Why Shawn Nadelen and Towson Were (and Still Are) the Perfect Match


Towson coach Shawn Nadelen led the Tigers to their first NCAA final four since 2001 in May.

It was a January morning in 2010, and Tony Seaman still remembers it vividly. From his office at Towson, he could hear assistant coach Shawn Nadelen slowly making his way up the steps.

Nadelen had just torn an ACL the night before and made it into the Tigers’ offices on crutches. A summer that was supposed to include a turn as a defenseman on the United States national team in the world championship probably was going to be altered.

Except it wasn’t. Nadelen worked with Towson’s physical therapist twice a day. He woke up twice a night to work on his rehab. And by the time July arrived, he was starring during a gold medal run. A month later, he helped the Chesapeake Bayhawks win an MLL title.

“That’s Shawn Nadelen,” Seaman said. “That’s what he does. He translates his discipline as a coach and his work ethic as a coach and his expectations as a coach to his players. There’s nothing short of that. You don’t play for Shawn if you don’t have that. That’s what he looks for when he recruits, and I know that’s what he expects from players, staff and everybody associated with Towson lacrosse.”

The summer of 2010 proved to be Nadelen’s on-field swan song. He took over for Seaman in 2011, immediately ending his playing days. And in six seasons since, he’s set about fostering the blue-collar roots of a program Carl Runk and Seaman both took to Memorial Day weekend.

It’s the sort of thing that’s made his name a popular one when the coaching rumor mill starts each spring. The last two years have featured high-profile openings at Princeton and Michigan.

Yet when the Tigers face the U.S. national team Sunday in the Team USA Fall Classic at US Lacrosse’s Tierney Field in Sparks, Md., Nadelen will be on the sideline as Towson gauges what it has returning after a senior-laden team reached the NCAA semifinals for the first time since 2001 in May.

“Towson has had a great tradition of playing high-level lacrosse through the years at the Division I and Division II levels,” Nadelen said. “It’s showed strong support and believes in the sport. We’re not a program that’s just tossed to the side for some other sports. We’re fortunate we do get good support from the president and athletic director, so there’s a great attraction there.”

That lacrosse really matters at Towson is part of the reason Nadelen remains with the Tigers after leading them to a quarterfinal appearance in 2016 and a final four trip this year.

But it’s also clear he has a good thing going, having put his imprint on the Tigers from the start of his tenure. He swooped in to find skilled high school juniors and seniors overlooked by the bluebloods when early recruiting still permitted freshmen and sophomores to make verbal commitments, and Towson boasted the nation’s best defensive midfield last year with pole Tyler Mayes and short sticks Jack Adams and Zach Goodrich.


The U.S. training team faces off against reigning NCAA champion Maryland and NCAA semifinalist Towson at Team USA Fall Classic Oct. 7-8 in Sparks, Md. The games will be streamed live on the US Lacrosse website, Facebook page and YouTube channel. Buy tickets today at the US Lacrosse Member Store.


Nadelen is quick to point out the value of continuity. Assistants Dan Cocchi (a Towson graduate) and Anthony Gilardi were his first hires and remain on staff. Nadelen is in his 14th year on Towson’s staff, and there’s little doubt his familiarity with the program gave him a head start in identifying what areas needed the most improvement when he took over.

“There were some things I felt we could do better just to make us a little bit better,” Nadelen said. “There were things we didn’t pay enough attention to. We were a successful program, but we weren’t reaching our fullest potential.”

Not for long. By his second season, Nadelen had Towson back in the NCAA tournament. They’ve made four trips in the last five years, and in the process Nadelen, who played at Johns Hopkins and started his coaching journey at Princeton, has become the only man to both play and serve as a head coach in a final four within the last quarter-century.

It’s happened in large part because the Tigers embraced a rugged team-wide identity that reflects their coach.

“When you meet him, you know,” Seaman said. “Anybody who would come and visit would leave my office and say ‘Wow, that guy is a decent guy, a good person.’ They’d talk with Shawn and think, ‘I don’t think I should even speak unless I raise my hand.’ That’s who he’s always been. It’s, ‘There’s no nonsense here, boys. We’re probably going to practice at 5 a.m. and we’re going ask if we could go at 4 a.m. and that’s the way it is.’ That’s him, and that’s how his personality has always been.”

Nadelen has served as an evaluator throughout this cycle of national team tryouts and is grateful to remain involved with Team USA. He memorably teamed up with Eric Martin to contain Canada’s John Grant Jr. in the 2010 world championship.

Nadelen also is eager to see how his latest Towson team fares against elite competition this weekend — and how it lives up to the standard Nadelen will continue to demand.

“I don’t think you put an expectation on how many goals you’ll score or give up, or any hard-line statistic,” Nadelen said. “It’s more of a competitive level and what we should look like. At no time should we see a guy loafing or taking a rep off. That’s not who we are as a program.”

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