Tom Gilmore took over this season as Lehigh’s 29th football coach. The Mountain Hawks are in a transition, as the team is 0-3.
The fall 2018 season marked the final campaign of Andy Coen’s tenure as head coach of the Lehigh football team. He spent 13 years developing the program into the Patriot League team it is today, before he received a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
A two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year with 85 career victories and five league titles, Coen left with a reputation as one of the most decorated coaches in program history.
Now, Gilmore is looking to create a legacy of his own.
Gilmore took over the role with 32 years of collegiate coaching experience, four of which were spent as Lehigh’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2000-2003. Much of his coaching experiences came from the Patriot and Ivy Leagues, respectively.
After his appointment as coach in January, Gilmore spent the spring months building his new coaching staff. He brought five new faces to the program including Anthony DiMichele, running backs, special teams and recruiting coordinator; Charlie Noonan, linebackers coach and run defense coordinator; Brandon Lemon, wide receivers coach; Chris Zarkoskie, offensive line coach; and Matt Borich, defensive line coach.
During the hiring process, Gilmore said he looked beyond the records and accolades of the prospects. He tailored his search to those who he thought would mesh well with Lehigh’s program.
“When you’re dealing with college coaches, you have to have someone whose values align not only with your own values, but the institution’s,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore said he is confident that the new staff has the skill sets he is looking for.
“High character is the first thing you look for, work-ethic and their knowledge of the game,” Gilmore said. “I think these guys have all of those qualities.”
DiMichele has a close relationship with Gilmore. The two coaches have associated since 2007 when Gilmore recruited him out of high school to play for The College of the Holy Cross. DiMichele spent all four years under Gilmore.
The pair then spent a year coaching together during Gilmore’s 14-year tenure as Holy Cross’ head coach. DiMichele said their relationship is “strong” and “respectful” of one another.
DiMichele said he appreciates what Lehigh football stands for and its emphasis on both academics and athletics.
“This place is built to win championships and to prepare our student-athletes for life after football,” DiMichele said. “At the end of the day, we have the same goal — to win on and off the field.”
Senior quarterback Tyler Monaco said the transitional period has been positive thus far.
Some of the new expectations were, at first, difficult to become accustomed to, but nonetheless have been well-received by the players.
“Coach holds us to a very high standard,” Monaco said. “It can be challenging at times to meet those standards, but it’s because he wants us to be the best students, athletes and overall team that we can be.”
Gilmore said there are structural differences from the previous staff and that the changes can be challenging to adjust to at first.
He said the athletes have understood the reasons behind the changes and how the changes will make them better student-athletes.
A new freshmen class joined the squad in the summer. The new recruits added 33 names to the roster, and they are expected to be essential components to the new team.
“The Class of 2023 will only strengthen the culture — both on and off the field,” DiMichele said. “The impact will be noticeable.”
DiMichele said the freshmen class will assist in enhancing competition within the team. He said he expects all of them to contribute to the competitive atmosphere.
“Like (coach) Gilmore, I have high expectations for the team,” Monaco said. “We’re incredibly capable of being a very successful team, but we have to keep putting in the time and effort like we’ve done up to this point.”
The Mountain Hawks will look to clinch its first victory against Merrimack on Saturday, Sept. 28, at Goodman Stadium.