Heeling Hand: Lenoir-Rhyne's Ascendancy Driven by UNC DNA


Lenoir-Rhyne coach Greg Paradine was an All-American defenseman at North Carolina who won an NCAA championship as a player in 1991and had two separate stints as an assistant coach in Chapel Hill.

Amid the excitement that came with North Carolina’s overtime win over Rutgers and another trip to the final four, Tar Heels coach Joe Breschi still had time to think about his former teammate and fellow coach, Greg Paradine.

Just a day after UNC punched its ticket to East Hartford, Conn., and NCAA men’s lacrosse championship weekend, he watched as Lenoir-Rhyne took down Wingate to advance to the Division II national title game.

Breschi texted his friend congratulations.

Paradine, the Bears’ coach who served as an assistant under Breschi in from 2008-09, returned the favor.

“I congratulated him on getting there and he texted me about charter flights to try to get to championship weekend,” Breschi joked. “I’m so happy for him.”

The friendship between Breschi and Paradine started in Chapel Hill in 1990 and continues today as both coaches lead their respective programs.

“We go back a long way and we've texted back and forth. Really excited to see the Tar Heels up there,” Paradine said. “We’ll be supporting them for sure.”

Breschi and North Carolina are veterans of championship weekend, winning the NCAA Division I title as recently as 2016. However, Paradine’s program is entered uncharted territory. Lenoir-Rhyne is making its first NCAA Division II championship game appearance.

Lenoir-Rhyne, located about 150 miles west of Chapel Hill in Hickory, N.C., hired Paradine as its first-ever director of lacrosse in 2009. The Bears took the field for the first time in 2011. Paradine has spent 10 years building the program, just a few hours from where he starred as an All-American defenseman.

Lenoir-Rhyne will play Memorial Day mainstay Le Moyne in the Division II title game Sunday.

“I imagined and dreamed we could do it, but that's an abstract thought until it hits you in the face and you're like, ‘Wow. We have a chance to actually make this dream come true,’” Paradine said.

Paradine, like Breschi, was recruited by former Tar Heels coach Willie Scroggs. He told reporters this week that he tried to model his program after Scroggs’ approach. Scroggs will be in East Hartford, beaming with pride for two of his former players, succeeding in building a culture much like he once did.

“When I was coaching back in the 1980s, I said to these guys, ‘You're going to get married. You're going to have children. You're going to reproduce.’ I said, ‘God help us if that happens,” Scroggs joked. “A lot have turned out just wonderful. It’s a joy for me to see the kids that I coached being so accomplished, whether they're a coach at Carolina or Lenoir-Rhyne.”

Paradine’s coaching philosophy found its origins on the lacrosse fields of Chapel Hill. The South Shore, N.Y., native had to adjust to a new way of life during his college lacrosse career at North Carolina. After a post-graduate year, he joined Scroggs’ program in 1990, and it changed the course of his life.

Paradine stepped foot on campus as a tall, lanky defenseman with plenty of grit and emerged as a colloquial coach in waiting. He played on UNC’s 1991 NCAA championship team under coach Dave Klarmann and finished his career as a two-time All-American.

“He came to us as a Long Island kid,” Scroggs said. “Sometimes the Long Island guys are a little rougher and tougher. Greg was physical, but he also had skill and good stick skills. He had a great attitude.”

Paradine always had a way with people, be they his teammates or coaches. Scroggs figured Paradine might have a future in coaching. That future came quickly. Paradine served as an assistant for two seasons each at Ohio State (1994-95) and North Carolina (1996-97). Then he pivoted to the high school game, leading the Chapel Hill boys’ lacrosse program from 1998-2002. There, he got a taste of what it was like to build a successful program.

Paradine spent the next seven seasons in his second stint as an assistant for the Tar Heels, serving under John Haus and then Breschi. There, he got an up-close look at how Breschi built a culture founded on family.

“Just seeing the way the guys love him. It's a respect,” Paradine said of Breschi. “Those guys at UNC will do anything for him. You can see that anytime they're on the field. That's one of the things that I really took away. You've got to care for these guys off the field. Joe is just a tremendous person. His relationships with his players is something that I've always admired.”

Once Paradine was approached about taking on the new program at Lenoir-Rhyne, he had taken notes on how he would build the Bears. He knew he’d take elements from both Scroggs and Breschi in developing a foundation for success in Hickory.

In the summer of 2009, Paradine took the biggest chance of his college coaching career.

“Sometimes it gets comfortable being an assistant coach in a Division I program,” Scroggs said. “That took some courage and to go to a place like Hickory, North Carolina — I'm glad that we had some influence on him as a player and as a coach. And I'm sure there are things that we did at Carolina that he wants to copy.”

A decade after launching the Lenoir-Rhyne program, Paradine has the Bears looking very much like North Carolina.

Both teams rank in the top two in scoring offense in their respective divisions. Both teams feature a dynamic scorer capable of taking over the game in Lenoir-Rhyne’s Eric Dickinson and North Carolina’s Chris Gray.

“He’s taken a couple things that we used to do here,” Breschi said of Paradine. “He takes things from UVA. High tempo. He takes things from Tufts. Just run and gun. He’s done a terrific job of that.”

This weekend, both programs will shoot to end the 2021 season on top of the lacrosse world. Their former coach, now retired, will be there to enjoy a process of growth that has come to fruition.

“I'm looking forward to chatting with [Paradine]. I will chat with him,” Scroggs said. “I know that the NCAA has walls up about contact with everyone, even though we're loosening it up. I know that it might be difficult, but I'm going to make every effort to make sure I have a great conversation with Greg.”

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