Don Zimmerman has coached the game of lacrosse since 1977 having achieved the highest degree of success both on the collegiate and world stages. Despite having 30 years of experience, Coach Zimmerman maintained his level of exuberance when his 2006 UMBC squad produced an undefeated league season, won the America East title and returned to the NCAA Tournament.
Just for an encore, the Retriever mentor and his 2007 team went one step further, reaching the NCAA quarterfinals, thus becoming UMBC’s first team to advance in NCAA tournament play.
“We’ve been doing the right things over the course of the years,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve been blessed to have good assistants come in and contribute to that. You just have to keep plugging away and have the support from the university. Everything that is necessary to build a program we’ve had at UMBC and that is why we have seen the steady growth and improvement.”
It is hard to believe, but Don Zimmerman enters his 22nd season as a collegiate head lacrosse coach. Widely recognized as one of this nation’s premier teachers of the sport of lacrosse, Coach Zimmerman traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to assist in the development of the game in the South American country in December of 2004. It was not Coach Zimmerman’s first venture in the international development of the sport—in fact, the Retriever mentor has taught the game on four different continents. He has spent time in Great Britain and Japan, and UMBC has hosted Keio University in fall competition in 2002, 2004 and 2006. The Retrievers travelled to Japan in the summer of 2005.
“The game of lacrosse is the best game out there and I would love to see it played in the Olympics,” said Coach Zimmerman. “It’s incumbent upon us to introduce and develop the game when opportunities occur in order to reach that goal.”
For over two decades he has taught the game to All Americans and beginners with the same basic principles. On January 25, 2002, Coach Zimmerman was honored with induction into the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the United States Lacrosse Hall of Fame. UMBC standout defenseman Gary Clipp ('77) joined him as an inductee in a gala affair at Martin's West in Baltimore.
"My coaching philosophy has always focused on teaching the fundamentals - the little things that make the big difference. Lacrosse is a game of skill and precision, best played when using a simple, basic approach," said Coach Zimmerman.
In the spring of 1993, 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 No. 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 No. 9 Georgetown. Then, on May 2, 1998, UMBC shocked everyone in the lacrosse world except themselves when they scored a 12-8 victory over No. 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. In 2003, UMBC took the second biggest leap in the lacrosse power rankings, from 29th to 13th. In its second America East Conference season in 2005, UMBC captured the regular season title by defeating Albany on its home field. In 2006, the Retrievers captured their first America East Tournament and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Coach Zimmerman earned his 11th trip to the tournament, as UMBC recorded its best -ever season in the sport of men’s lacrosse.
“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 1991-93.
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, Zimmerman played under the late Henry Ciccarone, 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.
"Coaching lacrosse at UMBC is both challenging and rewarding; having the opportunity to work with quality young men with a unified goal of competing for a national championship and playing lacrosse in Baltimore -the cradle of the sport - is something special."
Zimmerman also served as an assistant coach of the United States team in the 1986 World Games and was a coach for the South squad for the 2002 North-South All Star game. Zimmerman and his wife Dorothy reside in Towson. The Zimmermans have two children, Emily, 27, and Jake, 18.
The Zimmerman File
Career Record: 174-106 (.621)
at UMBC: 101-90 (.529)
Year Record School Postseason Accomplishments
1984 14-0 JHU NCAA Champions
1985 13-1 JHU NCAA Champions
1986 10-2 JHU NCAA Tournament appearance
1987 10-3 JHU NCAA Champions
1988 9-2 JHU NCAA Tournament appearance
1989 11-2 JHU NCAA Tournament appearance
1990 6-5 JHU NCAA Tournament appearance
1994 7-7 UMBC
1995 4-9 UMBC
1996 3-9 UMBC
1997 9-3 UMBC
1998 9-5 UMBC NCAA Tournament appearance
1999 11-4 UMBC NCAA Tournament appearance
2000 7-7 UMBC
2001 5-7 UMBC
2002 5-7 UMBC
2003 7-6 UMBC
2004 6-8 UMBC
2005 7-8 UMBC
2006 10-5 UMBC AEC Champions/NCAA Tournament
2007 11-6 UMBC NCAA Tournament appearance
Career 174-106 (.621)
1976 - All-American, Johns Hopkins University
1981 - NCAA Champions, North Carolina, Assistant Coach
1982 - NCAA Champions, North Carolina, Assistant Coach
1984 - NCAA Champions, Johns Hopkins University, Head Coach
1985 - NCAA Champions, Johns Hopkins University, Head Coach
1986 - United States World Games, Assistant Coach
1987 - NCAA Champions, Johns Hopkins University, Head Coach
2002 - North-South All-Star Classic, Assistant Coach
2003 - Inducted into Greater Baltimore Chapter of United States
Lacrosse Hall of Fame
-11 NCAA Tourament appearances
-35 All-Americans produced as a head coach