By Ryan Fennell
West Long Branch – It was a pair of firsts at Monmouth University on Tuesday afternoon when the university officially announced the hiring of its first men’s lacrosse head coach, Brian Fisher.
While the Hawks have a club lacrosse team currently, Director of Athletics Marilyn McNeil and University President Paul Gaffney brought Fisher aboard as the school prepares to compete as a Division I program in the Northeast Conference beginning in 2014.
Likewise, it is the first head coaching position for Fisher, who has spent 11 seasons as an assistant lacrosse coach, the last six at the University of Notre Dame, and the previous five at his alma mater, Rutgers University.
“Monmouth was very fortunate to have a superior pool of applicants to lead its inaugural men’s lacrosse program,” McNeil said. “Brian Fisher emerged as the number one choice and gave us all the confidence that he can both start and lead our program.
“Like the beginnings of our football program, we wanted a head coach that had the work ethic, the knowledge, the contacts, and the right personality to lay the foundation for future success,” she added. “I believe Brian is undoubtedly the best fit.”
Before beginning his collegiate coaching career with Rutgers, Fisher was a standout midfielder and faceoff man for the Scarlet Knights between 1998 and 2001.
In his six seasons as an assistant at Notre Dame, Fisher helped compile a 74-21 record.
“I’m ready to get to work,” Fisher said upon his introduction as the new head coach. “It’s exciting for me because this is my first go as a head coach.
“The last few days have been pleasant,” he continued. “I had a lot of time to think about the coaches and people who’ve influenced my life and helped me get to this point. Now, as a head coach, I’m really looking forward to that responsibility and having influence on the players I coach and help shape their character.”
Fisher took several moments to thank his family and high school and college coaches, but reflected on one of the moments in his life that helped shape his interest in coaching.
Fisher spoke directly to his father, Charlie, who was seated front row, as he shared a memory that he had from high school of he and his father watching and studying football film after his high school games.
“The first time the coaching bug really hit me was when we’d go home on a Friday night after a football game and watch those grainy replays of those games and break down the film and talk about the nuances,” Fisher said. “Looking back, that was what really sparked an interest in coaching for me.”
When Monmouth announced that it would be seeking to fill the men’s lacrosse head coaching position in March, Fisher and his wife, Lauren, were excited at the prospect of returning home. Although originally from Morton, Pennsylvania, Fisher spent a significant period of his life in New Jersey as a player and as a coach at Rutgers, forming relationships with faculty and coaches throughout the state, while Lauren hails from South Orange, New Jersey, originally.
However, an even more fulfilling reason Fisher hoped to land the job at Monmouth emerged as he began to meet the university staff and community.
“As I interviewed and did my research and met more and more people here at Monmouth, what really cemented in my mind that this was the place I wanted to be was the quality of the people I’ve met, from coaches to the people in admissions,” Fisher said. “I’m thrilled to be here and looking forward to hitting the road recruiting.”
And Fisher will have plenty of time to recruit.
Monmouth currently supports a club lacrosse team that will remain intact for next season.
McNeil and Fisher both applauded the efforts of the lacrosse club team for first, the work that went into establishing the team, and for the success that the program has boasted in only a few years.
“This (hiring) would not have happened without the club’s success,” McNeil said.
Fisher lauded the lacrosse club team’s passion for the sport and the desire to bring lacrosse to Monmouth University.
“Those guys started the program here and I’m really looking forward to connecting with them and watching them play this next year,” Fisher said.
Fisher also said that he would definitely consider members of the club team as potential members of the Division I team when it enters into play in the NEC.
“I certainly will,” Fisher said. “They understood the uniqueness of this place and the education it provides and we’re both passionate about the sport of lacrosse. They’ve made a lot of progress. We have that in common already. If they’re willing to make the commitment, I’m going to be willing to have them.
“I’ll definitely be a fan of them and watch them this next year and give them the opportunity,” Fisher said. “I think that’s the right thing to do.”
When Fisher’s team is formed, the Hawks will be joining Bryant, Mount Saint Mary’s, Wagner, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart, and Robert Morris as NEC schools with men’s lacrosse teams.
While Fisher admitted it is going to be difficult to not have a team in place to practice and play next year to prepare to play those schools the following season, he believes, with the university centrally located in a geographical hotbed of lacrosse enthusiasm between Long Island and Baltimore, Monmouth will have no trouble catching up to the competition.
And, even more locally, the Shore Conference has seen an explosion of talented lacrosse players and programs over the last several years from which Fisher hopes to attract players to the new Hawks’ program.
“The Shore Conference was beginning to get its legs when I went out to Notre Dame,” Fisher said. “And now, if you look at the Shore Conference there’s several teams that can compete with all the teams across the state.
“A lot of those people (coaches and staff) in the Shore Conference are people I was in close touch with when I was at Rutgers,” Fisher added. “I’m looking forward to reconnecting with those people and giving back to the local lacrosse community and hoping they’ll support us now that we have a Division I program in their backyard. I think it’s going to do wonders to help the sport grow in this area.”
Fisher is considered a faceoff expert and had great success working with the Fighting Irish faceoff unit over the past six years.
Notre Dame ranked ninth in the nation in faceoff winning percentage in `09 with a .556 mark. Notre Dame ranked second nationally in 2008 with a .628 winning percentage, and was 15th in the nation in that category during Fisher’s first season with the Irish. The Fighting Irish were 17th nationally in faceoff percentage in `10 and `11.
“It’s a little bittersweet to leave Notre Dame,” Fisher said, “and part of it is because of the relationships I had. At the same time, everyone’s been so excited that I get to come home and lead a team here.”
Fisher, a top faceoff man in the nation throughout his Rutgers career, was awarded the Rutgers Lacrosse Knight Cup in `01, which goes to the player “who has played the game of lacrosse to the best of his ability, who has, by example, inspired or led his teammates both on and off the field and, who, above all, has consistently demonstrated the qualities of un- selfishness and loyalty to his team and Rutgers University.”
As a coach at Rutgers, he worked extensively with the Scarlet Knight midfielders, was the assistant director of MVP Lacrosse Camps, was recognized as a member of the 2003 ECAC Staff of the Year and made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2003 and 2004.