Don Zimmerman spent 23 years manning the sideline for the UMBC men's lacrosse team, and he led the Retrievers to the NCAA Tournament on six different occasions and was named the America East Coach of the Year three times.
As a result of his success with the Retrievers, Zimmerman will be inducted into the UMBC Athletics Hall of Fame April 5. Head men's soccer coach Pete Caringi Jr., former soccer player Marcus Gross and Drew Westervelt, one of Zimmerman's former players, will also be inducted.
"I'm really excited about this," Zimmerman said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Feb. 13. "It's quite an honor to be put into a Hall of Fame and to be able to go in with the other gentlemen, Marcus Gross and Pete Caringi Jr., from the Retriever soccer program, and Drew Westervelt, who I coached for four years. Really makes it a special event for me."
Zimmerman was a midfielder at Johns Hopkins for two years, receiving honorable mention All-America honors his senior season. After he graduated, he served as an assistant coach for Princeton, North Carolina and Hopkins before taking the head coaching job at Hopkins in 1984.
Zimmerman coached the Blue Jays to a 73-15 record during seven seasons. He was the first-ever lacrosse coach to win an NCAA title in his first season as a head coach, and he went on to put together a stretch of three national championships in four years.
He was later hired as the head coach as UMBC men's lacrosse program in 1994 and became a staple on the Baltimore County campus. Although the team struggled early in Zimmerman's tenure, he found a way to turn the program around. He led the Retrievers to a huge upset win of the then-No. 1 Maryland in 1998, which helped get UMBC into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
The Retrievers then made five more appearances in the NCAA Tournament, won the America East regular-season title five times and the America East conference tournament three times during the rest of Zimmerman's time as head coach.
"I give credit to the players who I had the privilege to coach and work with on and off the field. Just a tremendous group of individuals," Zimmerman said. "Coaches, our job is to get the teams ready, but when the whistle blows the players have to go out there and get the job done. I've been so fortunate to have so many great players who helped enrich my life and my career during my days both at Hopkins and UMBC."
Zimmerman spoke about the athletic success that UMBC has seen recently, citing the men's basketball, soccer and lacrosse programs in particular.
The basketball program completed one of the biggest upsets in sports history when they beat Virginia, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2018, marking the first time a No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed. The soccer program made a run to the Final Four in 2014 after losing in the second round the previous two seasons.
"I'd like to think that our lacrosse program did some things that helped put UMBC on the map as well. We made it to the Elite Eight for the first time back in the early 2000s," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman retired in 2016 and almost immediately began as a color analyst for ESPN covering both high school and college lacrosse games. He also spends time as a consultant for the Zingos lacrosse club in Howard County. He teaches basic fundamentals to young lacrosse players.
Would he like to coach again?
"You never say never, and I love the game," Zimmerman said. "I've been involved with this game for close to 60 years as a player and as a coach. It's in my blood and I do miss certain elements of coaching. I love practices, I love the game and teaching."
Photo Credit: Gail Burton/UMBC Athletics
To hear more from Zimmerman, listen to the full interview here: