Assistant coach David Metzbower enters his first year at Denver with a proven pedigree in recruiting and developing offensive players.

Metzbower Brings Offensive Brainpower, Recruiting Prowess to Denver

THE JOB POST CALLED FOR ENTRY-LEVEL APPLICANTS with a bachelor’s degree and not much more. To say David Metzbower was overqualified would be an understatement.

Sitting in the cab of his GMC pickup truck not long after North Carolina let him go in early June, the 59-year-old architect of seven NCAA championship-winning offenses took his shot anyway.

Metzbower had heard that new Denver men’s lacrosse coach Matt Brown wanted to hire an offensive coordinator he could mentor in the Pioneers’ system that merges box and field lacrosse concepts — a scheme Brown himself designed as Bill Tierney’s top assistant for 14 years.

“I felt like I was going to bring in a young, offensive mind,” Brown said. “A guy who wanted to develop.”

Metzbower called Brown and won him over with a surprising pitch.

“I want to learn,” he said. “I want to create something great with you.”

It made sense that two Tierney protégés long admired for their intellect and ability to devise new ways to put the ball in the back of the goal would join forces. But could they coexist?

The application deadline was June 19, opening night of the World Lacrosse Men’s Championship in San Diego. With Brown focused on coaching the Canadian national team, he put off his decision until after the games ended July 1.

Ten days later, Brown hired Metzbower.

“How could you not want the greatest assistant coach our sport has ever seen to be a part of your program?” Brown said. “The guy’s a winner. The guy’s a champion.”

“How could you not want the greatest assistant coach our sport has ever seen to be a part of your program?”

—Matt Brown



It’s a common axiom among college lacrosse coaches whose livelihood depends on convincing 16- and 17-year-old athletes to attend their universities and play for their teams. Its origin unknown, the expression has added relevance this time of year — the post-Sept. 1 rush when coaches scurry to procure commitments from high school juniors.

“We’ve had more visits scheduled for the first three weeks of school than we’ve ever had by a long shot,” Brown said. “And that’s to do with Metzy.”

Metzbower didn’t just come with a whiteboard, but also a rolodex. Wherever he has coached — Delaware (1987-89), Princeton (1990-2009), Loyola (2013-14) or North Carolina (2015-23) — high-profile recruits have followed. He put 250,000 miles each on a pair of Toyota Forerunners commuting daily from suburban Philadelphia to Princeton during the school year and traversing the East Coast to evaluate prospects during the summer.

“The bottom line is recruiting. He carried me for 20 years,” Tierney said. “One of the best recruiters in the country who knows every player inside and out. A guy who has won seven championships. A guy who has no ego. There was a gift floating down the river.”

Metzbower was unemployed for a month, but he never stopped working. He helped coach the Long Island Express 2026 team at the NLF Summer Kickoff and the Connecticut 2025 team at the Nike National All-Star Games. He got an up-close look at the best athletes in the class of 2025 as a coach at the Main Stage Lacrosse invitational, a two-day combine in Maryland.

Unattached to a school, Metzbower could engage with them in a way he could not strictly as an evaluator. Every interaction provided another data point.

“Hands-on being able to coach a kid is much better than sitting on a sideline in a chair just evaluating,” said Metzbower, who spent a year as an assistant at Haverford School (Pa.) and two years as the head coach at Malvern Prep (Pa.) in between his stops at Princeton and Loyola. “You get to feel the kid a little differently when you’re trying to coach him in a situation. Does he listen? Does he understand what you’re coaching?”

After coaching at the world championship and informing his team that Metzbower was coming to Denver, Brown joined him and defensive coordinator John Gallant on the recruiting trail. They also ventured north in August to watch redshirt freshman Cody Malawsky play for the Coquitlam (B.C.) Adanacs in the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs.

Metzbower is living temporarily with Tierney in Denver while his wife, Mimi, tries to sell their house in Chapel Hill.

“He’s made a few trips across country already driving back and forth,” Brown said. “The guy loves to drive.”

