John Danowski was introduced as head coach of the men's lacrosse team at a press conference Friday afternoon, ending more than three months of uncertainty surrounding the program after then-head coach Mike Pressler resigned and the program was suspended June 5.
Danowski, whose son Matt was an All-American in 2005 and will be a senior for the 2007 season, had been Hofstra's head coach for the past 21 seasons.
"I am honored and I am humbled and just happy to be here," Danowski said. "Duke is one of the top educational institutions in the world, by whatever standard or whatever measure that you like to use. There is a surreal quality to me being up here today."
Director of Athletics Joe Alleva and his search committee chose Danowski over two other finalists, St. John's head coach Rick Sowell and Virgnia assistant coach Marc Van Arsdale. Kevin Corrigan, the fourth finalist, removed his name from consideration after his interview July 13.
Alleva recommended the hiring to President Richard Brodhead, who approved the move after meeting with Danowski Thursday.
"Coach Danowski has compiled impressive winning records, but for him coaching is about far more than results on the field," Brodhead said. "He's a great choice for our program at this time. I look for him to continue everything that's best in the Duke lacrosse tradition and to build the new strengths we're committed to achieving."
Danowski, who went to Rutgers and has spent his entire adult life living on Long Island, said the choice to leave was appropriate given the circumstances. He said he looked forward to the opportunity to coach his son and repair the image of a program that was less than a quarter away from the 2005 national title before scandal arose this spring.
"When our children were younger, I never would have made this move," he said. "The timing was right. It just seemed like the planets and everything was aligned correctly to make this move."
Even before Pressler resigned, the relationship between star-player, Matt, and one of the college lacrosse's most respected coach's was a compelling story-line. With his father's blessing, Matt Danowski chose Duke over Hofstra.
Now John Danowski will finally get the chance to coach his son.
"My philosophy has always been to treat all of my players like my son or my daughter," Danowski said. "I have never had the opportunity to coach a returning first team All-American on attack. I look forward to that challenge. I think Matt represents what Duke is about."
"When it is all said and done I think that I will wish it had been for more than a year but at least I am thankful for the opportunity to have a year and this is something that a father and son can have for the rest of their lives."
Matt Danowski, who has been playing for the U.S. National Team this summer, accompanied his father down to Durham for the announcement.
"I found out last night like everyone else that he had gotten the job," he said. "There were always rumors about my dad coming here but it eventually came true in the end. I never thought that any of this would happen last year but it did and we have to take it as it is and keep on going."
Throughout the process, many of the players said they supported Danowski's pursuit of the job even as they stood by Pressler. John Danowski said Pressler had supported him in his bid to fill the position.
"We won't be able to get over losing Coach Pressler because he's such a great coach and a great man but the greatest replacement for him is Coach Danowski," senior Casey Carroll, who attended the press conference, said. "He has so much to offer us. I've known him for quite a few years now and he's just a great man and a great coach as well."
Interim head coach Kevin Cassese will remain as Danowski's assistant, Alleva said.
With a new head coach finally in place, Duke can begin to move forward while also addressing some of the off-the-field problems that have plagued the team in the past.
"Never for a second did my feelings about Duke University change because of their commitment to excellence and commitment to do everything right and well," Danowski said. "Institutions are made up of human beings and they are all fallible. Things happen good and bad. Bad things happen sometimes and you get stronger by learning and improving"
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.