When Jeff Tambroni took over the reigns of the Cornell lacrosse program in 2001, he knew he had some big shoes to fill.
Tambroni was to replace the legendary Dave Pietramala, the 2000 Coach of the Year, and to continue the always-present legacy left by Richie Moran, who led the Big Red to three national championships in 29 years at the helm.
Facing huge expectations, Tambroni delivered. The 2009 USILA Coach of the Year brought eight straight Ivy League titles and three Final Four appearances to Ithaca in 10 years.
Having done it successfully before, Tambroni is ready to succeed another prominent coach in Glenn Thiel, and to make his own mark in Happy Valley.
“I think it’s gonna be a process and we’ll certainly have to change some things, starting with the culture of Penn State lacrosse,” Tambroni said. “But I don’t think these kids are that far off. It starts with the attitude and the willingness to change certain things, to invest a little more discipline into the lifestyle of a Penn State student-athlete.”
Though leaving Cornell was admittedly difficult for Tambroni, ultimately the opportunities Penn State offered were too appealing to turn down.
Tambroni’s wife, Michelle, was an All-American field hockey player for the Nittany Lions, and returning to her alma matter to raise their three daughters in State College was a major plus for his family, Tambroni said.
As a lacrosse coach, the chance to turn a program around was a challenge Tambroni wanted to take.
Tambroni takes over a Nittany Lion squad that finished just 2-11 last season, and 1-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association.
And though he knows the challenge he faces in bringing the program to where he feels it can get, Tambroni is confident in his new team and coaching staff.
“There’s no false notion that this will happen over night or that one guy can change everything,” Tambroni said. “It’s gonna be a collective effort from our coaching staff. We’ve got a brand new coaching staff along with our seniors are really going to have to buy into a new philosophy, a new vision about where we see the program right now and where we see the program going.”
Tambroni’s ambition and drive to help his players improve was something that caught the eye of Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley while searching for a new head coach.
A 109-40 overall record at Cornell and three Final Four appearances in the last four years proved to Curley that Tambroni was the right man for the job.
“His track record has been unbelievable and he’s done a super job academically with his student athletes and we just felt he was the top lacrosse coach in the country and wanted to see if we could interest him in the position,” Curley said. “Fortunately, we did.”
Curley isn’t the only one feeling fortunate to have landed a young coach of Tambroni’s caliber.
Tambroni’s new players look forward to the youthfulness and added level of intensity their new coach will bring to the Nittany Lions.
“That’s how you get better at a sport,” sophomore attackman Matt Mackrides said of Tambroni’s hardworking attitude. “You work hard with a coach that pushes you and asks for the best and demands the best like what I think coach Tambroni will do. With that, the sky’s the limit.”
Tambroni is eager to get working with his new team, in a new conference with a new atmosphere and is prepared to bring the Nittany Lions to a new level.
“I think it’s gonna be a one day at a time type of adventure for our staff and for our team but as long as we’re committed and Penn State is committed,” he said. “I think if the will is there and the attitude can change a little bit, the results will then follow.”