Dave Pietramala is admittedly not a reflective person.

He’s the type of guy who stays in the moment, preparing his players to compete at the highest level and keeping them on the path to be successful as student-athletes and beyond.

Since Pietramala’s tenure as the head coach of the Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse team ended after 20 years, he has taken some time to look back on his stellar run with the program.

In April, Johns Hopkins athletic director Jennifer S. Baker announced the school and Pietramala had mutually agreed to part ways as the university looked to “move the program in a different direction.” In May, Johns Hopkins hired Peter Milliman from Cornell to serve as the 23rd men’s lacrosse coach in Blue Jays history.

Pietramala, 53, wants to coach again, and opportunities to run another program will inevitably arrive. But in recent weeks, he’s been able to look back at his stellar career.

“Twenty years is a long time to be in one place,” Pietramala said. “We had a heck of a run with our staff — Bill Dwan, Bob Benson and Tim O’Branski, prior to that Seth Tierney was there, and other volunteer assistants that have been a part of the program and have done such a great job. The last month has afforded me the opportunity to look back and appreciate many of the moments that we had together.

“But maybe, more importantly, I remember many of the young men that I’ve had the privilege to get to know. I’ve heard from so many of the guys that the last month has been very reflective. It’s allowed me to really appreciate the outstanding people I’ve had a chance to work with.”

Loyola coach Charley Toomey had some epic battles against Pietramala in what has been dubbed the “Battle of Charles Street.” When Toomey first took over as the head coach for the Greyhounds ahead of the 2006 season, he initially tried to emulate Pietramala, but he soon realized that was almost impossible and knew he had to create his own tradition.

“I have gotten to know David very well and he’s been almost like a mentor to me,” Toomey said. “When I took over the program, he was a guy I knew as a friend that was going to be someone I could talk to, not just about X’s and O’s, but recruiting and life.

“He was a competitor that was a half-mile down the street, but he was also a friend that was very willing and helpful to make sure I was going to get my feet in front of me as a coach. I always appreciated that. I always respected his work ethic. I don’t think anybody does it better as far as paying attention to details.”

Toomey went 6-8 head-to-head against Pietramala. The Greyhounds have gone 9-48 all time against Johns Hopkins, so Toomey accounts for two-thirds of those victories.

“With the advent of Ridley [Athletic Complex], we’ve tried to close the gap a little bit, but David has always been there, always a guy when you make a phone call, he’s on the other end ready to give you sound advice,” Toomey said. “He’s a superhuman being, a great father and obviously a tremendous coach.”

Pietramala is the winningest coach in Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse history, compiling a record of 207-93. The Blue Jays hadn’t won a national championship since 1987 when he arrived as the head coach in the summer of 2000 and hadn’t played in a national championship game since 1989.

Those fortunes changed quickly. Pietramala’s resume as the head coach at Homewood includes:

  • Two national championships (2005, 2007)
  • Four appearances in the national championship game (2003, 2005, 2007, 2008)
  • Seven trips to the Final Four (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2015)
  • Eighteen NCAA Tournament appearances
  • Two Big Ten tournament titles (2015, 2018) since Johns Hopkins joined the conference in 2015

Pietramala was a key figure for his players off the field as well. He coached seven CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, 11 USILA Scholar All-Americans, 67 Academic All-Big Ten selections and seven Big Ten Distinguished Scholars. Johns Hopkins’ seven CoSIDA Academic All-Americans during Pietramala’s 20 seasons at Homewood are tied for the most in the nation among Division I men’s lacrosse programs during that time.

He has left a lasting impact on those players.

“Coach Petro means the world to me,” said Paul Rabil, a four-time All-American and two-time national champion at Johns Hopkins and the co-founder of the Premier Lacrosse League. “He showed me what great work ethic and leadership could lead to — which has greatly benefited me in my career post-graduation.

“I’ve never met a person who has made such a meaningful impact on so many people off the field, which is especially powerful given the success he had on it. Hopkins won’t be the same without Coach, but he will always be remembered for what he was able to accomplish over his 20 years there at the helm.”

When the 2020 season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hopkins and Pietramala decided to part ways.

“For two decades, Dave Pietramala guided our men’s lacrosse program and we are truly thankful for his tireless efforts and the leadership he provided to the young men who represented Johns Hopkins at the highest level on and off the field,” Baker said in a release. “Very few great players have demonstrated the ability to become great coaches; Dave Pietramala has done that and his legacy as a player and coach is virtually unmatched in the world of college lacrosse.”

Pietramala, who was a three-time first-team All-American during his playing career at Johns Hopkins and led the Blue Jays to the 1987 NCAA championship, understood the argument for change after spending 20 years running the program. He had witnessed numerous changes himself during that span within the entire campus community.

“We just felt like it had been a great run,” he said. “The goal for Johns Hopkins lacrosse is always to win the national championship, and now, also win the Big Ten championship. I don’t think those goals have necessarily changed. But how you get there and how you go about your daily business sometimes does change. Our staff felt like after a long time and a tremendous run, it was time to move in another direction. That was best for the young men and the program. That’s always been my goal.”

Pietramala has an extensive coaching tree and has ties to some of the nation’s top programs at all levels of college lacrosse. He plans to stay involved in the game, but there’s no rush to begin the next chapter of his life.

Pietramala does want to coach again, and he should have no shortage of opportunities when he’s ready to step back into the game.

“This is an opportunity for me to grow as a person, as a man, as a coach,” he said. “Make no mistake, I’ll continue to grow as a coach. I have a notebook that I keep for my conversations with my colleagues. I’ve had a chance to talk a little more freely, if you will, with coaches that were competitors. I feel like this time has given me the opportunity to look back at the run that we had and the experience we had with the players and their families.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics

Issue 262: May/June 2020

Todd Karpovich

See all posts by Todd Karpovich. Follow Todd Karpovich on Twitter at @toddkarpovich