Cemented as one of the top coaches in college lacrosse, John Danowski has led the Duke men’s lacrosse team to unprecedented success and himself to the top over the Division I men’s lacrosse wins list. Danowski was introduced as Duke’s eighth head men’s lacrosse coach on July 21, 2006 and quickly led the Blue Devils to some of the most successful lacrosse seasons in school history, which included three NCAA Championships in a five-year span.
In Danowski’s 12 years at the helm of the Blue Devils lacrosse program, he has compiled an impressive 180-55 record in leading Duke to seven ACC regular season titles and four ACC tournament titles, nine appearances in the national semifinals from 2007-14 and 2018, five in the NCAA title match and ultimately to the 2010, 2013 and 2014 national titles. The 2014 NCAA crown put Danowski, a winner of 399 career games, among a small group of nine coaches to win three national titles and among eight to capture consecutive crowns. Meanwhile, Duke’s run of eight straight NCAA semifinals rank as the second most of any program since 2000 with Syracuse. Danowski, with a 399-194 record, owns the most wins among Division I head coaches and will become just the third coach across all three divisions to record 400 career wins. He passed Dom Starsia as the winningest Division I lacrosse history in 2017, garnering his 376th win with a 13-6 victory over Jacksonville.
A winner of nearly 80 percent of his games at Duke, the individual awards Blue Devil players have garnered is equally impressive. In 11 seasons, Danowski mentored 64 All-America selections, 36 All-ACC choices, two Tewaaraton Trophy winners, a pair of USILA Attackman of the Year honorees, a USILA Defenseman of the Year, three USILA Midfielder of the Year award recipients and 21 USILA Scholar All-America picks.
While the success on the field is unsurpassed in Duke lacrosse history, the student-athletes excellence in the classroom also is unrivaled. The Blue Devils consistently lead the ACC in All-ACC Academic picks as well as players on the ACC Academic Honor Roll. In 2018, Duke had 36 players – 77 percent of the team – achieve a 3.0 grade point average for the entire academic year, while Justin Guterding was named the ACC Student-Athlete of the Year and a USILA Scholar All-American.
Duke, after winning consecutive NCAA titles in 2013 and 2014, returned to championship weekend in 2018 where it ultimately fell to Yale in national championship game.
Ranked as the preseason No. 1, Duke came up just short against the first-time champion Bulldogs in a 13-11 setback. The Blue Devils finished the season with a 16-4 overall record, marking the seventh time in program history they have reached the 16-win mark.
Danowski, widely considered one of the best teachers of the game, consistently mentors individual players to great heights and 2018 was no different as Justin Guterding was named a Tewaaraton Award finalist – the seventh Blue Devil under Danowski to earn the distinction – and left his name in the NCAA records book as Division I’s all-time goal scorer with 212. Guterding is only the second player in Division I history to score 200 goals in his career.
Overall in 2018, Duke landed five on the All-America list, including three first-team choices in Guterding, Brad Smith and Cade Van Raaphorst, which ties for the second most in Duke history, and a record-tying five on the All-ACC squad. With Danowski spearheading coaching efforts on offense along with his son, Matt Danowski, the Blue Devils ranked fourth nationally in scoring offense at 13.60 goals per game. And with Danowski’s defensive principles as the base, Duke was one of two teams to have its scoring offense and scoring defense ranked in the top 12.
The 2017 season was a solid one for the Blue Devils as they posted a 13-5 overall record and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals before falling to eventual NCAA runner-up Ohio State. The Blue Devils finished second in the ACC regular season standings. The highlight of 2017 came when Danowski surpassed Dom Starsia as the winningest Division I men’s lacrosse coach, winning his 376th career game. He tied the mark with a thrilling victory over Loyola and passed the record two days later against Jacksonville.
Duke, in 2017, tied a program-high five All-ACC selections with goalkeeper Danny Fowler being the first Blue Devil goaltender to win the honor since 2005.
In 2015 and 2016, the Blue Devils went a combined 23-14 overall and suffering back-to-back NCAA first-round exits for the first time in program history. Despite, not making it to championship weekend in those two seasons, Duke achieved its fair share of success. It advanced to ACC title games in both seasons, collected seven All-America awards, two Tewaaraton Award finalists and two Lt. j.g. Donald MacLaughlin Jr. Awards as the nation’s top midfielder for Myles Jones.
The 2016 season was a roller coaster one for the Blue Devils. Duke posted an 11-8 record, recording great wins and then suffering surprising upsets. Jones captured his second Lt. j.g. Donald MacLaughlin Jr. Award as the nation’s top midfielder and also was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, while Deemer Class captured his second first team All-America honor. The Blue Devils finished 12th in the final Inside Lacrosse poll.
