This past May John Haus was the toast of the town. Chestertown to be exact.
In just his fourth year as head coach of the Washington College men's lacrosse team, Haus led the school to its first-ever NCAA Division III national lacrosse championship, and the students, staff, alumni and town of roughly 4,000 people were, in Haus' words, "ecstatic." It was the Shoremen's third straight trip to the Division III title game, and the 16-10 victory over Nazareth at Rutgers University was the ultimate reward for all the hard work Haus and his players had put into the Shoremen's lacrosse effort, a solid program that Haus was able to take one step further.
In fact, during Haus' four-year reign as head coach of Washington College, the team enjoyed a record of 47-21, and in 1996 Haus was named NCAA Division III coach of the year. But that wasn't all that was going well in Haus' life. Haus (pronounced Hawz) also lived in quaint and scenic Chestertown on Maryland's Eastern Shore, "a beautiful place," he adds, with his wife and three boys. He says life at the time "was just great."
Haus admits that at age 36 he was further along in his coaching career than even he expected. But then came the chance to take it one Neal Armstrong-leap farther: In July, Haus was offered the head coaching job for the Hopkins men's lacrosse team, a crowning position in the world of lacrosse. Haus says it was an offer he couldn't refuse.
"I looked at it as a great opportunity. It felt like a positive move for me and my family. It's one of the most prestigious jobs in college lacrosse, so I was humbled, but very honored, to be given the chance to coach here," Haus says.
Haus, who joined Hopkins on July 7, says he's just now settling into his new position and Athletic Center office. As the 21st coach of a lacrosse program with a winning and storied tradition, Haus says he expects a lot from himself and his new team. But as for adjusting to life away from Chestertown, for this Baltimore native, that has been the easy part.
Haus, born in Baltimore, spent most of his childhood in nearby Lutherville and attended Loyola High School. While at Loyola, Haus played both football and lacrosse, but he says in order to play sports at the collegiate level, lacrosse was the clear choice. In 1980 Haus enrolled at North Carolina, Chapel Hill and helped the Tar Heels to the 1981 and 1982 NCAA men's lacrosse championships, the first two in the history of the program. Yet this physical education major, known as a standout defensive player and a first-team All-American his junior year, modestly says he owes much of his college success to his teammates.
"I was just an average player surrounded by really good ones," says Haus, who, after winning the Division III national championship at Washington College, became the only person in history to win an NCAA lacrosse title as both a player and head coach.
Following graduation from Carolina, Haus returned to Loyola High School and served as an assistant football and lacrosse coach there from 1984 to 1987. Haus thought his next step would be either to take a head coaching position at a high school or to pursue his teaching career. What came next, however, was a turning point in Haus' life, when he was asked by his former coach at North Carolina, Don Zimmerman, to be his assistant at Johns Hopkins. Haus served as the defensive coordinator at Hopkins from 1988 to 1994, and during his tenure the team posted a 62-27 record.
Haus says the experience of coaching at Hopkins those years was invaluable and the major reason he was able to land the head coaching spot at Washington College.
Todd Cavallaro, the lacrosse team's new offensive coordinator, played under Haus while he attended Hopkins from 1990 to 1994. Cavallaro says that during that time he remembers how Coach Haus taught him and his teammates how to be successful and tough on the field and leaders off of it.
"We all respected his work ethic, and a number of players developed a relationship with him," said Cavallaro. "He knew what he had to do, and he did it well."
Cavallaro personally benefited from his relationship with his former coach when Haus accepted the head coaching position at Washington College and asked him to be his offensive coordinator. Now both are back at Hopkins, and Cavallaro says a number of factors have contributed to Haus' success and to why he was named the Blue Jays' head coach.
"As a person he is an excellent family man, his work ethic is outstanding, and he's very disciplined. He firmly believes in his ability. He just has what it takes to be successful," Cavallaro says.
Haus says his philosophy as a coach is based upon discipline--in making sure the team is fundamentally sound, ready to play for a full 60 minutes and willing to work as hard as they can.
"I look at things as a group of people that comes together as a team. We should be all be working for the final goal, which is playing the last Monday of the season. But it's a long process; you are going to have your ups and downs," Haus says.
He adds that, as a coach, he also has a responsibility to be a teacher and to stress academics.
"I try to preach that the No. 1 priority for everybody is being a solid student, while also being the best lacrosse player he can be."
The team recently had its first practices of the year, and Brian Carcaterra, the team's starting goalkeeper and returning All-American, says it's already evident that the new coach means business.
"He expects a lot from everyone," Carcaterra says. "He's very professional and demands a lot from his players. We know we have a chance at winning the national championship this year. But it's a long road, and that's so easy to say. The trick is busting your hump to get there, and he will make us do that."
Haus, who replaces head coach Tony Seaman, knows that Seaman's new team, Towson University, lies ahead on the schedule. But Haus, who considers Seaman a friend and coached against him while at Washington College, just sees the meeting as another important game at the tail end of the season.
"It's not me against another coach. It's the teams that play. I just plan to get prepared one game at a time," Haus says. "But at that point of the year I hope we are playing some of our best lacrosse, so as to put us in a position for the post-season."
Currently, Haus is busy recruiting players and reviewing tapes of last year's games. Although the regular season doesn't begin until March 6, when the Blue Jays will face Princeton, the team will play twice this fall--an Oct. 10 exhibition tournament with Duke, Cornell and Virginia and the annual alumni game Oct. 17 at Homewood Field. Haus says he's excited about the upcoming fall schedule and "can't wait to get out there every day on the practice field. That's the best part of it. I love watching my teams play. That is why I'm here."
As for a national championship this year, Haus says it's unfair to say that anything less would be a failure. But he does embrace the pressure of getting Hopkins back to a position it hasn't held since 1987.
"Sure, my expectation is to play in the national championship. I think about it every day," Haus says. "But I'm also thinking about what it will take to get us there. I tell my players No. 1 is to have fun, No. 2 is to make the right choices on and off the field, and No. 3 is to play as hard as you can. I trust our players will be ready to compete when the time comes."