The 2016 season will mark Jason Miller’s tenth year as head coach of the St. John’s lacrosse program. Miller leads a team that looks to benefit from another year of on-field game experience after going through a transition period in 2015. Last year’s squad returned only three starters from the 2014 roster as the team went 3-11 (1-4 BIG EAST) in one of the most challenging schedules in program history.
Since Miller's arrival in Queens in 2007, six St. John's players have been selected in the Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft and his student-athletes have garnered such distinctions as Tewaaraton National Player of the Year nominee, USILA All-America and All-BIG EAST first team selection, NCAA statistical champion, BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year and BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award winner.
In recent years, Miller has helped St. John’s climb to national relevance while posting record-breaking campaigns in 2012 and 2013. The 2013 campaign was the most successful year in program history as St. John’s finished 9-4 (3-3 BIG EAST), posting the most wins since program reinstatement in 2005 and the second-most ever for a lacrosse team in University history.
Having coached nine full seasons for St. John's, Miller is now tied with Villanova's Michael Corrado as the longest tenured coaches in the BIG EAST Conference.
The 2015 campaign welcomed one promotion and one new addition to Miller’s coaching staff. In September, Coach Miller announced the addition of former Lafayette College head coach and 2010 Patriot League Coach of the Year Terry Mangan to his staff as an assistant coach. Mangan brought more than 20 years of collegiate coaching experience to the St. John’s sidelines, including 10 years as a Division I head coach at Lafayette College. Mangan also spent 10 years as a college assistant coach, as well as coaching at the high school and junior high school levels. Just a few months later, in November, the Johnnies saw the promotion of top assistant coach Dan Paccione to the position of associate head coach of the Red Storm program. Paccione, who arrived in Queens along with Coach Miller in 2009, was previously the third-longest tenured assistant coach in the St. John’s Athletic Department. While serving as St. John’s offensive coordinator and recruiting director for the past eight years, Paccione has been instrumental in returning the Red Storm lacrosse team to national relevance following program reinstatement in 2005.
Despite facing one of the toughest schedules in program history, Coach Miller and his staff managed to employ a balanced and successful attack. Seven different players netted at least one goal in three games last season and 11 players recorded the first points of their St. John’s careers in 2015. The balanced Red Storm attack was led primarily by two Johnnies, Stefan Diachenko and Eric DeJohn, who both garnered All-BIG EAST selections after combining for a total of 110 points.
Coach Miller's eldest son, Liam, congratulates Red Storm players on a home victory during the 2014 season.
The Red Storm enjoyed a season of firsts in 2014 while finishing with a 7-7 overall record and 3-3 BIG EAST mark. Miller's squad defeated Long Island rivals Hofstra and Stony Brook four days apart, marking the first time in school history that St. John's defeated both opponents in the same season. The Red Storm ended the season with an RPI of 27, second-highest in the conference.
The 2014 campaign also marked the culmination of the most successful four-year span in the Red Storm lacrosse era, with Miller's 11-member senior class graduating with 28 wins to their names, the most since program reinstatement in 2005. Most notably, senior attackman Kieran McArdle ended a storied career with a record-breaking campaign which saw him named a Tewaaraton National Player of the Year nominee and USILA All-America second team pick for the second-consecutive year. Under the tutelage of Dan Paccione, the Red Storm's offensive coordinator, McArdle repeated as BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year and conference "Triple Crown" winner as he led the league in points (5.71), goals (2.86) and assists (2.86) per game. McArdle scored a single-season program-record 40 goals in 2014 and ended the year as St. John's all-time leader in career points, goals and assists as well as the first player in program history to record 200 goals, 100 assists and 100 goals in a career. In August 2014, after being drafted fifth overall in the 2014 Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft by the Florida Launch, McArdle was named MLL's 2014 Cascade Rookie of the Year.
Also earning individual acclaim in 2014 were senior attackmen Kevin Cernuto and Ryan Fitzgerald as well as junior defenseman Mark DiFrangia, who were selected second team All-BIG EAST. Cernuto scored seven hat tricks in 2014 and finished the season with 110 career goals, second most in St. John's history, while Fitzgerald marked his final season by recording career highs in points (33) and goals (22). DiFrangia ranked second in the BIG EAST and 10th nationally in caused turnovers per game at 1.86. In all, five different Red Storm players were recognized by the BIG EAST with weekly awards in 2014 and seniors McArdle, Cernuto and Fitzgerald were selected to play in the annual DI/DII North-South All-Star game.
Coach Miller on the sidelines during the 2014 season.
Coach Miller has overseen a program in recent years that has excelled academically in addition to its athletic successes. In both 2013 and 2012, the BIG EAST Conference recognized the St. John's lacrosse team with a Team Academic Excellence Award, given yearly to the team that posts the highest collective grade-point average in its respective conference sport. During that two-year span, the team's cumulative 3.13 (2013) and 3.14 (2012) GPA ranked the highest of all seven BIG EAST member schools. The Red Storm also placed 28 student-athletes on the BIG EAST All-Academic Team for 2013-14, the most by any team at St. John's, after having 18 selections in 2012-13. In 2013, senior goalie and all-time program saves leader Jeff Lowman was one of 24 recipients of the 2012-13 BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Awards, which are given to one student-athlete in each BIG EAST-sponsored sport based on academic credentials, athletic accolades or performances and volunteer service to the community.
