Over the past four years, Jake Coon has transformed the RIT men’s lacrosse program into a perennial national powerhouse. Sixty-eight wins, a trip to the 2013 NCAA Division III National Championship Game and the current No. 1 ranking is proof of that. But it’s Coon’s no-nonsense mentality and work ethic that has the lasting impact.
“Coach Coon has had a hand in shaping the man I am today,” said Chris Cherami ’10 (graphic design), who played for Coon in 2010 and works on the design team for Pro Athletics, a uniform and apparel company specializing in lacrosse wear, with former teammate Jerry Ragonese ’10 (advertising and photography). “If you want something, you have to work hard for it. You do what you have to do until the job is done right. That’s how he coached, that’s how his players played, and now that’s how I work.”
Coon, a two-time National Division III Coach of the Year, has coached 21 All-Americans and 43 All-Conference selections, leading the Tigers to a 69-13 record. Among his former players is 2011 United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) honorable mention All-American goalie Bob Tonnessen ’11 (marketing) who still recalls the lessons Coon imparted to him during his two years on the squad.
“Coach showed me how to take success and failure and act like you’ve been there before,” said Tonnessen, an associate director for GE Capital Real Estate. “He always told us to strive for greatness and consistency. I still find myself thinking back to when Coach Coon would push us harder to get us over the hurdle.”
Coon, a native of Homer, N.Y., was a four-time All-American goalie at Nazareth College where he led the Golden Flyers to the 1997 National Championship and was a two-time Division III Goalie of the Year. He was taught at an early age about the benefits of hard work.
“We didn’t have a lot growing up, so everything we had was earned through hard work,” said Coon. “At Nazareth, Coach (Scott) Nelson worked our tails off in practice every day trying to make us better. We try to instill that in our players here, that ‘put your hard hat on,’ blue- collar mentality.”
After his playing days, Coon worked as an assistant coach at his alma mater from 2000 to 2005 and then at University of Massachusetts-Amherst from 2005 to 2009, where he further developed his coaching philosophy.
“Coach Randall (Nazareth) and Coach Cannella (Massachusetts) reinforced that ‘hard-hat’ mentality,” said Coon. “They were both no-nonsense hard-working coaches who believed you had to earn it every single day.”
Executive Director of Athletics Lou Spiotti Jr. has seen firsthand the impact that Coon has had on his players and the athletics department as a whole.
“Jake has brought our men’s lacrosse program to new heights of success,” said Spiotti. “What really separates Jake from the rest is his commitment to the development of the whole student- athlete. He is committed to his players’ development as responsible young men. Our men’s lacrosse players are as engaged in campus life and in the community as any one group at RIT.”