Duke’s 2015 squad was an inexperienced group that finished the year 12-6. Jones headlined the Blue Devils offense with a Duke midfield record 77 points. His efforts earned him hsi first Lt. j.g. Donald MacLaughlin Jr. Award as the nation’s top midfielder. Class and Will Haus also garnered All-America and All-ACC honors as the Blue Devils finished the season ranked eighth in the final Inside Lacrosse poll.
The 2014 campaign was a memorable one as veteran Blue Devils shined and new stars emerged. Senior Jordan Wolf, a first team All-American, headlined Duke’s high-powered offense with fellow attackmen Josh Dionne and Case Matheis. Duke’s newest first midfield line of Class, Jones and Christian Walsh quickly answered any questions about the Blue Devils at the midfield becoming arguably the most dangerous midfield in the country.
Class captured All-America first team honors in his first season as a starter, while Jones was a second-team All-America pick. Returning after a breakout season at the faceoff X, Brendan Fowler was a third team All-America choice, while defenseman Luke Duprey and Chris Hipps both earned their first All-America awards.
The Blue Devils finished 17-3 overall and captured a share of the ACC regular season title en route to winning their third NCAA title in five seasons and second consecutive. Duke defeated Denver in the NCAA semifinals 15-12 to set up a 2010 NCAA title game rematch with Notre Dame. After Duke grabbed a big lead early, Notre Dame rallied to pull within one goal in the fourth quarter. However, after key plays from Duke’s defense, Brendan Fowler at the X and attackmen Kyle Keenan and Wolf, the Blue Devils emerged with the 11-9 victory over the Fighting Irish.
Duke finished 2013 with a 16-5 record and a share of the ACC regular season title after starting the year 2-4 and falling out of the rankings. Under Danowski’s expertise, the Blue Devils righted the ship and won 14 of its final 15 games of the season. The longtime head coach also became the first coach to lead his team to seven consecutive championship weekend appearances in his first seven seasons at the helm after Duke upended Notre Dame, 12-11.
Duke landed seven players on the USILA All-America squads with Fowler and David Lawson leading the way with first team honors. Fowler also garnered the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award after leading the ACC in faceoffs and ground balls, while Lawson and Wolf joined him on the All-ACC squad. It marked the second straight season Duke had won the Defensive Player of the Year honor.
After starting the year 2-4 and with reigning NCAA Champion Loyola and perennial power North Carolina on the horizon, the Blue Devils won nine straight to move back into the top 20. The win streak was stopped by a hot North Carolina team in the ACC Tournament semifinal, but Duke caught fire again in winning the season’s final five games of the year.
The NCAA Tournament started with a thrilling 12-11 double overtime win over 2012 NCAA Champion Loyola. Duke followed that with the one-goal win over the Fighting Irish to advance to Philadelphia for a chance to take home the ultimate prize.
Against Cornell in the semifinals, the Blue Devils opened a big lead in the third quarter and held off a furious comeback by the Big Red for the 16-14 win. Duke found itself playing on Memorial Day for the third time under Danowski against top-seeded Syracuse. After getting off to a slow start against the Orange, Fowler took over at the faceoff X in winning 13 straight draws to spark a 13-2 run that put Duke ahead 13-7. Fowler won 20-of-28 faceoffs overall and was named to NCAA Championship’s Most Outstanding Player. Wolf, Jake Tripucka and Lawson joined Fowler on the All-Tournament Team.
Danowski’s efforts were recognized nationally as he was picked as one of five nominees for the 2013 ESPY Coach of the Year. Duke’s 111 wins since 2007 are the most by any program in that span. In addition, Danowski is just one of five active coaches to have won at least two NCAA titles in his career.
The 2012 campaign was a memorable one for many reasons. The year saw Duke capture its fourth ACC Tournament title in six years, advance to the NCAA semifinal for the sixth consecutive season and Danowski win his third ACC Coach of the Year honor.
The Blue Devils finished the season with a 15-5 record and earned both the ACC regular season and tournament crowns. Despite starting the season 3-3, Duke went 10-1 in the months of March and April to enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed.
Duke upened perennial power Syracuse in the opening round before cruising past Colgate in the quarterfinal to earn a berth in the NCAA semifinals for the ninth time in program history and making Danowski just the second NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse coach in history to advance to championship weekend in each his first six seasons at the helm of a program.
The individual accolades flowed in for the Blue Devils as well in 2012 as CJ Costabile catpured a myriad of ACC and national awards. The long stick midfielder was named the ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Lt. j.g. Donald MacLaughlin Jr. Award as the nation’s top midfielder and became Duke’s first winner of the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. Senior Robert Rotanz etched his name in the Duke records book, becoming the first midfielder in program history to register 40 goals en route to earning USILA All-America first team honors. In addition, Jordan Wolf joined Costabile and Rotanz on the All-ACC team to become the first Duke player to garner All-ACC honors in his first two seasons.
