Chris Bates made headlines for all the wrong reasons this spring.
Tuesday, he gained attention for what he and The Episcopal Academy hope is a fresh start.
Bates was hired Tuesday as the head boys lacrosse coach at EA, three months after he was fired as the head coach at Princeton.
“We are thrilled to welcome Chris to The Episcopal Academy community,” Director of Athletics Gina Buggy said in a release. “After speaking with many of his former players and others in the lacrosse community who know him well, it was clear to us that Chris is an esteemed coach and dependable leader. We heard countless stories about the positive impact he has had on his former student-athletes’ lives.”
Bates was fired by Princeton after making contact with an opposing player in an April 2 game against Brown in Providence, R.I., an incident that went viral.
On a play early in the third quarter, Bates appears to throw an elbow at Brown’s John Yozzo-Scaperrotta as he’s leaving the field. Bates was flagged on the play, and Brown, the eventual national runner-up, blew open what was then a 7-6 game into a 19-8 win to send Princeton tumbling to 2-6 on the season.
Bates was put on immediate leave of absence, and on April 6, the university delicately announced that Bates was “no longer employed by Princeton.” Offensive coordinator Matt Maladon took over on an interim basis and has since been named the full-time head coach.
Buggy said that the school had no qualms about the incident, having vetted Bates and many other candidates in a national pool of some 60 applicants.
“We take everything into account,” Buggy told the Daily Times. “We don’t leave any stone unturned. We had an unbelievable pool of candidates and we vetted them all thoroughly. We talked to players, coaches, people who’ve worked with them before. And we feel that we got a great person for that position, an excellent coach with a stellar reputation.
“Yes there was one regrettable incident, but in talking as I did with anyone who’s worked with Chris and been around him, we’re confident with his body of work outside of one regrettable incident.”
Bates replaces Andy Hayes, who stepped down in April to pursue business opportunities. Hayes had been at the helm for 12 seasons. EA struggled with a young, injury-plagued squad to finish 7-13 last season, including 4-6 in the Inter-Ac League.
In addition to coaching, Buggy said that Bates will have a role with the EA faculty, though she couldn’t specify.
Bates, a native of Katonah, New York, traces his coaching roots to Philadelphia. A Dartmouth graduate, Bates started his coaching career with one season heading the varsity at Archbishop Ryan in 1993. He became an assistant at Drexel before being elevated to the Dragons’ head man, leading them for 10 years. He also played for the Philadelphia Wings for seven seasons.
In 2009, he took over for the iconic Bill Tierney, who won six national championships at Princeton but left to pursue other opportunities, eventually leading the University of Denver to the national title in 2015.
Bates started out well at Princeton, going 51-35 in six seasons, winning three Ivy League Championships and making two NCAA tournament appearances. The team struggled to a 5-8 mark this season, 3-2 after Bates’ departure.
Bates is also involved with various non-profit endeavors, including the Ann’s Love Builds Foundation in honor of his late wife. He’s also the founder of the Heritage Lacrosse program and a director of a pair of national lacrosse tournaments.