New Elon women’s lacrosse coach ready for challenge of starting program

Former Duke associate head women's lacrosse coach Josh Hexter (left) works with then-Duke senior midfielder Lindsay Gilbride. Hexter was named Elon's head coach May 1. Photo courtesy of Duke Photography.

Elon University hired Josh Hexter as the head coach for the Phoenix’s women’s lacrosse team that will start play in 2014. Hexter has been the associate head coach of the Duke University women’s lacrosse program since 2010 and has been on staff for the Blue Devils since the 2005 season. During his time at Duke, the program has averaged nearly 16 wins a season and won three Atlantic Coast Conference regular season championships and an ACC Tournament title. He was also the head women’s lacrosse coach at Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Mass., from 1998-2004.

How did you get involved in lacrosse?

I started playing in high school. I grew up playing baseball because we didn’t have youth lacrosse in Cape Cod at that time. When I got to high school, the lacrosse coach convinced me to quite baseball to move over to lacrosse. And I did and I loved it.

Talk about how you got involved in coaching.

I grew up in a coaching household. My father was a wrestling and football coach, a National Wrestling coach of the year. My stepfather was, and still is, a basketball coach. So I grew up in that environment. Instead of watching cartoons, I watched game film. And while I didn’t think I would be doing that after graduation, it was something that was in my blood and that I was ready to do. I went to school to become a high school English teacher. Everything that I really loved about teaching really drew me to coaching.

Talk about your time at Duke and the success the team had there.

I was really fortunate to be asked to come down and coach at Duke. I was blessed with coming into having great players on offense and defense. It was not difficult. There was already a successful platform and place. So it wasn’t very difficult to take that to the next level. (Duke head women’s lacrosse coach) Kerstin (Kimel) had brought them to the next level. It was fun to work with them and bring a little offensive flair to what they already had.

Talk about the process in which you came to Elon.

Kerstin Kimel, my boss, let me know, ‘Hey Josh, Elon’s open.” I had been looking around the last few years and nothing had fit. I sent in my resume. I spoke with (Elon athletic director) Dave Blank (on the phone) for an hour, then set up an interview. I took my wife and kids on campus for a day. Immediately, all of us were like, “Oh, this is so great!” It’s a beautiful campus. There’s not a place quite like it. When we stepped on campus, (my wife and I) thought we could be here and build a championship lacrosse team. We had the interview three days later and here we are. It all happened pretty quickly as far as things go.

What will be the most challenging thing in starting a program?

The challenge is going to be (that) we’re a little late in the recruiting c=procese. It’s so early now that a lot of kids in this class of 2013. The challenge is going to be recruiting the kind of player and the kind of person that is going to fit the kind of program that we want to build at Elon. There’s such a short period of time to get to know the kids in the 2013 class. There’s this summer and that’s it, kids are going to start committing if they haven’t already. That’s the challenge, to get to know these kids and bring them down to campus and build the foundation. The first couple of classes are so important because they’re going to be the foundation of Elon lacrosse. They’re going to need to have commitment and work ethic and the flair to get this program off the ground.

What are your hopes for the Elon Phoenix lacrosse program for the first 5 years?

The hope is to win games, win a lot of games. It’s so premature to say this is exactly where we want to be in five years. You set some goals, but really it’s hard to tell. You look at (the University of) Florida, and they reached the semifinals last year against Duke in I think their second year. That’s the best part and that’s how you want to it. In all reality, the most important thing is to create the foundation of excellence and the skill we want to be able to play with. And if that means losing games early on, I’m fine with that, as long as we do things the right way and the Elon way we want to do it.

Interview conducted by Zachary Horner.

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