GOHEELS EXCLUSIVE: UNTERSTEIN’S ARRIVAL PAYING DIVIDENDS
Article Published by: goheel.com
By Davis Dupree
Athletic Communications Student Assistant
For a lot of coaches joining a new coaching staff, earning respect in the locker room takes time. For Kevin Unterstein, the new defensive coordinator for the Carolina men’s lacrosse program, it came almost immediately.
A lot of the respect comes from his impressive resume. Unterstein was an honorable mention All-America player at Hofstra University in 2007, the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year and CAA Tournament most valuable player in 2008, a second-round draft pick in the 2008 Major League Lacrosse draft, a member of the USA Lacrosse National Team that won gold at the FIL World Lacrosse Championship in Israel this past summer and will play in the inaugural season of the Premier Lacrosse League debuting in 2019.
That is just his playing side. Unterstein also has an impressive coaching resume, having coached under seven-time national champion coach Bill Tierney for two years at both Princeton and Denver before returning to his alma mater on Long Island for seven years. At Hofstra, his defense ranked in the top 10 in the nation in a variety of categories almost every year, including second in the nation with a goals against average of just 7.86 last season.
With a pedigree that strong and still being an active player, the respect came naturally.
“Knowing that he’s won a world championship and is playing at the level that I want to play at, he sets the example for how hard I need to work,” said Michael Nathan, a senior defenseman for the Tar Heels and 2018 close defense starter.
When 10th-year head coach Joe Breschi had an opening on his staff and began to search last summer, there was one name that kept appearing, no matter what metric or stat he was looking at.
“When I started going out and looking for a defensive coordinator, with what I was looking for, he fit all of it. His defense was so good I figured I’d go after the best.” Breschi said.
Unterstein, a Long Island native with a wife and young daughter wasn’t looking to make a move. But when Breschi came calling, it felt right.
“This opportunity came about and peaked my interest considering the school and the caliber of UNC,” Unterstein said. “It was a tough decision, leaving Long Island and my home, but clearly the right decision for my family and me.”
Unterstein brings a unique presence to the locker room. As an active player, he was able to connect with the guys right away. He participates in workouts with the team and runs sprints alongside them as part of his own training to be ready for the professional season in the summer.
“He has done a tremendous job of drawing the line between being friends with us while still being our coach,” said Nathan. “We always talk about how he is such a good dude to be around. Sometimes he’s like one of us, but we know that if we do mess up and continue to make the same mistakes he’ll let us know.”
Unterstein also knows what it is like to stand on the sidelines across from UNC, both as a player and coach, and hopes that experience will help get the team ready before every game.
“I told the guys on day one that they have to understand when you look across the field when you are warming up and you see that Carolina Blue it lights a fire under you,” Unterstein said. “As a coach, you don’t have to get the guys fired up, it’s just there. That is why it is so important for us to come out in those first five minutes and get going right away.”
Unterstein and the players alike are excited for the season which begins February 2 at Mercer, and will be looking to hit some lofty goals.
Unterstein has simplified the defense, hoping that the players will simply be able to react to make the right plays, rather than do too much thinking on the field. This has allowed the team to player faster and more physical, a noticeable difference during the fall scrimmages.
With these changes, the defense is hoping to keep its goals against average lower than it has ever been.
“The way he is coaching, I think it is definitely achievable,” Nathan said.
Unterstein helps round out a Tar Heel coaching staff that Breschi feels great about. Unterstein will work opposite of David Metzbower, the offensive coordinator who also coached under Bill Tierney and crossed paths with Unterstein for during his one year at Princeton. Metzbower begins his fifth year on the staff in 2019.
“I feel really confident in the coaching staff,” Breschi said. “There’s a wealth of experience there and that is important.
“If you’re a recruit and you look at Metz with seven national championships, and Unterstein being an active player and a world champion, Carolina is the place to be.”
About Scott Livengood
Scott Livengood is the owner and CEO of Dewey’s Bakery, Inc., a commercial wholesale bakery with a respected national brand of ultra premium cookies and crackers.
Previously, Scott worked at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for 27 years, starting as a trainee in 1977. He was appointed President of the company in 1992, then CEO and Chairman of the Board.
Scott has served on numerous boards including the Carter Center, the Calloway School of Business and the Babcock School of Management, Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.
He started a new business, StoryWork International, in 2016 with Richard Stone. The signature achievement to date is LivingStories, a story-based program for improved patient experiences and outcomes in partnership with Novant Health.