D-I Men’s 2024 Coaches of the Year

Celebrating the best off-field leaders of the season.

Each year, Ultiworld presents our annual College Awards. Our staff evaluates the individual performances of players from throughout the season, talking to folks around college ultimate, watching film, and look at statistics, voting upon the awards to decide those to be honored. The regular season and the college Series are both considered, with extra emphasis for performances in the competitive and high-stakes environment at Nationals.

Our final D-I award podium is for the Coaches of the Year. As so many teams have added more and more sideline-savvy consultants to their roster with less asked of a single head coach, this has essentially morphed into “Coaching Staff of the Year.” Coaches can impact the game in so many ways — tactics, motivation, communication, personnel management, program development, skill-building, etc. — and it can be hard to divine what exactly each has contributed to their team. But good coaching is something we feel “we know it when we see it.”

D-I Men’s 2024 Coaches Of The Year

Jake Smart, Jonathan Stout, and Nate Taylor (Brown)

The Brown coach talks to his players in the huddle prior to game time at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

We have thrown around the “Stubbs and Vandenberg” thing for a while now, any time there’s a team with two high profile stars with the potential to carry a team to Nationals glory. But let’s not forget, amidst the growing haze and legend around 2016 college Nationals, that Harvard lost in the final that year. They got swamped by what was, if we are being clear eyed, the first and only real title contender they played at Nationals. It’s not a coincidence that the time a team with two gravitational megastars actually won the title, it came from a team whose coaching staff spent years building a conceptually coherent team around them.

Jake Smart and the brain trust at Brown didn’t set up the cones and let Leo and Jacques cook. They put in place a system that boosted the team’s best players, allowing them to dominate from a platform created by a polished and synchronized cadre of role players and wingmen. Offensive pieces that knew when to be an option and when to make space, defensive looks designed to generate turnovers with a minimal expenditure of energy; Brown’s staff found a way to min/max ultimate.

It’s undeniable that Jacques and Leo are some of the most talented players in the sport, but they don’t hit the peaks they did without the system around them. Give credit to all those role players, and give credit to the coaching staff that had the vision, patience, and commitment to build the efficiency monster that captures the first non-UNC title this decade.

– Patrick Stegemoeller

First Runner-Up

Michael Lee, Bailey Laberteaux, Trevor Lynch, and Alex Lerner (NC State)

NC State and coaches pose for a photo at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Rudy DeSort – UltiPhotos.com

No, this wasn’t a championship season for Alpha. But by every other measure it was a stunning success. The simple fact of the matter is that they won every must-win game on their schedule in 2024 postseason, and they looked damn good doing it. Laying the hammer down on UNC Charlotte’s Atlantic Coast hopes in the game-to-go, outlasting a desperate Carleton and putting the brakes on a plucky WashU in pool play, and muscling past a UMass team that had been playing at the top of the division all season long to reach quarters were triumphs of preparation, development, and belief. They upped their game at all the right moments to take a place on the podium.

– Edward Stephens

Second Runner-Up

Sam Batson, Ishaan Dave, and Mac Little (Georgia)

Georgia’s Sam Batson offers some advice during the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Gino Mattace – gmattacephotography.pixieset.com

Breaking the Smoky Mountain Curse is almost podium-worthy on its own. Let’s be real, though, the way Jojah played under their coaches’ watch is the reason they made this list. Flexibility in line-calling and fluidity of play were Georgia’s hallmarks this year. Outside of being able to count on at least a couple of Adam Miller stand-still hucks per game, the offense was essentially unscoutable from a tactical perspective. The defensive sets regularly put the right players in the right positions to make blocks, too. Giving all sorts of players all sorts of moments to steal the spotlight is one of the best ways to tell who’s doing a great job behind the clipboard. And when it came to fighting all the way through a tight game, Georgia were among the very best.

– Edward Stephens

  1. Patrick Stegemoeller

    Patrick Stegemoeller is a Senior Staff Writer for Ultiworld, co-host of the Sin The Fields podcast, and also a lawyer who lives in Brooklyn.

  2. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

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