Bill Dirrigl left Loyola as an associate head coach to become the head coach at Rutgers just a year ago replacing Tom Hayes. Rutgers had high hopes that Dirrigl, an extremely dedicated and focused coach, would lead their lacrosse team to glory after many stagnant years under Hayes. Dirrigl was everything they wanted him to be bringing in an impressive recruiting class and changing the attitude at the university. One thing they didn't want him to be was gone, but when former boss and Loyola Head Coach Dave Cottle took the head position at Maryland Dirrigl could not resist going back to what he feels is home. "For me, and I don't think people understood it, it was more than just a professional decision,"pleaded Dirrigl. He went on,"It's like I feel about my family, I had been here for ten years, ten years..Loyola College and particularly Dave Cottle were very good to me. They gave me a job out of Syracuse. I spent two years here not only doing lacrosse work, but doing my graduate work. Then I became the head coach at Franklin and Marshall..and then for the last eight years been the assistant and associate head coach and for me those ten years, the way I coached and what I believe in was too much to wipe away in my heart."
Those who had hoped Dirrigl might bring Rutgers to the promised land were disappointed and even upset. How could a man come in and make all kinds of promises to players and then leave only a year later? At the same time, however, Dirrigl made those same promises to many of the players still on Loyola's squad this year. " You've got to understand that I was in these kids houses," said Dirrigl referring to Loyola students he had recruited. The other thing people need to understand is the chronology that led to Coach Dirrigl's decision which wasn't made lightly. Dirrigl worked at Loyola for two years right out of college and after a stint at Franklin and Marshall went back to Loyola where he served as assistant and eventually associate head coach from 1994 to 2000. He had risen to a level of respect where head coaching was the logical next step, but Cottle had no intentions of retiring so naturally, he made the move to Rutgers. Only a year later he gets offered the position to lead a team that he invested a decade of his efforts into. Some may argue that moving back to coach a contender was the easy way out, but what's more difficult? Taking an average team and making them good or taking a very good team and making them great, one could argue that the latter is a much larger leap. It wasn't easy as Dirrigl explains,"The thing that's been the most difficult and to this day I don't feel good about it, and to be honest people told me it was going to pass, and it hasn't passed. I still think about the kids at Rutgers a great deal because I worked the livin' snot out of 'em last year an had them believe, and I hope they still believe, that they can win a national championship."
In fact, Bill Dirrigl still has very high hopes for Rutgers University. He said,"I truly believe this. Rutgers University has the chance to be one of the elite programs in college lacrosse. The facilities, the academics, and the administration are outstanding. They care about lacrosse there and I do believe we were on that path with the type of recruiting we got done there last year, the type of players we have there, I feel that in a couple of years Rutgers lacrosse will be a very big part of college lacrosse." Dirrigl believes that there's no reason why current Rutgers Head Coach Jim Stagnitta can't continue on the path he started due to the universities dedication. Dirrigl feels that Rutgers has shown that they care as he added,""I think the changes were made by the administration. The decision to go with full scholarships, a full time assistant, and a recruiting budget...uniforms, equipment budgets, the way we travelled...that wasn't because of Bill Dirrigl; that was a decision by Rutgers athletics that someday lacrosse would not only be big time at Rutgers, but in the state of New Jersey as well."
Rutgers and Loyola have both moved on so how are things going for the Loyola Greyhounds and Coach Dirrigl? Dirrigl has found the transition seamless and feels his players have as well,"For them, I don't think they've felt like it's been a change." Dirrigl was such an integral part of the rise of Loyola's program as Coach Cottle allowed him to take on serious responsibilities such as recruiting, making budgets, as well as coaching, etc. This prepared him extremely well to be a head coach and even better to be the head coach at Loyola. Dirrigl was hard pressed to come up with differences between his coaching style and Cottle's after spending so many years together, but he did offer,""I probably tend to be a little bit more on the defensive end...and becoming a fan of Bill Tierney(Princeton Head Coach) and how he goes about his business...I think I might stress the defense a little bit more or I just might be more comfortable with the defense where Coach Cottle is just a tremendous offensive coach."
Dirrigl knows he has a team that's lost some of his big guns, but he feels pretty good about the talent he has right now. Players he knows he can count on are four year defensive starters in Michael Stromberg and John Brasko. At the midfield he looks for Michael Sullivan to be the leader in his fourth year as well. He also pointed out that Stephen Brundage as a sophomore has a chance to be a really special attackman if he continues to work the way he has. Overall, he has the same questions that everyone else has,' "I would assume that a lot of people think that Loyola is, I don't want to say down, but we've lost a lot of big guns the last two years. The Battista's, the Goettleman's, the Horsey's, the Prout's, aren't here right now...or they haven't been able to get a chance to play yet. So, we're talented, we're just not very proven yet when you talk about a top five or six program."
Loyola has come a long way over the last decade, but early exits have haunted them in the play-offs with many picking them to finish better than they usually do. Dirrigl disagrees a bit with the question at all as he stated,"...ten years ago it was little Loyola College down on Charles Street, the little Jesuit institution with no facilities that couldn't play a lick. Now it's gotten to the point where a reporter's asking me why can't we win a national championship. Our program has grown dramatically. I remember being in Syracuse and the papers would always say that Roy Simmons (jr.) couldn't win the big one....It takes a couple special players, it takes some good coaching, and it takes a couple breaks here and there."
Dirrigl did however mull over some of the things Loyola needs to work on,""..there's a lot of good teams, and there could be a lot of reasons, but some have to do with you just have to play better at the end of the year. That was part of a lot of those teams. The bottom line is making sure that you're ready to play emotionally and physically at the end of the year as much as the beginning of the year. ...A large part to do with that is that we coach the kids so much and this is the way the breaks go at the end of the year. I think a lot is confidence. That's probably the biggest thing is just getting over that barrier of confidence and getting into the next echelon. Hopefully we can continue to grow on what's happened here and continue to grow towards a national championship, but two teams have dominated college lacrosse for fifteen years, dominated.(referring to Princeton and Syracuse)"
"My goal is to win a national championship, it always has been, but it's very difficult to do that."