Dartmouth lacrosse hires Joe Conner to fix offensive woes

by Jake Philhower | 7/6/18 2:00am


The Big Green hired Joe Conner Jr. from Bucknell University to serve as associate head coach and offensive coordinator.

Last season, men’s lacrosse had a disappointing campaign, finishing with a 2-11 record and zero wins in Ivy League play or on the road. The team struggled especially with offensive efficiency, scoring only 90 goals throughout the entire season, by far the lowest amongst Ivy League teams. The University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, tied for next fewest goals in the conference, scored 141 goals each. Consequently, the Big Green sported the lowest shot percentage in the Ivy League at 26.4 percent, while averaging a 6.2 goal loss per game. To address the team’s issues with offensive production, Dartmouth hired Joe Conner Jr. to serve as associate head coach and offensive coordinator.

A 2007 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s College, where he played his senior season as an attacker, Conner is an offensive specialist who has coached the last nine years at Bucknell University. Conner spent seven of those years as the top assistant coach and the last two as the associate head coach, and Conner helped mold the Bucknell Bison into an offensive-minded machine. According to analyticslacrosse.com, Conner’s team was ranked third in the nation in raw offensive efficiency in 2018, trailing only Cornell University and powerhouse Duke University. To put Conner’s success at Bucknell into perspective, the Big Green were ranked 61st in raw offensive efficiency out of the 71 Division 1 NCAA lacrosse teams.

“Offensive efficiency has been a big priority in my coaching,” Conner said. “At Bucknell, we have consistently been in the top five nationally in fewest turnovers and have typically had one of the higher shooting percentages in the nation, which has made us, from an efficiency standpoint and a raw offensive standpoint, one of the higher rated offenses in the country.”

Conner’s move from Bucknell will open the door for the Big Green to take a new look at offense. Rather than playing a high-tempo offense that largely relies on man-up scoring, Conner believes the Big Green can greatly benefit from taking pride in controlling the ball and being able to consistently score in six on six, half-field situations.

“In order to have success on the field, what needs to be improved is the turnover ratio,” Conner said. “The possession to turnover ratio has been far too high, and that needs to be limited. Having more possessions end in quality shots rather than unforced turnovers is the biggest key to flipping the offensive efficiency ratio.”

According to midfielder Chris Bacotti ’20, the team is excited about Conner’s vision for a remodeled offense.

“I believe that he has a very good understanding of how an offense should be run and what it takes in order to be successful,” Bacotti said. “His style of coaching and his offensive strategies will be very beneficial to the team, and I know he will be a strong asset for Dartmouth.”

Though his strategy mostly focuses on improving the Big Green’s attack, Conner noted how important ball control and offensive efficiency are to improving the performance of every player on the field, including the defensemen.

“Lacrosse is similar to football in that, rather than throwing the 80-yard bomb, sometimes it’s better to get first down after first down, chew up the clock and control the game,” Conner said. “It allows for your defense to have a lot of energy when they play because they’re not worn out and overused. Therefore, they’ll be able to be more aggressive and create more turnovers to get the ball back.”

Conner also noted a desire to perpetuate a growing focus on player development and high energy preparation amongst the players. According to Bacotti, the team was very upset about how 2018 regular season campaign played out and has been very focused on improvement since the season’s end.

“Since the conclusion of the 2018 season, there has been nothing but a clear indication that the team has a passion and drive for success,” Bacotti said. “The team has been incredibly accountable ... the team is ready for a positive change, and we are doing whatever it takes in order for us to accomplish our team’s goals.”

Bacotti and his teammates all echo a similar message, one that preaches individual and team development, as well as a sense of purpose and responsibility on and off the field.

“Player development has been a point of emphasis for us going into this offseason, and will continue to be moving forward,” midfielder Liam O’Connell ’20 said.

Not only does Conner want to resolve the Big Green’s offensive struggles, he is also very passionate about academics. Conner mentioned academic excellence as one reason his family is so excited about joining the Dartmouth community.

“Because of our value of education as a family, we could not be more excited to join a community like Dartmouth College,” Conner said. “It’s quite exciting to be able to work with some of the brightest minds in the country.”