Brian ‘Doc’ Dougherty is at a crossroads, and he’s left the Penn men’s lacrosse coaching staff at one as well.
In Dougherty’s rearview mirror is a surefire Hall of Fame playing career, capped off recently by a starting goaltender gig with Team USA, which won the 2010 World Lacrosse Championship July 24. On the horizon are his dreams of coaching on all the biggest stages where he once dominated as a netminder.
He began his college coaching career at Penn in 2009-10 as an assistant under new head coach Mike Murphy. But this week Dougherty informed Murphy that he would be stepping down from his post at Penn to seek a step up on the coaching ladder.
“He just said he was going to pursue other opportunities at this point,” Murphy said of Dougherty, who could not be reached for comment. “We appreciate everything he did for the Penn lacrosse program and wish him the very best.”
Penn now has to fill its top two assistant coaching positions before next season. Murphy’s top assistant, Chris Wojcik, announced July 12 that he was also leaving the Quakers after two seasons to take over as the head coach at Harvard.
Dougherty is one of the most decorated and accomplished goaltenders in the history of lacrosse, having won back-to-back NCAA Goaltender of the Year awards and an NCAA tournament MVP at Maryland, in addition to three Major League Lacrosse Goaltender of the Year awards as a pro. In 1998 and again this past July, he served as the anchor for Team USA at the World Championship, and made a tournament-high 15 saves in the 2010 title game against Canada.
Murphy understands that losing his assistants is just part of the process — coaches come and go, using low level jobs as stepping stones to bigger opportunities elsewhere. Given Dougherty’s impressive resume, and his decision to retire as a player following his stint with Team USA, Murphy knew there was a good possibility that Doc’s time at Penn would be of the one-and-done variety.
But that doesn’t mean replacing him will be easy.
“It’s hard to replace both these guys,” he said, “We’re going to have to bring in people with a variety of skill sets.”
Wojcik’s shoes might be the harder ones to fill. He was the team’s primary recruiter, a role typically reserved for a program’s top assistant, and he earned praise from Murphy for his talents in that area.
“Coach Wojcik had an extremely strong work ethic. We’re going to really need to find somebody that can come in here and roll their sleeves up and do a lot of things that coach Wojcik did a fantastic job of in terms of recruiting,” Murphy said. “That’s going to be a harder thing to replace than a lot of the things coach Doc brought to the table in the office.”
But when it comes to the on-the-field, X’s-and-O’s aspect of coaching, the Quakers’ goalies and defenders will certainly miss Dougherty.
He was also very connected and admired at Penn outside of lacrosse circles. His father, Dan Dougherty, a legendary high school basketball coach at nearby Episcopal Academy, coached Penn basketball icons Fran Dunphy and Jerome Allen during their playing careers, and Brian and Allen teamed up to win the 1991 Inter-Academic League title.
Murphy is in no hurry to replace Wojcik and Dougherty, noting that this is a rather slow time for college lacrosse coaches with summer camps and clinics wrapping up but recruiting season not yet at full speed. So Murphy will conduct a thorough search and do his best to bring in promising new coaches and keep the Penn program on the upswing.
“We’re going to give it time and try to find the best candidates we can,” he said.
How long the new guys stick around remains to be seen.
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