New Hopkins Coach Believes Fresh Perspective Will Benefit Blue Jays

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


Peter Milliman had no connections to Johns Hopkins. In some ways, that made him the perfect candidate for a Blue Jays men’s lacrosse program searching for a new start.

“I have followed the rumor mill over the last couple of weeks,” athletic director Jen Baker said Monday during a virtual press conference introducing Milliman as the 23rd coach in Johns Hopkins’ storied history. “There have been rumors out there that I would only hire a Hopkins alum or that I would purposely hire a non-Hopkins alum. And what I’ve said from the outset is I want to hire the best possible coach for this program to lead us into the future.”

Milliman, who led Cornell to a 5-0 start and No. 2 national ranking before his third season as the head coach there came to an abrupt end in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said he was contacted by the search committee two weeks ago. Johns Hopkins had just parted ways with Dave Pietramala, the winningest coach in school history and a fixture at Homewood Field going back to his playing days in the late 1980s.

Pietramala returned to Hopkins, ironically, following three seasons as the coach at Cornell. He was the Blue Jays coach for 20 years, compiling a record of 207-93 with 18 NCAA tournament appearances and two national championships.

Cornell was Milliman’s first Division I head coaching job, a position to which he was elevated after serving as interim head coach in 2018 and as the team’s defensive coordinator from 2014-17. He immediately turned the team around, leading the Big Red to a 13-5 record and the NCAA quarterfinals in 2018. His three-year record was 28-10.

Prior to arriving in Ithaca, Milliman had stints as an assistant coach at Princeton (2013) and as the head coach at Division II Pfeiffer (2009-12), as well as previous stops as an assistant at RIT (2007-08) and Siena (2006). He was a three-time All-American attackman at Gettysburg, a Division III powerhouse that competes in the Centennial Conference against Johns Hopkins in every sport but lacrosse.

“There’s a lot about Johns Hopkins lacrosse that most people will know and understand, and there’s a lot only those on the inside will understand,” said Milliman, also an assistant coach for the U.S. indoor team. “I need to learn as much as I can about the Johns Hopkins lacrosse program. I don’t have an inside knowledge of it. Although that may seem like a drawback to some, I think a fresh perspective and an outlook on what might be most beneficial is a point of focus for me.”







Milliman addressed his new team during a Zoom call Monday morning. The Blue Jays are coming off an abbreviated 2-4 campaign after salvaging a 13-12 overtime win against Mount St. Mary’s in what wound up being their season finale March 10.

“The guys seemed like they were excited to see what’s next, hear what’s next,” said Milliman, who in addition to filling out a coaching staff hopes to find ways to connect with the Blue Jays players who are completing the spring semester remotely. “Amid everything that’s going on, it’s a priority that I develop some personal relationships as soon as possible.”

Two Johns Hopkins starters who had entered the NCAA transfer portal after Pietramala’s ouster — senior attackman Cole Williams and fifth-year senior midfielder Alex Concannon — could still return to the team. Williams, a two-time All-Big Ten performer and a USILA All-American in 2018, led the Blue Jays with 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in six games this season. Jack Rapine, a three-year starter on defense, left the team in January and also is listed in the portal.

Asked if Johns Hopkins might be the beneficiary of the Ivy League exodus of senior stars with additional NCAA eligibility, Milliman admitted he had not paid much attention to the transfer portal this offseason. The Ivy League does not allow graduate students to compete in athletics and Harvard, Princeton and Yale have said they would not give additional eligibility to those who withdraw and reenroll to preserve their undergraduate standing.

“It’s a possibility,” Milliman said. “There’s a lot of young men who I’ve competed and coached against and gotten a chance to see firsthand what type of competitors they are. Because of the way the rules work in that league, it might provide some opportunity.”

One such candidate could be Jackson Morrill, the No. 2 all-time scorer and a two-time All-American attackman at Yale. He has deep roots at Johns Hopkins. His father, Mike Morrill, was a two-time All-American and NCAA champion for the Blue Jays in the late 1980s and later played for Team USA. His grandfather, William Morrill Jr., was Johns Hopkins’ all-time leading scorer, a three-time All-American and also a two-time national champion when he graduated in 1959. His great-grandfather, the late William Kelso Morrill, is a 1927 graduate of the school who led the Blue Jays to two national titles in 16 seasons as head coach. All three are in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Of course, pedigree isn’t everything. According to sources familiar with search, the other finalists for the position included Towson’s Shawn Nadelen and Hobart’s Greg Raymond — both Johns Hopkins alumni — as well as Jacksonville’s John Galloway and Richmond’s Dan Chemotti.

Baker identified non-negotiable criteria that drove the university’s decision to hire Milliman.

“Among those were high character, a coach who is committed to providing an outstanding and holistic student-athlete experience for our players and a coach who is well-positioned to achieve a level of competitive success befitting the tradition and legacy that is Johns Hopkins lacrosse,” she said. “Peter emerged from an incredibly talented pool of candidates as someone who not only had all of those non-negotiables, but also clearly articulated a vision for the future of our program that resonated with and inspired all of us. His record of success at Cornell is remarkable, his innovative and strategic approach to the game is compelling, and his experience supporting and developing the kind of student-athletes we’re fortunate to have here at Hopkins — all of those things further differentiated him.”

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