With three kids playing in college, John Nostrant had been considering the balance between spending his springs as a lacrosse coach and as a lacrosse parent.
When he got a nudge from the administration at The Haverford School that it was thinking of moving on sooner rather than later, Nostrant knew it would be time.
The 2018-19 season will be Nostrant’s 28th and last as the boys lacrosse coach at The Haverford School. He informed a group of alumni this week. Nostrant, who has stepped down as the school’s athletic director, calls the split mutual in terms that allow it to be amicable.
The coach’s deepest emotions are reserved for both of his families — the lacrosse family of former players and his three kids. Eldest Olivia wrapped up her career at High Point in the spring; Johnny, a 2017 All-Delco player for the Fords, is at Penn State, while Merion Mercy grad Marcella will start her career at VCU in the fall.
“This year, I felt torn because I wanted to go watch Olivia play at High Point, and I did, but when I did, it meant missing practice,” Nostrant told the Daily Times. “I want to watch Johnny at Penn State, and Marcella is going to be at VCU. …
“I’m thankful for what the school has done for me,” Nostrant continued. “My son had an unbelievable experience at Haverford, the friends he’s made, and the relationships that I’ve been able to build. I was walking with the Mesa (Lacrosse club) kids the other day handing out checks to all my former players that now coach for me. I value that.”
Nostrant has turned Haverford School into one of the nation’s top secondary school lacrosse programs over the last quarter-century. His 27 seasons have included 14 Inter-Ac League championships. His teams in 2011 and 2015 finished undefeated and were regarded as the consensus top squads in the nation. Nostrant has mentored dozens of All-Delcos and scores of college commits.
Moves have been made recently not to retain two of Nostrant’s top lieutenants, Travis Loving and Mark Petrone, and the long-term signaling indicated to Nostrant that it was time to find the next chapter in his coaching career. He will transition to a development role at the school.
The Fords are coming off a 16-4 season in which they won the regular season title in the league before falling to Malvern Prep in the tournament final, the only loss to Pennsylvania opposition in a national schedule that includes perennial powerhouses from all over the Mid-Atlantic region.
Nostrant is adamant that he’s not done coaching. On either the club, high school or even college scene, he’s not likely to have a shortage of offers for his expertise.
The plan is for Nostrant to work as the head coach with the coach-in-waiting to be on the staff in 2019. Headmaster Dr. John Nagl indicated that the hire will come from outside the program and that Haverford School is “already talking to some folks” about the high-profile opening.
Nostrant leaves a void larger than just the lacrosse coaching position, as his influence extends throughout an athletics program that has become an Inter-Ac powerhouse in the last decade.
“My coaches and I, we get along really well,” Nostrant said. “I would do anything for any of my coaches. I’ve made some bad hires and had to make some tough decisions with people I hired, but that’s part of the job. I feel like our athletic program is really in great shape because of the people running the programs. They’re professionals, man. That’s not going to change.”
“There’s no doubt that the Haverford School is the most successful athletic program in the Inter-Ac,” Nagl said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a better school in the country that achieves excellence in so many areas. … The program that John has established and the focus on building men of character who compete with everything they’ve got, lose graciously and seldom, is an extraordinary history that he’s left.”
Bernie Rogers, who Nostrant hired three years ago, just led the Fords to their first basketball title since 1999. Under assistant athletic director Mike Murphy, the football team won five league titles from 2009-15, three outright, ending a drought that had stretched to 1971. The varsity squash team and crew Varsity 4 have been crowned national champions in the last two seasons. And the Fords swim team won its first Inter-Ac title since 1944, then followed with the program’s first Eastern Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships title.
The squad is led by Sean Hansen, who Nostrant hired 18 years ago as an ambitious 22-year-old straight out of college.
“He doesn’t micromanage,” Hansen said of Nostrant’s leadership. “He’s 100 percent supportive and it’s fun being a part of our coaching staff because we’re all tight with one another. Everyone supports each other, and that starts from the top. He encourages the best teams as much as his teams as much as the worst teams. He hires quality coaches and lets them do their jobs. He checks in when the needs to, and he’s unwavering in his support.”
Murphy is a leading candidate for the athletic director’s position, and while Nagl declined to name candidates, he indicated the school is “very far along in negotiations on that front.”