The boy, almost nine, waits outside the door for the man he refers to as "my friend Bill." This day has not been kind to his friend, who was on the losing end of this one, and oh boy, does his friend Bill hate to lose.
No more than 15 minutes earlier, Bill was bright red, riding the refs hard, screaming, not ready to concede despite a deficit clearly too large to overcome. Near the end, an anonymous voice boomed from the visitors' fans: "Sit down, Tierney, you jerk."
Now the locker room door opens and out comes the boy's "friend." He sees the boy and smiles, putting his arm around him.
"Hey, buddy," Bill says, in a low voice, the words making their way through what is now a small smile, one eclipsed by the pure joy that now engulfs the boy's face.
And here is his friend Bill in a nutshell. Seen through the prism of the anonymous voice wearing the other team's colors, his friend Bill is pure evil. Seen through the eyes of the boy, his friend Bill is nothing short of the greatest.
This is his friend Bill's story. It's the story of a man you think you know and probably don't, a man of such passion, such devotion, such fierce loyalty, and ultimately such unimaginable success that it was inevitable that he would spark such strong emotions.
This is the story of Bill Tierney, as great a lacrosse coach as has ever lived.
"I do believe that more national championships will come and so will more wins," says Ryan Mollett, the 2001 Ivy League Player of the Year and a member of two of Tierney's six NCAA championship teams at Princeton. "But whatever records he sets will at some point in time be broken. What will never be surpassed are Coach Tierney's integrity and the example he has set for so many of us."
Tierney came to Princeton in 1988 and inherited a program that had not won an Ivy League championship in 25 years. Since then, he has won six NCAA championships, been the runner-up two other times, played in 10 Final Fours, and won 12 Ivy League championships. Princeton's 9-4 win over Butler on March 24, at Class of 1952 Stadium was the 200th of his Princeton career, coupled with his three years at Rochester Institute of Technology, gives him a career record of 235-79. His NCAA tournament record of 28-9 leaves him three wins shy of Syracuse's Roy Simmons, Jr. for the most NCAA tournament wins in a career. He has coached the United States to a World Championship. He is a member of the USILA Hall of Fame.
"The level of consistency his program has had and the number of championships, both Ivy and national, are clear indicators that not only is Bill Tierney a great coach but also an outstanding motivator of the young men he coaches," says Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, who as a player won an NCAA championship with Tierney as an assistant coach in 1987 and last year coached the Blue Jays to the NCAA title. "He has a clear understanding of how to help develop the character of his players. Coach Tierney brings out the very best in those he is coaching, whether on the field or off. Certainly the relationship I developed with him when he was an assistant coach was critical to my success as a player and as a person."
Beyond the on-field success, Tierney has literally transformed the sports culture not only at Princeton but also in the general area surrounding the University. Before his arrival there was very little in the way of youth lacrosse, and Princeton games were played on a football practice field with old, rickety, nearly empty wooden stands. Today, Princeton is perennially one of the leaders in attendance, and game days at Class of 1952 and in Princeton Stadium have become huge social events that feature parents, alums, and of course an army of youth lacrosse players from every town in the area.
In all, Tierney has coached 253 players at Princeton. Every single one who has completed his eligibility, 100%, has graduated -- almost all with NCAA championship rings. Their career paths include medicine, education, coaching, the military, finance, law, and any number of others. One of his players, John Schroeder, died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.