It says something about the rigors of coaching at a Division I-level school that the new Cal lacrosse coach, Brooke Eubanks, didn’t know how much time she’d had the job for when I sat down to speak with her Friday. She kept insisting that the last “two, two-and-a-half” weeks had “flown by” in a flurry of appointments and meetings. In reality, when we talked, it had been 22 days since her hiring was announced by Cal Athletics on July 31.
“You get a newfound adrenaline, a newfound excitement with something new,” Eubanks said.
Eubanks spent the last six years as an assistant coach for Stanford University before crossing the bay to join Cal for the coming season. Switching to a rival school has been less contentious than might be imagined — Eubanks had wanted to be a head coach for the better part of three years, and Cal was a natural fit for her. When the job opened up, she jumped on it.
Coaching opportunities on the West Coast are rare. Eubanks, like most lacrosse coaches and players near the Pacific Ocean, spent most of her lacrosse career on the East Coast. She was a four-year starter at James Madison University and an assistant coach for two yearsat George Mason University, both of which are located in Virginia. Eubanks came west when her boss at George Mason, Amy Bokker, took the Stanford head coaching job in 2008.
Eubanks didn’t even need to come out for a visit before accepting Bokker’s offer to make her an assistant for the Cardinal.
“I knew I was going to like the West Coast,” she said.
Three years in, she knew she wanted to be a head coach. But she wanted to stay on the West Coast as well — a problematic pairing. The West is a difficult place for a lacrosse coach. The Pac-12 only has five schools with lacrosse programs, which is one short of what it needs to actually be called the Pac-12, so instead, it’s the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Eubanks wanted to be at a big school, but none of those federation jobs were opening up any time soon.
“I was very picky about the jobs that I wanted,” Eubanks admitted.
So she waited for three years. She would have started her own program if the chance had been available, but no school in the area was working on starting a lacrosse program. Finally, the Cal job opened up. It was a “no brainer” for the aspiring coach.
The challenges, however, are different on the West Coast. Eubanks has had to get creative with her recruiting and her coaching. It’s more about building something new rather than continuing from a strong foundation. She has to focus on athletes who are as excited about building support lacrosse on the West Coast as she is.
“You need someone who is going to be excited about the opportunity of building something and being the first,” Eubanks said. “And maybe not stepping into something that’s already been built and then maintaining it. You know they want to be the ones that are behind the hammer and the nail and building up this great thing that we want to accomplish.”
That means a lot of recruiting in what Eubanks calls “nontraditional” areas: places such as Illinois, Colorado and Oregon. And, of course, it means keeping the talent that is already on the West Coast. Eubanks, a Colorado native herself, fled to go East as a player. Now, she speaks like anyone who has fallen in love with the Golden State — talking about beaches and hiking and the bay — and she’s committed to the growth of lacrosse out West.
“I don’t know if it it’s the sunshine or what,” Eubanks said. “People here are more laid back and happy. I feel drawn to that type of atmosphere, everyone’s happy to be here, everyone’s trying to work hard and be the next to do something great.”