J.E. Bert Severns took over as the lacrosse coach at Centre College when it started its program in the fall of 2010 and has overseen a dramatic turnaround, leading the team to a Southern Athletic Association regular season championship, an SAA Tournament championship, and consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in just four years of competition.
During his time at Centre, Severns' teams have posted an overall record of 39-21 and a 21-9 conference record. Since joining the SAA for the 2013 season, Severns has an overall record of 24-7, which ranks first in the conference, and a 12-2 SAA record, which ranks second.
In Centre's second year of play, Severns led the program to a 12-4 overall record in the 2012 season and a 7-2 mark and second place finish in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and an 8-0 record in home games. A high-scoring offensive team, the Colonels ranked third nationally with 15.38 goals per game, finished fourth in assists at 9.56 per game and had three individuals ranked in the top 10 nationally in offensive categories.
In that 2012 season, Severns was named SCAC Coach of the Year while attacker Zack Connors earned SCAC Offensive Player of the Year honors. The Colonels' 2012 all-conference honorees also put up impressive individual numbers as well. Connors had 44 goals with 41 assists for 86 points, ranking him third nationally in points, third in assists and 16th in goals. He led the SCAC in both assists and points while finishing third in goals. Connor Stubbs finished with 55 goals, which ranked second in the conference and fourth in the nation, while adding 22 assists for 77 points, which ranked third in the conference and sixth nationally. Peter Murphy finished with 26 goals, 38 assists and 64 points. Those numbers were enough second in the SCAC and seventh in the nation in assists while coming in fourth in the conference and 31st nationally in points.
In 2013, Severns led the Colonels to their first NCAA Tournament in just their third year as a program. Centre finished the year with an 11-4 overall record and tied for the Southern Athletic Association regular season championship. The team once again ranked nationally in scoring offense, and Zack Connors and Jay Reed earned First Team All-SAA honors. Connors ranked 23rd nationally in points per game after scoring 44 goals and 24 assists.
The 2014 season brought more success as the Colonels won the SAA Tournament and made a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. Along the way, Centre set a new school record for wins in a season with 13 and established a school record winning streak with 11 straight victories. Murphy led a group of eight Colonels on the All-SAA team, while Stubbs led the conference with 49 goals. The Colonels again ranked in the top 30 nationally in scoring offense and scoring margin.
Two more honors that have been added to Severns' extensive lacrosse resume are that he has been selected to the Board of Directors of the Intercollegiate Men's Lacrosse Coaches Association, the governing body for the college coaches of men's lacrosse in the U.S. Severns is also a member of the USILA Division III Coaches Poll Committee which ranks the top 20 Division III teams in the nation on a weekly basis.
An All-American as a player at Cortland State, Severns also brings an impressive coaching resume to Centre.
Severns was an assistant coach for both soccer and lacrosse teams at the United States Naval Academy from 1976 to 1980, helping the Midshipmen to a national semifinal appearance in lacrosse and an ECAC championship in soccer. While at Annapolis, he was responsible for recruiting for both sports, and helped coach 15 lacrosse All-Americans. From 1980 to 1984 he was the head coach of soccer and lacrosse at Alfred University. He directed the Saxon soccer team to an ECAC title while coaching two more All-Americans. In 1984 he left Alfred for West Point, becoming the assistant athletic director for facilities and the assistant lacrosse coach. During his time at the United States Military Academy, he helped the lacrosse team to a national semifinal appearance.
In 1990 he left coaching to pursue a career in the sporting goods industry, working his way up to become the national sales manager for Diadora America and Director of Sales and Marketing for Game Sportswear. As would be expected with his coaching background, Severns emphasizes discipline, conditioning, and teamwork.
"I want my teams to be sound fundamentally, but I allow the players to grow individually. My players can do what they need to do," says Severns. "I'll give them the fundamentals to grow. We will be very disciplined and our players will know where to be. And they will be in shape – they might not enjoy that part of it, but they will be in shape."
"In a recruit I'm looking for a player who is committed to becoming a better player and making his team a better team," he said. "If he has a passion for the game, he will fit right into our program. If he has passion, he will become better. We can make him a better player while he's at Centre College."