Q&A: Coach Jason Miller
After a 2012 season that saw the St. John’s lacrosse team post an 8-7 record and come within a victory against Syracuse from the Big East Tournament title, head coach Jason Miller will be leading his team into the season with
winning on his mind.
The Torch caught up with the seventh-year head coach over break to talk about the upcoming season.
Torch: What are the challenges you and your team face playing in such
a tough conference like the Big East?
Jason Miller: The Big East is a very difficult conference to play in because of all of the top ranked opponents we have to face. We have to play teams like Syracuse, Georgetown and Notre Dame who rank in the Top 20 in the nation. It’s going to be very difficult for the team to get out of our
T: What are you looking for your team to prove this year?
JM: First and foremost, we want to prove that our success last year was not a fluke and we are a team that will be very competitive all season. As a team, we know we aren’t going to sneak up on anyone. Teams will be ready to face us and we must be prepared for every
team giving us their best shot.
T: Your team has been selected to play in the first annual Whitman’s Sampler Independent Classic against Syracuse. How do the players feel about getting a shot to play Syracuse, who beat you in the Big East Championship last season?
JM: Syracuse is an exceptional lacrosse team and this game will be a test for our guys. It is a very important game because Syracuse is a conference rival. It’s also a big game for guys on the team who are from Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey who get to go back and be close to home where they
played in high school.
T: Is there any player flying under the radar that fans should take notice of?
JM: Yes, one player that comes to mind is Chris Hughes, a freshman midfielder and local kid who played his high school lacrosse at nearby St. Anthony’s. Another young guy who has been showing us a lot is Ricky Cotton, a freshman midfielder from Connecticut. Also, sophomore Stefan Diachenko, an attacker from Ontario, Canada is going to be a guy we will count on this season.
T: This year the NCAA added a new rule to try and speed up the play of the game: the 30-second shot clock. How is the team preparing for an increase in
the speed of play this season?
JM: First and foremost, we have to be in very good shape and be able to get back on offense and defense very quickly. There is also going to be very limited stoppage time and this is going to result in the team having to increase the tempo we play the game at. We have been preparing in the off-season for this challenge by having the guys run more often.
T: You’ve assembled a very tough schedule this season. Your schedule is compiled of four top-20 teams; why did you choose to make the schedule
JM: A tough schedule like this will prepare the guys for what they are sure to face all season in Big East play, and that is tough teams who will give us everything they got. Having to face superior teams like what our schedule includes will help us recruit top players in the nation. This will allow them to see how dedicated we are here at St. John’s University to being the best. For our team to be the best, we have to beat the best and our schedule is set up that way.
T: Last year, St. Johns Lacrosse wasn’t a well-known program. Considering that the team beat strong competition and advanced to the Big East Championship game last season, do you feel like the team will have a target on its back?
JM: I think the chances of other teams taking us lightly or overlooking us this season is unlikely. We have to be prepared every game to play our best because every team is sure going to give us their best.
T: You’re bringing back 27 players from last year’s team and bringing in 11 new recruits. How much are you relying on guys with prior experience to help out the new players?
JM: I’m going to be counting on the guys who have prior experience to help the younger guys. This is the first time in a while that the strength of our team is with the juniors and seniors of this team. The older players set the examples on this team and they’re going to have to take the younger guys under their wings and show them the ropes.
T: How important are the scrimmages in gauging where your team is going to be when you suit up to play your first game at Holy Cross?
JM: When we scrimmaged in the fall against Army and Harvard it was a chance for the coaches and I to evaluate the talent we had on this team. During the spring scrimmages we will focus on preparing ourselves to play Holy Cross. Each scrimmage is important because it allows the coaches and I to evaluate where we are as a team leading into the opener.
T: What are your expectations for this season?
JM: We have very high expectations for our team this season after our strong performance last year. Last season we were so close to getting a bid to the NCAA tournament and so close to becoming Big East Champions. Anything short of playing for the Big East Championship this season would be a disappointment for all involved with this team.