Although the search for the next boys lacrosse coach lasted about two months, New Canaan High School hardly had to look far and wide to find its man. The school announced on Tuesday that its own former standout All-State lacrosse and hockey player Chip Buzzeo is the new coach of the lacrosse team.
Buzzeo excelled at both sports prior to graduating in 1996 and went on to play lacrosse for Princeton University where he was a midfielder for the 1998 and 2001 National Championship teams in his freshman and senior seasons.
"It's an honor because I always enjoyed playing for New Canaan. It's a community where you have great experiences," Buzzeo said. "I'm confident in my abilities as a coach and even more confident in my abilities as a leader. I've always enjoyed getting along with teammates and the camaraderie of team sports. All of my teammates from both teams (Princeton and New Canaan) have emailed or texted me or called me or did something. I got more messages today than I do on my birthday and it's just great."
Recognized as an exceptional teammate and leader by several former teammates and coaches, Buzzeo will begin his tenure by coaching the defending FCIAC champions.
"Once I heard about the opening, I was leaning positively the whole time but did want to be a responsible adult and make sure that it's not just me accepting this job; it's my whole family," Buzzeo said. "We understand how important this job is in the community."
New Canaan athletic director Jay Egan conducted the search for a new coach, and after narrowing an original list of six candidates down to three finalists, Egan was sold on Buzzeo's passion for "building young people."
"I think he's a person who is genuinely interested in building young people and helping young people learn to love and excel at the sport of lacrosse," Egan said. "Also, we felt he has a genuine love for the New Canaan community and a general fondness for New Canaan High School."
Of course, when Hall of Fame lacrosse coach Bill Tierney, widely regarded as one of the most successful college coaches in the history of the sport, gave Buzzeo a ringing endorsement, it certainly didn't hurt Buzzeo's candidacy. Tierney coached at Princeton from 1988-2009 (including all four years of Buzzeo's tenure) and is currently the head coach at the University of Denver.
"Bill was one of Chip's references, and he and all those great players on the (Princeton) team revered Chip for the leadership that he provided," Egan said. "Bill said he would like his son to be coached by Chip."
Buzzeo was mostly a role player on Princeton's National Championship team, but that didn't stop his teammates from picking him as a captain among a group that also included eight or nine All-Americans.
"To be called the No. 1 team in the country and hold that trophy is just an adrenaline rush that I wish everybody could experience," Buzzeo said. "It will always be a part of me."
Buzzeo replaces Alex Whitten, who built a 57-23 regular season record over his five years and won an FCIAC championship in 2012.
"We had six solid candidates and three solid finalists. We felt that given what people said about him and how Chip presented himself in the interview process that he was the best person," Egan said. "I think that his plan is to be here for the long-term. He spoke a lot in his interview process about giving back to the New Canaan lacrosse community and all the things lacrosse did to help him in his life."
Buzzeo also has a great deal of familiarity with the current New Canaan High School roster.
"I've coached them all for 50 hours. The sophomore class I coached for two years when they were seventh and eighth graders and last year coached the high school group in the preseason," Buzzeo said. "So, I know majority of the lacrosse players in New Canaan High School and what they're strengths and weaknesses are. I know the personnel very well."
Buzzeo met with three of his captains on Tuesday and has already scheduled a team meeting for Thursday.
"We met in the AD's office and we had a great conversation, and we'll be able to get on same page very quickly," Buzzeo said. "They know what I'll bring to the field and off the field."
Similar to Egan, Buzzeo is hopeful that he is at the very beginning of a long and successful tenure as the Rams' new coach.
"My wife asked me if I got job how long I would see myself doing it," Buzzeo said. "I told her it'd be the last job I ever had, and I hope I retire as a lacrosse coach. Hopefully it's 20, 25, 30 years from now if they let me do it."
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