The Red Storm rose to as high as No. 14/10 in the national polls during a historic 2013 campaign and on March 30 shocked the college lacrosse world by claiming a 12-10 victory over No. 1 ranked Notre Dame at the Irish's own Arlotta Stadium. That win would be one of three against ranked opponents on the year, as St. John's would play the role of "giant killers" throughout the season by also downing No. 7/6 Hofstra on March 19 and claiming an early season victory over No. 17/20 Yale on Feb. 23. The win over the Fighting Irish overtook the 8-7 victory over then-No. 2 Notre Dame in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals on May 3, 2012 at Vilanova Stadium for the highest victory over a ranked team in St. John's history.
Thriving under Miller and Paccione's guidance in 2013 were a quartet of all-BIG EAST selections, including unanimous first-team picks McArdle and Cernuto, and second-team selections Lowman and LSM Dillon Ayers. McArdle (6.54, 2nd NCAA) and Cernuto (3.69) finished as the league's top two goal scorers, with the former becoming the first St. John's player to be named BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year and a United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) second team All-American, at the time the highest individual honor ever bestowed on a lacrosse player in school history. McArdle also finished as the national assist leader (3.77) as part of an 85-point junior campaign. A long stick midfielder and the Red Storm's captain, Ayers totaled 50 groundballs in his final season to bring his career total to 220 in moving up to seventh on St. John's all-time list. Lowman finished the 2013 regular season with a 9-2 record, which was the highest winning percentage of any goalie with at least two starts in the BIG EAST.
The 2012 season was also a memorable one for Miller and the Red Storm. St. John's finished 8-7 (3-3 BIG EAST) and advanced to the inaugural BIG EAST Championship against three-time conference champion Syracuse, defeating then-No. 2 and eventual national semifinalist Notre Dame in the semifinals two days prior in a nationally televised game on ESPNU. At the time, the eight wins in 2012 was the highest total for the Red Storm since the program was reinstated in 2005. The Red Storm also finished the 2012 campaign ranked No. 20 in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll marking the first time in program history that St. John's concluded the season ranked inside the top-20.
In 2011, Miller led the Red Storm lacrosse team through a rigorous BIG EAST and non-conference schedule. St. John's took on six ranked programs during the year, which included eventual NCAA tournament quarterfinalists Syracuse and Notre Dame. The season was highlighted by a thrilling 9-8 victory over local BIG EAST rival Rutgers at the Konica Minolta Big City Classic held at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
The 2010 season marked the Red Storm's first in the newly formed BIG EAST lacrosse conference. St. John's faced a challenging schedule that featured four NCAA tournament teams and the national runner-up in Notre Dame. The Red Storm defeated Rutgers for the team's first BIG EAST victory and senior Gavin Buckley was named one of 10 national finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.
Coach Miller speaking to ESPNU following the victory over then-No. 2 Notre Dame in the 2012 BIG EAST semifinals.
Miller came to St. John's after spending three seasons as the top assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts lacrosse program. While on the sidelines for the Minutemen, he worked with the defense and face-off units, helping lead the team to its first ever NCAA national title game in 2006. During the NCAA semifinal contest, the UMass defense held Maryland, one of the nation's strongest offensive teams, to just five goals. The Minutemen's road to the national championship game was arguably the toughest in the history of the tournament, as Massachusetts defeated No. 2 Hofstra, No. 3 Cornell and No. 4 Maryland before facing No. 1 Virginia in the final, as an unseeded contender.
Under the tutelage of Miller, two Minutemen earned All-America honors, including Jack Reid, who was a finalist for the Schmeisser Award as the nation's top defenseman. Reid was a first round pick in the Major League Lacrosse Draft in June 2006. He was also the first first team All-America defenseman in UMass history.
Prior to his time at Massachusetts, Miller coached at the United States Military Academy from 2000-03, where he helped lead the Black Knights to a 24-20 record in three seasons. During that stretch, Army won two Patriot League titles and earned a NCAA Tournament berth in 2003 for the first time since 1997. Miller learned under one of the best mentors in the collegiate game's history as he assisted National Lacrosse Hall of Famer, Jack Emmer, the NCAA's all-time win leader with 326 career victories.
Before Army, Miller spent one season as an assistant coach at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where the Tigers advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2000 NCAA Division III tournament.
From 1997-99, Miller served as a graduate assistant at Springfield College in Massachusetts while earning his masters degree in education with a concentration in athletic administration. In 1998, Springfield captured the ECAC Division III championship.
Miller spent the first two years of his coaching career at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., from 1995-97.
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Miller played defense on the Springfield College lacrosse team and graduated in 1993 with a degree in sports management.
Miller and his entire family have made a commitment to education. His father, Richard, served as the President of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., and his mother, Barbara, is a former English teacher. Miller’s wife, Mary, has been a school teacher on Long Island and in Massachusetts. The couple lives in Rockville Centre, N.Y. and has three children, son Liam (9), daughter Maggie (8) and daughter Catherine (4).