With summer underway, the Binghamton University men’s lacrosse program is already gaining stability under recently hired head coach Scott Nelson.
Nelson, whose hiring was announced on May 18, joins the Bearcats after coaching three seasons at Marist College. He succeeds Kevin McKeown, who served as interim head coach for BU after Ed Stephenson’s midseason resignation.
In 2011, Nelson’s Red Foxes finished with an 8-7 record, ending the regular season with a seven-game winning streak en route to their second consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament appearance.
Prior to his tenure at Marist, Nelson posted a 211-87 overall record as a head coach at Nazareth College and Brown University. His Nazareth teams captured three Division III national championships in 1992, 1996 and 1997.
McKeown and Rob Williams, both assistant coaches under Stephenson, return to the program as assistants under Nelson. For the new head coach, their presence has helped him transition to a new program, campus and community.
“I think everybody in the athletic department has been great,” Nelson said. “It’s a new system for me to learn and people have been a big help with that. Kevin and Rob know a lot about the school, and they really help a lot with tours of campus and things like that. They’ve been a big help and they’ve been fun to work with.”
While the transition has at times been hectic, Nelson is already focusing on the future of the program, highlighting the potential growth and success he anticipates for Binghamton lacrosse.
“I’ve always looked at Binghamton as a place that can be pretty awesome, and I think it already is pretty good,” he said. “They already have some talent and they were well-coached, so it will be taking pretty good and making it really good, but that’s not going to be easy.”
With July underway, Nelson is already making his mark on the program through recruiting; he has stressed academics when dealing with potential newcomers.
“We want to have great citizens,” he said. “We want to have guys who represent the University in a first-class way, and we want great students. We want to continue that trend.”
That trend has been a staple for the men’s lacrosse program, which in 2011 led the America East in overall GPA for the seventh consecutive season. Of 35 student-athletes, 25 were named to the America East 2011 Winter/Spring Academic Honor Roll.
“It’s a nice environment to be in and to have real student-athletes,” Nelson said. “When I talk to parents and kids, I can tell them they’re going to get a great degree out of this place. The fact that they can get an incredible education, that’s never varied at Binghamton.”
While education remains a priority, Nelson also hopes to experience success on the field in what will be his 25th season as a collegiate head coach.
“We’re going to have fun playing lacrosse,” he said. “We’re going to be good, but we’re going to treat the game the right way and enjoy it. The way I coach the game isn’t going to change. I’ve always tried to make the game fun for the guys out there. We want guys who want to come to practice every day.”
Come spring, the Bearcats will return a wealth of young talent, including 2011 standouts and rising juniors Tyler Perrelle and Matt Springer. For Nelson, upperclassmen who demonstrate good leadership will be crucial for the team’s success.
“Your upperclassmen have got to be your leaders out there,” he said. “They don’t know what to expect from me yet, but they know what to expect from Division-I lacrosse. It’s a big commitment, and to have guys who are successful on the field and in the classroom is very, very important.”
Though there’s plenty of work to be done, Nelson isn’t hesitant when establishing his goals.
“Like any coach, I want to win a national championship,” he said. “We’re probably not that close right now, but we want to win a national championship and that’s our goal.”
While a national championship may be years down the road, Nelson hopes Binghamton lacrosse will continue to work to improve as a team and a program.
“Our goal is to get organized, get better every day and set our sights high,” Nelson said.