MIT men's lacrosse head coach Walter Alessi has announced that he is retiring at the end of the 2017 season. Alessi is a 10-time Conference Coach of the Year and has been the head coach of the Engineers for the past 43 seasons.
"With Walter's decision to retire, I know I speak on behalf of a number of people – physical education students, current student-athletes, alumni, colleagues and the greater lacrosse and soccer communities – when I say that Walter will be missed," said Julie Soriero, Director of Athletics. "His devotion to MIT and DAPER as a professor, coach and mentor to so many young men is immeasurable. He has touched the lives of so many of our students as well as their families. We wish him and his family the best!"
During his legendary MIT career that began in 1975, Alessi has amassed a career record of 285-284 and has guided his teams to the conference tournament on 11 occasions. Appearing in eight straight conference tournaments entering the 2017 season, Alessi's teams have also advanced to the ECAC New England Tournament three times and made one appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
"I have been very fortunate to have been employed by MIT for 43 years," said Alessi, who currently resides in Falmouth, Mass. and formerly lived in Millis, Mass. "I have loved every moment as a teacher, lacrosse and soccer coach, 20 years as the MIT Day Camp Director and 10 years as intramural coordinator. It has been a privilege to work with such fine students who are such outstanding people as well. I am proud that I rarely missed a day of work because it was such a joy to come here every day. Working with such professional and kind staff has been a pleasure. I will miss everyone and everything about MIT, but the time to end a career comes to us all. It is my time."
The 1995 New England Division III Coach of the Year, Alessi received the Howdy Myers Man of the Year Award from the Intercollegiate Men's Lacrosse Coaches Association in 2013. Most recently in the spring of 2017, he was honored with the James "Ace" Adams Sportsmanship Award, which is presented annually to the college or university in each of the 11 officiating districts whose coaches, players and fans exhibit the best sportsmanship throughout the season.
"It is tough for me to imagine MIT Lacrosse without Coach Alessi, as it is all I have known for the past 13 years," said assistant coach Mark Spadafora '08. "Playing for him as an undergrad was one of the most valuable parts of my education at MIT. He has always fueled my passion for the game of lacrosse. Being able to coach alongside him the past nine years has been an absolute privilege and honor. Win or lose, sunshine or freezing snow, I have looked forward to every single minute of being out there on the field with him. He has been a mentor, a friend, and, most importantly, he has been family."
"He may be a legend in the lacrosse community, but what he means to all of us really can't be put into words," Spadafora continued. "It will never be the same without him at the helm, but the MIT Lacrosse family will continue to prosper thanks to all that he has done. He has given everything and more to all of us, and for that I can speak for all of MIT Lacrosse in saying that we are forever grateful. Thank you Coach Alessi, and, most importantly, TEAM PLAY!"
Alessi was also named as the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (NEILA) Man of the Year in 2007 for his outstanding years of service. Since then, the honor was renamed "The Alessi Award" and it is now given out annually at the NEILA East-West All-Star Game. He was also elected to the Hall of Fame of the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter of the Lacrosse Foundation in 1999 and was the inaugural recipient of the Vincent Lobello Sportsmanship Award in 1980. Alessi was also a finalist for the USILA Coach of the Year award in the same season and in 1977, MIT won the Master's Award as the most improved team in New England.
"When I was hired as a part-time lacrosse coach in 1974 and then offered a full-time position in 1975, I expected to use MIT as a stepping stone to a better position," said Alessi. It didn't take me long to realize that there was no better position. The students here are absolutely the best. The give it their all in everything they do. Their time management skills that allow them to be fully engaged academically and athletically never ceased to amaze me and I am so thankful that my soccer and lacrosse players made time for their athletic commitments."
In addition to his work as the men's lacrosse head coach, Alessi was also the head coach of the MIT men's soccer program from 1975-2006. A two-time NEWMAC Coach of the Year, he is also the all-time leader for wins in men's soccer after compiling a career mark of 204-252-30. In 2003, Alessi guided the Engineers to the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance, where they advanced to the quarterfinals and finished the season ranked No. 8 in the country. That season, he was named as the New England Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and was a finalist for National Coach of the Year honors.
Alessi earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from the University of Massachusetts in 1968 and went on to earn Master's degrees in education from both Rhode Island College and the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He began his coaching career at Rogers High School and St. George's School in Middletown, R.I. After leaving St. George's, the school renamed its team MVP Award in Alessi's honor. He also taught and coached at Westwood (Mass.) High School, where he started the lacrosse program on a club basis.