New Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse coach Peter Milliman says he wants to build on the legacy left by legendary coach Dave Pietramala and has no doubt the program can still “compete at the very top” of the college lacrosse world.
Hopkins and Pietramala mutually parted ways earlier this month with the coach at the end of his contract. Pietramala, the head coach of the Blue Jays since 2001, piled up a career record of 207-93 and led the program to 18 NCAA Tournaments, seven Final Fours and two national titles (2005 and 2007). Hopkins has been to 29 Final Fours and won nine NCAA Tournaments in program history.
Milliman, the head coach at Cornell since 2018, says following a storied coach like Pietramala, who also won a title as a player at Hopkins, wasn’t a deterrent for him when considering the job.
“You’re going to be judged by a high standard whenever you take a job at Johns Hopkins in that lacrosse program. It’s the standard of excellence,” Milliman said on Glenn Clark Radio April 28. “Coach Pietramala did an amazing job. He’s a legend. That program would have never been the same without him. My job is not to go in and replace him. My job is to continue and build upon the legacy that he was a part of there. If I look at it any other way, I think I’d be doing a disservice to the team but also myself and what my responsibilities are. I have to do the job to the best of my abilities.”
Milliman was an assistant at Cornell from 2014-2017 before taking over the head coaching duties. He went 28-10 overall and 8-4 in the Ivy League as the head man. The Big Red finished the truncated 2020 season 5-0 and No. 2 nationally in the Inside Lacrosse poll, beating Big Ten opponents Ohio State and Penn State to close out the season. The Big Red scored no fewer than 17 goals in all five of its games.
Prior to Milliman taking over, Cornell went 5-8 (2017) and 6-7 (2016). Hopkins has been to the Final Four just once since 2009 and finished this year 2-4. The Jays haven’t been bad by any stretch in recent years – they’re 49-38 since joining the Big Ten ahead of the 2015 season – but they’ve fallen short of the high expectations placed on the program.
But Milliman says Hopkins is still a premier job in college lacrosse.
“I think it’s established as one of the best universities in the world,” Milliman said. “It’s supporting lacrosse in a way that very few other schools in the sport will do, and having the resources and tradition of excellence and the environment around that program, I think it’s destined to be successful. I think it’s inevitable that some things will rise and fall, but I have no doubt that this is a program that can compete at the very top.”
In addition to his high level of success at Cornell, Milliman’s familiarity with recruiting kids to a school with rigorous academic standards was likely also attractive to Hopkins. Milliman said Hopkins doesn’t have to bend on academics to field a title contender, citing Yale’s trips to the national championship game in 2018 and 2019 and Brown’s trip to the Final Four in 2016.
“There’s no doubt that there are high-level student-athletes that can help you win national championships,” Milliman said. “I think it’s been as evident as anything the last few years.”
Milliman, a native of Rochester, N.Y., has no previous ties to Hopkins. He kicked off his coaching career as an assistant at the Rochester Institute of Technology (2006 and 2008) and Siena (2007), then was the head coach at RIT from 2009-2012. His final stop before heading to Cornell was Princeton, where he was an assistant in 2013. He played at Division III Gettysburg.
Milliman knows he has work to do in getting to know his players, the program’s alumni and those at the school to get a feel for the needs of the team and the direction he should take the program. He’s planning to move to Baltimore with his wife and two kids sometime during the summer, when he’s likely to be able to settle in more easily and work out of the Cordish Lacrosse Center.
Until then, he’ll get to work from his New York home.
“I don’t know what the next few months are going to look like,” Milliman said of getting his start amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s still evolving and it’s still changing and hopefully we’re going to get some strategy here soon on what might happen and then we can start making some plans. There’s no blueprint for the job I’m taking over under these circumstances because I’m probably not going to be at my desk in the Cordish Center anytime soon. That’s going to be a really unique and challenging experience just in and of itself.”
For more from Milliman, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Dave Burbank/Cornell Athletics