The tough part for John Tillman wasn't agreeing to come to Maryland.
It was knowing things weren't entirely wrapped up at Harvard.
He'd spent 32 months at the Ivy League school, a blink of an eye in the span of most careers. He came, he recruited (well), he went 20-19.
And now he's off to College Park.
It's a good deal for him. Tillman gets probably more job security than anyone would have anticipated (a seven-year deal), a chance to return to an area where he worked for a dozen years as an assistant at Navy and the opportunity to move from a program with three all-time NCAA quarterfinal appearances to a school where three straight quarterfinal appearances isn't enough for some fans.
Oh, yeah. About that ... Tillman doesn't seem to mind.
"No one's going to put bigger expectations than I am," Tillman said on a conference call with reporters this afternoon. "I know everybody has high expectations at every program, and mine are always higher. I want to win every game. I don't go into any game thinking 'We can't win this' or 'we didn't do everything possible put our focus and energy into winning."
Chances are, that will ingratiate him rather well with Maryland fans who remain puzzled the Terrapins have not collected a national title in 35 years (more on that in a later post).
The greater question is, what are the expectations of Tillman's superiors? In other words, how exactly is the bar defined when Tillman's predecessor, Dave Cottle, was 99-45 in nine years but had a four-year final four drought.
"It hasn't changed," said Michael Lipitz, the senior associate athletic director who was in charge of the coaching search. "It hasn't changed from the last several years and it's not going to change. We want to be routinely in the mix and be able to compete for championships, whether at the conference or national level. This has never been about national championships. Everyone wants to win national championships. In order to do that you have to do all the right things day in and day out and out yourself in position to compete for a title. We believe John Tillman is the right guy."
This particular deal came together in less than two weeks. Any damage done with the absence of a head coach for nearly four weeks will likely be mitigated by the arrival of someone most in lacrosse circles would acknowledge as someone heavily invested in recruiting.
Tillman brought in significant classes to Harvard, a program often derisively dubbed "The Lost Cause" (a characterization Tillman was always sure to bring up at least once in every conversation with reporters). Chances are, that end of things won't be a problem at Maryland.
And as for what others think he should be doing? It would seem Tillman is probably thinking bigger than anyone. He brushed off concerns about a disadvantage in facilities, pointing out plans were in place and asserting the importance of focusing on what exists rather than what doesn't.
That attitude could win friends now --- and it could also be used as a self-imposed measuring stick later.
"I think a school, when they put their resources behind it and get the right people in here [they] can accomplish anything," Tillman said. "If you don't dream big, you're not going to achieve your goals. With the resources they have and the commitment, why not Maryland? Why not?"