Overall, Duke landed five players on the All-America squads, while Costabile and Rotanz both earned Scholar All-America recognition. Always excelling in the classroom, Duke led the ACC once again with 14 All-ACC Academic selections.
Under the keen eye of Danowski in 2011, the Blue Devils advanced to their fifth straight and seventh overall national semifinals and finished with a 14-6 overall record. Duke captured the ACC regular season title, going 3-0, which included a win over future NCAA Champion Virginia. The Blue Devils defeated Notre Dame, 7-5, to move into the NCAA Semifinal against Maryland.
He was named the ACC Coach of the Year for the second time in his career after capturing the regular season crown. Danowski mentored two All-ACC selections in Costabile and Jordan Wolf, while six Blue Devils captured All-America recognition. Justin Turri earned second team honors and Costabile, Zach Howell and Tom Montelli garnered third team accolades. Wolf and Robert Rotanz both brought in honorable mention nods.
Off the field, Duke once again was the leader in the ACC. The Blue Devils led all squads with 14 players on the All-ACC Academic Team. Overall 27 players were named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll, nearly twice as many as the next closest ACC men’s lacrosse program. Howell and Montelli both were selected as USILA Scholar All-Americans, marking the fifth straight year Duke has had at least one recipient of the award.
In 2010, Danowski and the Blue Devils etched their names in the NCAA record book when they captured the program’s first NCAA Championship with a 6-5 overtime victory over Notre Dame. With the departure of many top players, Duke followed 2010 with a thrilling 2011 season.
The preseason No. 1 pick in 2010, Duke finished with a 16-4 overall record, winning 14 of its final 15 games. Under Danowski’s leadership in the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Devils outscored their opponents 55-32 and outlasted both Virginia and Notre Dame in heart-stopping one-goal victories on championship weekend.
Much as he had done the previous three seasons, Danowski masterfully guided the 2010 squad through the ups and downs of a season and tutored some of the top players in Division I lacrosse. Under his watchful eye, senior attackman Ned Crotty cemented himself as one of the top Blue Devil players in program history en route to winning the 2010 Tewaaraton Trophy, the top prize in college lacrosse, and being selected No. 1 in the Major League Lacrosse draft.
In all, Danowski coached five All-America selections in 2010 with Crotty taking home first team honors for the second straight seasons. The Blue Devils landed three players on the All-ACC squad and five on the NCAA All-Tournament Team under the longtime coach’s tutelage. In the annual Major League Lacrosse draft, Duke set a benchmark with three players going among the top four picks as Crotty went No. 1, Max Quinzani at No. 3 and Parker McKee in the No. 4 spot.
Arguably, one of Danowski’s best coaching performances came in the 2009 season after the departure of the NCAA leading scoring duo of Matt Danowski and Zack Greer. The Blue Devils surprised some as they ran their way to a 15-4 record, an ACC title and a bid to the NCAA Semifinals.
Under the guidance of Danowski, Crotty introduced himself as one of the top attackers in the country as he garnered the USILA’s Attackman of the Year award as well as the ACC Player of the Year honor.
Danowski mentored five All-Americas, two All-ACC honorees as well as the USILA’s pick for attackman of the year in 2009. The squad was also highly successful in the classroom as 12 players earned a place on the All-ACC Academic Team. Twenty-eight players overall achieved a 3.0 grade point average for the 2008-09 academic year to lead all ACC lacrosse programs and Max Quinzani picked up his second career ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-America award.
In 2008, he guided the team to an 18-2 overall record, the ACC regular season and tournament championships and the squad’s second consecutive appearance in the national semifinals. He coached nine All-Americas, including three first-team honorees, the USILA Player of the Year as well as the USILA’s picks for attackman and defenseman of the year.
The Blue Devils achieved an equal amount of success in the classroom under Danowski’s watch as 15 players earned a spot on the ACC All-Academic Team and Quinzani collected ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors. Duke also garnered the ACC Sportsmanship award during the 2008 season.
In his first year at the helm of the Blue Devil program, Danowski guided Duke to the finest season in school history. The Blue Devils went 17-3, captured both the ACC and regular season championships, earned the program’s first number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the national title game.
For his efforts, he was named the ACC Coach of the Year as well as the Person of the Year by US Lacrosse. The 2007 campaign yielded four first team All-America honorees while attackman Matt Danowski was the consensus national player of the year.
A veteran coach entering his 25th season as a collegiate head coach in 2007, Danowski spent 21 campaigns (1986-06) at Hofstra, compiling an overall record of 192-123 (.609) with eight conference championships, eight NCAA Tournament bids and 17 final national rankings among the top 20 teams in the nation.
