When Michael Phipps was previously on the Navy men’s lacrosse coaching staff, he didn’t have a title. The longtime Annapolis resident was merely an assistant under head coach Rick Sowell, working primarily with offense but not having full control.
Phipps left the academy to earn a title and the valuable experience that comes with it. Georgetown head coach Kevin Warne hired Phipps as his offensive coordinator and allowed him to learn on the job.
“I grew a ton while I was in Georgetown,” Phipps said. “Coach Warne took a chance allowing me to lead the attack and always supported me through the good and the bad, the ups and downs.”
Phipps has consistently made Georgetown’s offense one of the most prolific in Division I. The Hoyas have consistently placed in the top 10 nationally in many offensive categories, while averaging more than 14 goals per game over the past four seasons.
Along the way, Warne promoted Phipps to associate head coach in recognition of his contribution to the success of the program.
Five years after leaving as a coach, Phipps returns to the Navy, this time holding the title of offensive coordinator. Fourth-year head coach Joe Amplo had an impressive list of candidates to choose from and said Phipps stood out for several reasons.
After Amplo was hired to the Navy in June 2019, he considered Phipps for the position of offensive coordinator. Both men agreed that the timing was not right and Amplo hired Brad Ross, who left the Navy to become head coach at Bryant.
“I met Michael when I first joined the Navy, and he just wasn’t ready yet. Michael wanted to prove himself in Georgetown,” Amplo said. one eye on Michael and I know he played a big part in putting Georgetown on the trajectory that it is now.”
Georgetown became a regular Top 10 program and an NCAA Tournament contender. The Hoyas tied a program record with 13 wins and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament in 2021, then went 15-1 and were ranked No. 2 nationally after winning the conference tournament Big East in 2022.
“Georgetown turned this from a good program into a great program and Kevin will tell you that Michael was pivotal,” Amplo said. “Michael has proven himself as an offensive innovator, strategic scout and master of player development.”
Some would say that Phipps was fortunate to work with talented players such as All-Americans Daniel Bucaro, Jake Carraway and Graham Bundy Jr. Amplo points out that Phipps was responsible for their improvement.
“Jake Carraway was just a point shooter when he came to Georgetown and Michael turned him into a very dynamic forward,” Amplo said of the former St. Mary’s High standout who plays now in the Premier Lacrosse League.
Amplo was particularly impressed that Georgetown increased its goals-per-game average last season despite losing Carraway and several other offensive starters. Phipps plugged in Dylan Watson and TJ Haley on offense and they led the Hoyas in goals and assists respectively.
“Dylan Watson was a decent left-handed forward who was given a bigger role and became an All-American. TJ Haley was a freshman who became the team’s point guard because Michael put in the right places and gave him the confidence to carry out the attack,” Amplo said.
“Michael knows how to maximize and make the best use of available talent.”
Amplo noted that the key to success in college lacrosse is crafting goals outside of the traditional half-court set. The Navy needs to score more goals in volatile or transitional situations, Ampo said.
“Michael found ways for Georgetown to play fast in a disciplined fashion. They scored goals in so many different ways,” Amplo said, adding that Phipps will be given “full autonomy” to direct the attack as he sees fit. “Michael knows how to score goals in those gray areas of the game.”
Phipps has no preconceived notions about the type of offense he will employ in the Navy and said it would be wrong to draw comparisons to the schemes he used at Georgetown.
Although the Severn School graduate had a basic attacking philosophy, he made yearly adjustments to the playbook to take advantage of available personnel.
“I’m going to get to know the Navy players on a personal level, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and then go from there,” he said. “We’re going to put together an attack that takes advantage of the skills of the players we have.”
Phipps watched Navy beat Johns Hopkins last season and since being hired, he’s reviewed a considerable amount of tape. He is impressed with the array of attacking talent led by USA midfielder Patrick Skalniak leading the way.
Other productive players returning to the attacking side include starting striker Henry Tolker, substitute striker Jon Jarosz (Severn School) as well as frontline midfielders Dane Swanson and Max Hewitt.
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“I think the Navy has outstanding offensive players,” Phipps said. “There is definitely talent there. It all depends on how we want to use it and how quickly we can develop a certain chemistry.
It was a tough call for Phipps because he was so heavily invested in Georgetown lacrosse and had such a close relationship with Warne. To add to the intrigue, Amplo and Warne are best friends, having played lacrosse together at Hofstra.
“It’s probably the hardest decision I’ve had to make career-wise. It was because of what we had in Georgetown and all the relationships I made there,” Phipps said. “There was only one job I would leave Georgetown for and that was it. I know and love Navy.
Three generations of Phipps men have served in Navy Lacrosse. Louis “Buster” Phipps was a Navy aide during the glory years under legendary head coach Willis Bilderback, serving from 1959 to 1972.
Michael Phipps grew up hearing about the “decade of dominance” and Hall of Fame players such as Jimmy Lewis and Carl Tamulevich from his grandfather. Wilson Phipps, Michael’s father, worked under head coach Bryan Matthews from 1981 to 1985.
Amplo cited that family heritage, admitting he “got chills” the day he brought Michael Phipps to the Navy Lacrosse Office and officially offered him the job.
“When you talk to Michael, you can just feel how much he loves this institution. For me, this passion for the Naval Academy is the most important factor,” Amplo said.