

2. The players chuck their sticks like spears at the end of practice while unleashing a mighty battle cry. King Leonidas would have been proud.

3. Asking the coaches, “Who’s THAT guy, and why isn’t he playing?” We’d marvel at some physical specimen peppering the cage with missile after missile. Then Andy Shay rattles off the four or five players ahead of said player on the depth chart and gives us an answer along the lines of, “I’d love to play him more, but over who?” Eventually that guy gets his turn.

Villanova found out quickly about 6-4, 200-pound sophomore Thomas Bragg (four goals, two assists).

5. Maryland (3-0)

The Terps could easily be 1-2 instead of 3-0. But good teams adjust. Maryland is more than a good team — it’s a great program.

Maryland trailed Penn 15-9 with less than four minutes left in the third quarter. The Terps closed the game on an 8-0 run. Maryland rallied from a five-goal deficit in the fourth quarter to topple Richmond in the previous game. Maryland’s second-half scoring margin is plus-19 through three games.


6. Army (3-0)

No team has been more impressive through three games than Army. The Black Knights have demolished their three opponents by a combined score of 51-9.

Army thrashed a top-20 Rutgers team on Saturday 15-4. The Cadets opened the season with a 17-4 win against UMass. The Minutemen beat Ohio State over the weekend. Army has given up only one first-half goal this season.

Against Rutgers, Army scored on 15 of its 20 shots on goal. Goalie Wyatt Schulper has built a brick wall in the cage, and Brendan Nichtern keeps dazzling.

Army plays Marist on Tuesday and then visits Syracuse this weekend. If Army is undefeated when the next poll comes out, we’ll have our first dark horse of the season.

7. Penn (0-1)

Few teams challenge themselves in non-conference the way Penn does on a yearly basis, and an early-season loss to Maryland is hardly grounds for a big drop. The worry here is how Penn lost.

The Quakers can’t let a loss like this linger, or worse — beat you twice. This is a team that lost a ton of senior leadership from 2019. With Duke and Penn State on tap, the browsing history must be cleared.

8. North Carolina (3-0)

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson (maybe)

You can’t understate Chris Gray’s impact on Tar Heel lacrosse. It’s an offense thriving on unselfishness and the extra pass. Against Lafayette, UNC assisted on 19 of its 24 goals. Carolina has assisted on 68 percent of its goals this season. Goalies have stopped just 37 percent of Tar Heel shots on goal.

Quint said it best on Saturday’s broadcast, describing Gray as the seam to stitch all the pieces together. Inferior competition has buoyed Carolina’s offensive numbers. But make no mistake, this is an offensive juggernaut.

9. Notre Dame (1-0)

Notre Dame opened the season indoors at Loftus with an easy win against Cleveland State. Highly touted freshman goalie Liam Entenmann stopped eight of 10 shots in his Irish debut.

High-end goalies like Scotty Rodgers and the Kemp brothers helped fuel Notre Dame’s ascent to national prominence. Notre Dame’s goalie play has been inconsistent the past few years. Notre Dame has a lot of pieces to make a run. Entenmann can put to rest any questions about goaltending over the next three games (Richmond, Maryland, Denver).

10. Cornell (1-0)

The Big Red derailed the Dane Train 19-10. Cornell erupted for nine goals in the third quarter. Four players recorded a hat trick, and Jeff Teat dished out four assists. When Cornell has the ball, few teams can match its offensive efficiency.

Improving on last year’s dismal 38-percent showing at the faceoff X is a must. Saturday was a good start. The Big Red won 21 of 32 faceoffs against Albany.

Cornell doesn’t have to be great at the X to be successful, but if the Big Red can end up in the 50-55 percent range, they’re a safe bet to return to the NCAA tournament.