Head Lacrosse Coach Connor Buczek cheers on the sideline with his players during a game

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By Melissa Newcomb

Connor Buczek ’15, MBA ’17, stepped onto the Big Red lacrosse field for a team workout on a cold, rainy Friday morning in 2009 and thought to himself: This is where I want to be.

Fifteen years later, he presides over the same weekly workouts—as the team’s head coach.

In the post since 2020—when he was just 26—the former Big Red lacrosse standout has already been named Ivy League Coach of the Year twice (and once got the same nod from the ECAC).

“My goal is to make sure the guys understand that ‘challenging’ is good, ‘tough’ is good, ‘uncertain’ is good,” says Buczek.

“It’s how you manage those moments and move forward to persevere—whether it’s academically, on the lacrosse field, in your relationships here, or back home.”

In spring 2024, Buczek’s team made it to the Ivy tournament semifinals and finished the season with an impressive 9-5 record; several of his players garnered All-America honors.

Buczek being interview on the field by a reporter
Speaking to the media at a game against Delaware.

“He is both a coach and a friend,” says one of those, attackman C.J. Kirst ’24, who plans to complete his Cornell degree in spring 2025, having retained athletic eligibility due to COVID-era cancellations.

“Sometimes there can be a disconnect with a coach if they don’t understand the players. But he builds relationships—and knowing what he was able to do in the Cornell jersey, you inherently respect him.” 

Surprisingly, though, a coaching career wasn’t always on Buczek’s radar.

He builds relationships—and knowing what he was able to do in the Cornell jersey, you inherently respect him.

Player C.J. Kirst ’24

After graduating from CALS with a degree in applied economics and management, he served as a volunteer assistant coach while earning his MBA on the Hill.

Like many of his business school classmates, he accepted a job on Wall Street—but Buczek changed his mind when he was offered a full-time assistant coaching position for the Big Red.

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“It was a big leap of faith at the time,” recalls Buczek, who recently became engaged to fellow lacrosse alum Madeline Kiep ’16. “But now in hindsight, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

As an undergrad, Buczek was a three-time All-American; set the record as top-scoring midfielder in Cornell history (at 155 points); was named Ivy League Player of the Year in 2014; and won the Ronald P. Lynch Senior Spirit Award, given to student athletes “whose leadership on and off the field models the ideals of the Big Red athletics department.”

Buczek as a player representing the Big Red
On the field for the Big Red.

Buczek also played professionally in the Premier Lacrosse League and was named a league all-star in 2019. That same year, he helped the U.S. win bronze in the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship.

Now, leading the men’s program on the Hill, Buczek holds an endowed position—as the Richard M. Moran Head Coach—that’s rich with Big Red history.

Moran led the team for nearly three decades (1969–97)—presiding over a golden age of Big Red men’s lacrosse, including all three of its national championships (in 1971, 1976, and 1977).

In hindsight, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.

Moran’s teams competed in the NCAA tournament 14 times, won 15 Ivy championships, and had 11 undefeated Ivy seasons. From 1976–78, Cornell won 42 consecutive games, a NCAA Division I lacrosse record.

(It was such a legendary era, in fact, that it inspired a book—We Showed Baltimore: The Lacrosse Revolution of the 1970s and Richie Moran’s Big Red—published in 2022, just weeks before Moran passed away at age 85.)

Under Moran, the Big Red was also a national championship runner-up three times—and in 2022, Buczek’s squad did the same, making it all the way to the tournament’s final game.

Buczek is confident that the team can be a contender for a future national title—and his players trust that he’s the one to take them there.

Cornell coach Richie Moran with players in the mid-1970s
Richie Moran—namesake of Buczek’s endowed coaching position—with players in the mid-1970s.

“If we needed an extra person during practice, he used to play against us; he’s an intense guy, and he would go hard,” recalls attackman Michael Long ’23, who, like Kirst, plans to complete his degree and play for a final season in spring 2025. “He makes us better players, and better men.” 

(All images by Cornell University Athletics except Moran photo, courtesy of Larry Baum.)

Published May 29, 2024


  1. Robert Slocum, Class of 1977

    Love the discipline his teams show-it all exudes from Coach Buczek and his staff. A truly fun team to watch this season and always a contender on the Ivy and National stage.

  2. Jerry Davis, Class of 1961

    Thrilled that Kirst and Long will be back next spring.

  3. Dale Grossman, Class of 1972

    Connor Buzcek is indeed an excellent coach and an outstanding human being. But — as he would be quick to tell you — he and his lacrosse teams would not be able to achieve what they have without the contributions of Jordan Stevens ’15, the Mario St. George Boiardi ’04 Associate Head Coach of Men’s Lacrosse. Cornell is fortunate to have this duo directing its team.

  4. Rich Shapiro, Class of 1985

    He’s proven to be a great coach and a terrific representative for the University. I hope he has a tenure at least as long as Coach Moran!

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