The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday June 8th

Long Road Stretches Before Haus

North Carolina's first-year lacrosse coach guided the Blue Jays to consecutive final fours in 1999 and 2000, nurturing hope among Hopkins boosters that he, finally, would be the one to lead the Blue Jays to the promised land -- their first title since 1987.

It just wasn't meant to be. His alma mater came calling, and Haus couldn't resist.

It wasn't easy to go. But other than a few hurt feelings, Haus left the Johns Hopkins lacrosse program no worse than it was before.

It'd be hard to say the same about the man whose job Haus inherited.

Dave Klarmann resigned as UNC's coach in June after 10 rocky seasons.

He led the Tar Heels to an ACC and national championship in his first season in 1991 on the strength of players recruited by predecessor Willie Scroggs but went on to carve out his own niche in the program.

Klarmann would tack on four more conference titles and a pair of final four appearances, including the 1993 championship game, to his coaching resume.

But things began to fall apart, and Klarmann, for all his good intentions and dedication, wasn't equipped to handle it.

Of course, few -- if any -- would be able to deal well with the tragedy Klarmann had to endure.

Three of his players died.

In five years.

Sophomore Kevin Reichardt was shot and killed by former UNC law student Wendell Williamson in 1995. Sophomore Kevin Lawn died in 1999. Sophomore Matt Kull passed away in January of 2000 after a prolonged battle with cancer.

A lot for any one person to deal with.

Probably too much.

The team suffered. It won its last ACC title in 1996. It missed the NCAA tournament in '97, '99 and 2000. Recruiting tailed off.

Placing all the blame on Klarmann is unfair. The deaths hung a heavy cloud over Chapel Hill. Other schools began to pump money into their programs.

But Klarmann didn't help his own cause. He began to develop a reputation -- right or wrong -- as a coach who would sometimes try to wield tyrannical control over his players.

A former player of Klarmann from a lacrosse hotbed in the North, who asked to be anonymous, told me last spring that Klarmann's gruff attitude when recruiting several of his friends -- "some of the top players" in his area -- turned them off from North Carolina.

Some players responded to Klarmann's brusqueness, dry humor and cynicism. Many didn't.

So now the Tar Heels are 4-4. They have a one-man offense in Jeff Sonke. They have entirely new starting midfield and close defensive units. They probably will have to run the table to get back to the NCAA tournament this year.

But for the first time in a while, they have hope.

Haus is a proven recruiter. He has already signed a promising class for next year, and that will only continue.

While Klarmann was antagonistic and irritable after losses -- even after wins oftentimes -- Haus is patient and accommodating.

He has made it his job to infuse a winning attitude in his players, trying to undo the damage done by Klarmann, who was disgruntled and probably stayed around a few years too many.

It might take three or four years, but Haus will get the North Carolina lacrosse program to where it used to be.

He certainly couldn't leave it any worse than it was before.

James Giza can be reached at

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