Danowski’s impact on the Duke program was immediate as the Blue Devils posted a cumulative grade point average of 3.45 in his first semester at the helm. In addition, the team provided over 500 hours of community service during the semester, continuing Danowski’s philosophy of college student-athletes taking advantage of the full experience.
“The coach-player relationship lasts a lifetime - so much more than two hours every afternoon,” said Danowski, the 1993 NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year who led Hofstra to eight conference championships. “It would be a disservice to the young men in the Duke program if we didn’t care about their futures. To take advantage of the opportunity to teach life lessons is a goal of ours.
“I have learned the importance of adapting to the talent you have on the field,” Danowski said. “You can’t put a square peg into a round hole. I am a firm believer in taking what you have and finding the best way to be efficient with that group.”
The 2006 season marked Danowski’s best in a successful tenure at Hofstra as the Pride matched an NCAA single-season record with 17 victories against just two defeats. In addition, Danowski’s squad captured the Colonial Athletic Association championship, finished the regular season ranked number two in the national poll and advanced to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. The 17 wins and .895 winning percentage also set Hofstra single-season team records.
Danowski guided the Pride to East Coast Conference crowns in 1988 and 1989, and he was honored as the NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year in 1993 after leading Hofstra to the national tournament for the first time since 1978. The 1995 and 1996 seasons yielded North Atlantic Conference titles for Hofstra, and Danowski then led the Pride to America East Conference championships in 1997, 1998 and 2000.
Having directed the Pride to a record of 71-16 in regular season conference games with nine league MVPs and 90 all-conference picks, Danowski is the only lacrosse coach in Hofstra history to win an NCAA Tournament game (4-8 record), including a 2001 first round contest in which the Pride rallied from an 11-7 deficit with seven goals in the fourth quarter against Virginia en route to a 15-14 overtime win over the Cavaliers. Hofstra’s first tourney win was in come-from-behind fashion as well as the Pride outscored Massachusetts 6-3 in the second half for a 9-8 victory in 1993.
The Danowski Era at Hofstra produced 34 USILA All-America selections including first team choices Brian Spallina (2000), Doug Shanahan (2001), Nicky Polanco (2002), Brett Moyer (2006) and Chris Unterstein (2006). In addition, Shanahan was the recipient of the Tewaraaton Trophy as the nation’s top player in 2001. As well, Hofstra has sent 30 players to the annual North-South All-Star Game since 1986, with Shanahan (2001) and Moyer (2006) earning game MVP honors. Former Hofstra standout Blake Miller, a member of the 1998 United States squad that captured the world title and the 2004 MLL Offensive Player of the Year, Polanco and Shanahan are currently playing for the United States squad at the International Lacrosse Federation World Championships in Ontario, Canada. Polanco is a two-time MLL Defensive Player of the Year (2004 & 2005) while Shanahan was the MVP of the 2002 ILF World Championships in Perth, Australia.
Prior to his stint at Hofstra, Danowski spent three seasons as the head coach at Long Island University-C.W. Post, helping the Pioneers to a 27-16 (.628) ledger from 1983-85. He received his start in coaching in 1982 as an assistant coach at LIU-C.W. Post in 1982.
With four conference coach of the year awards to his credit, Danowski was inducted into the Long Island Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2001. He is a three-time winner of the Joseph “Frenchy” Julien Sportsmanship Award (1988, 1989 & 1994) presented by the Metropolitan New York Officials Association and received the James Adams Sportsmanship Award from the National Intercollegiate Lacrosse Officials Association in 1994.
A 1976 graduate of Rutgers University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science/education, Danowski was a four-year letterman in lacrosse and continues to hold several Scarlet Knight records. He established school single-game records for assists (13 vs. Penn State, 1973) and total points (14 vs. Penn State, 1974) and a single-season standard for assists with 54 in 1973. He currently ranks second on Rutgers’ all-time list for assists (120) and is eighth in total points (177). Danowski, who helped the Scarlet Knights to NCAA Tournament appearances in 1973 and 1974, was a three-time recipient of the program’s Sasser Award, an honor presented annually to the team’s leader in assists. Born March 12, 1954 in Bronxville, N.Y., Danowski went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling/college student development from LIU-C.W. Post in 1978.
Danowski’s father, Ed, was an All-America halfback on the gridiron at Fordham in 1932 and 1933 who later starred for the New York Giants in the National Football League. The elder Danowski led the NFL in passing in 1935 and 1938, earning All-NFL honors in both of those seasons, and guided the Giants to league championships in 1934 and 1938. He later served as the head football coach at his alma mater from 1946-54.
Danowski and his wife, Patricia, have two children, Kate, a former lacrosse letterwinner and 2005 graduate of Quinnipiac University, and Matt, a 2008 Duke graduate and former captain of the lacrosse program.