Metzbower is plenty familiar with Denver. His daughter, Jordan, now the director of lacrosse operations at Towson, graduated from DU in 2021 and was a team manager for the Pioneers for four years. His son, Derek, is a senior at Colorado in nearby Boulder.

Denver and North Carolina have played each other every spring since 2015. Tierney always gushed about the support from his administration.

“I want to be at a place where lacrosse is important,” Metzbower said.

“A BEAUTIFUL MIND,” the title of a March 2015 USA Lacrosse Magazine feature about Brown, could also apply to Metzbower. Former Princeton and U.S. national team attackman Ryan Boyle spent countless hours in his office dissecting film.

“I was learning what a rocker step was before there was even a term rocker step. Metz and I were experimenting with two-man games at goal line extended before the term razor pick was invented,” Boyle said during an interview before his induction into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2019. “I enjoyed the technical aspect, their passion for exploration, to dabble and do something different.”

Predicated on crisp ball movement, cuts, picks and screens, Brown’s offense received national acclaim in 2015, when Denver became the first non-East Coast school to win the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse championship. Canadian scorer Wesley Berg was the MVP, but moving Sean Cannizzaro from midfield to attack balanced out the unit that ranked second nationally with an adjusted offensive efficiency of 43 percent.

The next year, North Carolina won it all. Canadian scorer Chris Cloutier was the MVP, but moving Steve Pontrello from midfield to attack proved equally as pivotal in Metzbower’s offense as Denver’s move with Cannizzaro did in Brown’s system the previous year.

“He is big in the details of spacing, where guys should be,” Brown said. “I try to teach to the gray, the decision-making and the tools that help you gain leverage on somebody. For him, are the six guys spaced out correctly and doing their part? For me, this is what I want it to look like. Is the ball dying? What’s our off-ball play? He’s got some different patterns and different motions that I’ve never done. I’m excited to incorporate that.”

Tierney brought up the magazine article that portrayed Brown with a dry-erase marker sketching a play on a glass window. Now, he said, there’s someone on the other side.

“It’s going to be a see-through mirror,” Tierney said.  “They could be writing on their own side of the glass, but they’ll see through it to see what the other guy’s writing. It’s going to be very interesting.”

In 34 years coaching college lacrosse, Metzbower has never worked with another offensive coordinator. The head coaches he worked for at Princeton (Tierney), Loyola (Charley Toomey) and North Carolina (Joe Breschi) all came from defensive backgrounds.

“We come at the offense from two different directions, him being from the Canadian side and me being from the American side,” Metzbower said. “We’re really excited about how we can figure out the best way to combine the best of the two worlds.”


Metzbower (right) spent 20 years as former Denver coach Bill Tierney's top assistant at Princeton, where they won six NCAA championships together. Metzbower added a seventh national title to his collection at North Carolina in 2016.

THEY’LL HAVE PLENTY OF AMMUNITION. Denver announced in August the return of seven players for a fifth season, including attackmen JJ Sillstrop (36 goals) and Richie Connell (16 goals, 18 assists). The Pioneers, who led the Big East with eight all-conference selections but fell short of an NCAA tournament berth, bring back every single player who registered a point this year.

And Tierney said to watch out for Malawsky, a mid-year addition to the program who Denver was tempted to unleash in the spring. He won the Jim Bishop Award as the second-leading scorer in the Minto Cup, registering 28 points in six games.

“The key cog in the whole thing offensively may be driven by a kid we redshirted last year,” Tierney said. “Cody Malawsky, you will hear that name. He will run the offense. That’s something we haven’t had in a while, that X feeder.”

When Metzbower first got to campus in August, the Premier Lacrosse League had taken over Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium for a weekend of games. Unexpectedly, he saw a group of Denver players working out with strength and conditioning coach Massimo Gioffre, running and lifting weights.

“It’s refreshing to know that these guys care,” Metzbower said. “They want to win. They want to get better. They’re not happy with how things ended last year.”

And they’ll get to learn from not one, but two of the best tacticians the sport has ever produced.


Get the best and latest from delivered weekly straight to your inbox: