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Irish hit ‘home run’ with coaching hires

| Friday, August 17, 2018

As the poet T.S. Eliot once wrote, “to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

Within this current calendar year, the Notre Dame Athletics Department has hired or promoted five new coaches to head coaching positions of their respective programs. This rapid turnover makes for a serious period of transition and uncertainty within almost half of the fall sports.

Now, I’m not saying that Notre Dame’s going to implode or, conversely, add more national championships this fall to an already impressive list of accomplishments within the calendar year, but I do believe these changes should result in a positive impact upon all programs involved. In college athletics, the coach and the culture it instills is invaluable and these new hires will look to rebuild from or build upon the work of their predecessors.

The first hire of the calendar year came in the form of former Irish soccer player and assistant Chad Riley, who replaces the legendary Bobby Clark as the head of the men’s soccer program. A highly successful coach at Dartmouth for the past five seasons, Riley played under Clark for three seasons and spent six seasons as his assistant coach. He combines a winning track record with a keen connection to and understanding of Notre Dame soccer and the subsequent culture Clark instilled over his 17 seasons as head coach, and thus figures to be a great replacement for the man simply known as “Boss.” In my mind, a great hire by Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick.

Speaking of transitioning from and building upon big-name coaches, women’s tennis head coach Jay Louderback announced his retirement from coaching this summer after 29 years with the program. While Louderback led the Irish to 24 NCAA tournament appearances, new head coach Alison Silverio appears ready to continue and elevate the program’s success. Her contribution to the marked improvement of every program she has been a part of speaks for itself, and her dedication to building a championship culture at Notre Dame should raise the program to new heights. Again, this may sound optimistic, but I believe this instance was another home-run hire by Swarbrick.

Swarbrick’s other three hires were promotions within the coaching staff. These hires signify that all three have a deep knowledge of and familiarity with their respective athletes and overall program culture. When volleyball head coach Jim McLaughlin resigned from his position due to health reasons, associate head coach Mike Johnson was ready to assume head coaching responsibilities and carry the program forward. He has since then promoted Katie Wilson to associate head coach and added Jason Borchin (who led Cal Poly to a 27-3 record last season) to the staff along with Katie Walker as a volunteer coach.

Nate Norman, a former Notre Dame soccer player and Irish women’s soccer assistant coach has been named the head coach of the women’s soccer program, replacing Theresa Romagnolo. Additionally, associate head coach Matt Sparks has been promoted to the head coaching position for the Irish men’s and women’s track and field and cross country programs, replacing Alan Turner. Both men combine great coaching track records with the ability to connect to and inspire their athletes, and their presence should lead to improvement within both programs.

All five of these coaches inherit unique challenges and opportunities, but appear equipped to lead their respective programs to new heights, especially in regards to building and maintaining a culture of excellence and dedication. All in all, we’ll see how each program responds this fall, and while the loss of several legendary coaches may be felt in the short run, the future of all five programs looks bright.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Joe Everett

Joe is a senior PLS major and hails from the thriving metropolis of South Bend, IN. In addition to formerly serving as Sports Editor at The Observer, Joe is a RA in Stanford Hall and a past champion of the Observer's Fantasy Football league.

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