December 26, 2013

Lunch With the Big Man a Treat for All

by Bill Tanton | | Twitter

Edell with former player Brian Dougherty at his Hall of Fame induction in 2012 (John Strohsacker/

What's your favorite day? Christmas? Thanksgiving? Super Bowl Sunday?

There's another day that's right up there for me.

That's any day I visit my old friend Dick Edell, the former lacrosse coach at Maryland, Army and the University of Baltimore. What courage he has.

Edell, a National Lacrosse Hall of Fame member with 282 career wins, has a rare disease called inclusion body myositis, which takes away use of the arms and legs. There is no effective treatment for it. Because of that, he retired in 2001. Since then his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame has been bound to a wheelchair.

Edell spends most of his time at home with his wife, Dolores, their four grown children and a bunch of grandchildren who like to pop in after school to climb all over him.

In my numerous visits to their home in Maryland's bucolic Howard County, I've never seen Dick down. Not once. He smiles and laughs easily with friends who come to visit and appears to be a happy man, even uplifting. I know his spirit lifts me. As Tony Seaman, the former Penn, Johns Hopkins and Towson coach and current Denver Outlaws general manager, so perfectly put it: "I always leave there with more than I came with."

Edell loves it when his buddies come and talk shop over lunch. They often address him by his well-known nickname, Big Man. Sometimes Edell is more up to date than they are. He makes great use of a big TV. He stays busy on the phone with coaches and his former players. His longtime assistant coach at Army and Maryland, Dave Slafkosky, is like a brother to him. Scott Marr, the Albany coach, is like a son.

When I visited him this fall, there were four National Lacrosse Hall of Famers present. Dick was one of them. The others were Bob Scott (Johns Hopkins), Buddy Beardmore (Maryland) and Virginia coach Dom Starsia. This was the third time I had seen Dom there. He drives 300 miles round trip from Charlottesville to have lunch with a friend.

Starsia's former teammate at Brown, Jeff Webster, also was there. So were frequent Edell visitors Bill Sbarra and Ira Hochstadt, both former Maryland players, plus Rob Schwartzman, father of Denver Outlaws and former Johns Hopkins goalie Jesse Schwartzman.

We feasted on the corned beef sandwiches Bob Scott brought. For two hours, there never was a lull in the conversation. The liveliest subject, not surprisingly, was the colleges' too-early recruitment of players today.

Starsia, who has been as active as anyone in pursuing 14- and 15-year olds, gave the matter a surprising slant when he said, "If the coaches can reach an agreement to stop recruiting kids that young, the coaches will benefit from it. We'd much rather recruit kids after we get to see them as sophomores and juniors."

At another of these gatherings at his home, Dick looked around the table at men he had known for many years and had even coached against and said, "I don't think the football and basketball guys do this."

I don't think they do either. I don't know if that's because lacrosse is a smaller sport or because the game has a special brotherhood. I have an idea it's the brotherhood.

Dick once called me the morning after one of these sessions and said excitedly, "That was awesome having you guys here yesterday."

Big Man didn't understand. It had been even more awesome for us. 

This column appeared in the January 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse today to receieve your copy.

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