1993 will go down as a very significant year in the history of UMBC Lacrosse. The season itself was unspectacular, as the Retrievers finished at 6-8. However, later that spring, UMBC changed the complexion of its lacrosse program when they appointed Don Zimmerman as their head coach.
Success did not happen overnight. After a 7-7 campaign in 1994, UMBC struggled to records of 4-9 and 3-9 the next two seasons. But even then, the program was changing. A position was created for a full-time assistant coach in 1996, and UMBC recruited a trio of players from The Boys' Latin School that formed the nucleus of an evolving team.
Then, in 1997, UMBC was the most improved team (record-wise) in the country, finishing at 9-3 and posting its highest final season USILA ranking of #16. The 1998 season opened with tough losses to Navy and Towson, but a now more experienced team rebounded by winning eight of the next ten games, including a victory over #9 Georgetown. Then, on May 2, 1998, UMBC shocked everyone in the lacrosse world except themselves when they scored a 12-8 victory over #1 Maryland. The victory propelled UMBC into its first ever NCAA Division I Championship appearance and made the hard work of Coach Zimmerman and his staff worth the wait.
The 1999 Retrievers proved the previous year was no fluke, as wins over Navy, North Carolina, and Maryland once again landed UMBC in the NCAA Tournament.
"Our goal has always been to get ourselves to the same level as the other top teams in the country. "What we're doing in lacrosse runs parallel to what we're doing as a university. We feel we have an outstanding product at UMBC and we want people to know that."
Zimmerman's entire playing and coaching career has been based on winning. He was the first lacrosse coach to win a national title in his initial season, taking Johns Hopkins (14-0) to the top in 1984. He coached the Blue Jays to another pair of championships in 1985 and 1987 and chalked up 73 wins against only 15 losses in his seven years at Homewood. After leaving JHU after the 1990 season, Zimmerman served as an assistant coach at Loyola College from 91-93.
Despite all of his success, Zimmerman's approach to the game is not complex. "I believe lacrosse is a simple game," said Zimmerman. "Teams that are well-conditioned, understand the fundamentals, and execute them are the most successful."
Coach Zimmerman prepped at St. Paul's School, where he was a member of three M.S.A. A Conference championship teams. A 1976 graduate of Johns Hopkins, where he played under the late Henry Ciccarone, he received Honorable Mention All-America recognition, and was awarded the Turnbull-Reynolds Award for Sportsmanship and Leadership in 1976. In his first season after graduation, Zimmerman was named coach of the Hopkins B squad. After spending a year as assistant coach at Princeton in 1978, he joined Willie Scroggs' staff at North Carolina. The Tar Heels won a pair of national titles (1981, 1982) in Zimmerman's four years in Chapel Hill. He then returned to his alma mater the following year, and when Coach Ciccarone retired after the 1983 season, Zimmerman became head coach.
Zimmerman also served as an assistant coach of the United States team in the 1986 World Games.
Zimmerman and his wife Dorothy reside in Towson, with their 20-year old daughter Emily, and 11-year old son, Jake.
The Retriever mentor is certainly pleased with the standard of excellence that the team has achieved, but does not want them to be satisfied. "The reality is that there are a lot of talented lacrosse teams out there. We have to maintain and even raise our level of play and that's not easy. As long as we understand what got us to where we are and continue to improve on that, I think we'll be successful."
The Zimmerman File
NINTH YEAR AT UMBC 16TH SEASON OVERALL
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, 1976 HONORS 1976, All American, Johns Hopkins 1981, 1982, National Champions, Asst. Coach, North Carolina 1984, 1985, 1987 National Champions, Head Coach Johns Hopkins 9 NCAA Tournament Appearances and 29 All Americans produced as Head Coach ZIMMERMAN YEAR-BY-YEAR 1984* 14-0 JHU 1985* 13-1 JHU 1986 10-2 JHU 1987* 10-3 JHU 1988 9-2 JHU 1989 11-2 JHU 1990 6-5 JHU 1994 7-7 UMBC 1995 4-9 UMBC 1996 3-9 UMBC 1997 9-3 UMBC 1998 9-5 UMBC 1999 11-4 UMBC 2000 7-7 UMBC 2001 5-7 UMBC TOTALS 128-66 AT UMBC 55-51 *NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP LANDMARK VICTORIES #1 March 10, 1984 v. UMBC (10-8) #50 March 26, 1988 v. Princeton (9-0) #100 Apr. 4, 1998 v. Georgetown(12-11) #1 at UMBC Mar,6,1994 vs. Michigan St(12-5) #50 at UMBC Apr. 29, 2000 v. Stony Brook (15-3)