After Steadying the Helm in Interim Role This Spring, Madalon Named Head Coach of PU Men’s Lacrosse
ON THE JOB: Matt Madalon is all smiles during a lighter moment this spring as he took the helm of the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team as interim head coach in the wake of Chris Bates being dismissed after a sideline incident in a game against Brown. Madalon guided the Tigers to a 3-2 record down the stretch after a 2-6 start, culminating with a dramatic 7-6 win over Cornell in the season finale. Last week, Madalon was elevated to permanent head coach of the Princeton program. (Photo by Robert Goldstein, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)
Matt Madalon is all about moving forward.
After being named the interim head coach of the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team in the wake of Chris Bates being dismissed after a sideline incident in a game against Brown, Madalon focused on righting the ship.
“That was a really incredible opportunity in the most unfortunate circumstances,” said Madalon, who had been serving as the offensive coordinator.
“Clearly we were struggling but we still had every opportunity ahead of us, to play in the NCAA tournament, to win an Ivy League tournament, and so the hope was there. It gave us a spark, it gave us a little fire, which was exciting.”
Madalon’s leadership gave the Tigers a spark as they went 3-2 down the stretch after a 2-6 start, culminating with a dramatic 7-6 win over Ivy League rival Cornell in the season finale.
“Everything was far smoother than I would have imagined,” said Madalon.
“We had a good, hungry team. We made a few adjustments on the field; it worked so our guys gained some quick confidence and then we just kept rolling. A lot of it, at that point, was just managing emotions.”
Last week, Madalon experienced some deep emotions as he was elevated to permanent head coach of the program but, true to character, his focus was on what’s ahead.
“I am excited for the opportunity to coach this program and humble at the same time to be a head coach of a program where some of the greats have come through,” said Madalon, the 11th head coach in a storied program that has won six national titles, advanced to 10 NCAA Final Fours, and has won 27 Ivy titles.
“It is connecting with all of our family and friends, our guys and our alumni; there are so many people that are so generous and so helpful to our program. Then it goes right into the recruiting trail this June and July. These are the two prime months for recruiting and we are not for a minute going to take a step back.”
For Madalon, an assistant coach the last three seasons at Princeton who previously had a seven-year stint on the staff at Stevens Institute of Technology, taking the reins this spring was a big step in his growth as a coach.
“It was nice to be able to have the last word and to be able to guide us through a week of game preparation where you begin on Monday delivering your message and it culminates in a pregame opportunity as your team takes the field,” said Madalon, a 2006 Roanoke College graduate who was a star lax goalie for the Maroons and was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame this past April.
“The biggest thing for me was just shifting on a macro level and looking at how to manage a week as a head coach. As an assistant, you are fortunate, you can worry about your side of the ball and that is your responsibility. As a head coach, you have to step back and have that overarching approach to make sure that your team is comfortable and, most importantly, prepared for every situation that it could possibly face on game day. The biggest challenge is managing that throughout the week, you learn quickly.”
The way Princeton met the challenge of Cornell in its season-ending win on April 30 demonstrated Madalon’s quick learning curve.
“Going into that week was one of the more challenging times I have ever had in this game; we lost that Harvard game (16-12 on April 23) and it eliminated us from Ivy tournament play,” said Madalon.
“At that point your program can go many different ways. You can say hey we have got one more game and it doesn’t really matter, nothing can really come from this. Sure it is an Ivy opponent and a rival but when it shakes out, it really doesn’t matter for anything outside pride. Or your team can react a different way and say hey, you know what, we have got another week as a group together and we are going to cherish every moment and we are going to put our best foot forward and end on a high note and take care of a big time Ivy foe. I was fortunate that our team responded the latter way.”
While Madalon’s future status with the Princeton program was unclear in the wake of the win over Cornell, he hoped that wouldn’t be his last chance to guide the Tigers.
“I never tried to look that long term, you handle what is front of you and control the controllable,” added Madalon.
“At that moment, it was just about our guys and making sure that the team had a great experience and making sure that we were able to celebrate with their families. But, sure, in the back of my mind, it has always been a dream to be the head coach at Princeton.”
That dream came true as Madalon’s steady hand at the helm this spring combined with his deep knowledge of the program and affection for the school made him an attractive candidate for the post.
“Princeton is as professional an organization as there is; they do their due diligence and went about their search,” said Madalon, who kept on the recruiting trail during the process.
“They were very diligent and I was just fortunate to come out on the right side of it. I think the continuity of knowing our guys and the program helped. Princeton is a really special place. There are some unique things that you have to balance at Princeton just to make sure you have the most efficient, effective team. Also, it all comes down to communication and leadership qualities.”
Since getting the job, Madalon made a point of communicating with all of his returning players.
“They are excited for me, they are excited for them, they are excited for the program,” added Madalon. “They are just ready to get back to work.”
As he looks to put his stamp on the program, Madalon will be emphasizing a daily work ethic and attention to detail.
“I want to see a competitive fire from our guys, an edge, all day, every day,” asserted Madalon.
“I want them committed, composed, concentrated, and to dial in the bigger picture to stuff so that on an everyday basis there is a consistent approach we are attacking it with.”