Sometimes circumstances evolve in a way few would expect.
That’s how some of the incoming recruits to the Harvard men’s lightweight crew of the Class of 2018 felt when they received word that longtime freshmen coach Linda Muri was leaving Cambridge for Hanover to take over as the head of women’s rowing for Dartmouth.
For freshman Daniel Bridgewater of New Zealand, the message came shortly prior to boarding a plane headed for Boston.
“We were informed about two weeks before we arrived on campus that [Muri] would no longer be the freshman coach,” Bridgewater said. “I’m not too sure exactly how I reacted—it was a bit of a surprise...though I could understand her reasoning.”
When lightweight coach Michael Bartman picked up Bridgewater at the airport, Bartman explained that it was still uncertain who would take the role of coach of the first years. Bartman had assumed the head coaching position just one year earlier, and here he was without a clear freshman coach to begin his sophomore campaign.
And yet, just over a month later, the storied Crimson rowing program had found its answer from within by officially naming volunteer assistant coach Ian Accomando as the full-time assistant charged with overseeing the freshman lightweights.
Even the new coach was caught a little off guard by the sudden shift, but Accomando has adjusted on the fly.
“It’s been a good year so far,” Accomando said. “It was a bit of a surprise that the opportunity opened up…. I was the intern for the last two years, so it wasn’t too crazy as far as the coaching [change] went.”
Circumstances, which brought former Big Green captain Accomando to Harvard and sent former Crimson coach Muri to Dartmouth, have a way of working themselves out in the end.
SEVERED CONNECTION, UNCERTAIN BEGINNING
Though the change was swift and the goodbyes brief, Muri’s departure after her 13th year with Harvard underscored her importance to the team, both on the coaching and the recruiting sides. On both fronts, the former MIT rower had left her mark.
“I have a strong personal connection with so many of [my rowers], and to leave that, that’s really hard,” said Muri in an interview last month. “It’s harder to stay in touch in that same way without the connection of being at Harvard anymore.”
Now sophomores, members of the last group of freshmen Muri mentored point to her leadership as one of the main drivers of their success. Less than a year ago, the Muri-guided lightweight fours took silver at the IRA National Championships, and yet just a few months after the school year wrapped up, their coach was gone.
It quickly became clear how many Crimson rowers Muri had influenced over the years. Sophomore coxswain James Dreben is one of them. Beyond the impact of one’s average coach, he stated that Muri had a presence that was immediately felt from day one and could inspire.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to do crew here was Coach Muri, just because she is such a great personality and coach,” Dreben said. “It’s definitely a loss to the program to see her go.”
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