November 1, 2011

NCAA to MLL? A Trend for Former College Coaches?

Seaman, Stagnitta, Cottle Find Landing Spot in Pros

Former Towson coach Tony Seaman found the MLL an attractive professional option and was named general manager of the Denver Outlaws in October. "I think my coaching days are over," Seaman said.

by Chris R. Vaccaro |

After Chesapeake lost on a last-second shot by the Boston Cannons' Max Quinzani in August's Major League Lacrosse semifinals, Bayhawks president Dave Cottle was finally able to recapture that familiar team spirit he was overcome with for years as a college coach.

"I never knew if I'd get that feeling back," said Cottle, who joined the Bayhawks in July 2010 after 30 years of college coaching, most recently at Maryland, "where you really care about a group of people. I felt that same feeling after that game. We weren't as successful as we'd like to be, but I couldn't believe the character of the people in the locker room."

Not that there has been an exodus of college coaches to take the leap to MLL, but the numbers are growing and the comfy landing spot for these select veterans willing to shift gears has been fruitful thus far.

Cottle credits men like B.J. O'Hara, who left Hobart and took over the coaching ranks of the Rochester Rattlers in 2004, and Ted Garber, a former Massachusetts coach, who has coached Bridgeport in its inaugural season in 2001 and has served as an assistant with Boston, Chicago and Rochester, for setting a blueprint for the college-to-MLL move. Garber was also appointed as the head coach for the expansion Ohio Machine, which launches its inaugural season in May 2012.

Others like former Towson coach Tony Seaman and former Rutgers coach Jim Stagnitta, who joined the Denver Outlaws in October, had a simple reason for their move: it was the right time in their careers. It doesn't hurt that they're both working with Denver – Seaman as general manager and Stagnitta as head coach, replacing Tom Slate – and have years of experience working together either on the same coaching staff or with external lacrosse businesses.

"I think my coaching days are over," said Seaman, who was forced to resign at Towson in May after 13 seasons and 3-10 record in 2011.

Seaman likened his new pro experience (he was hired as GM Oct. 5 to replace Brian Reese) with his stint as Team USA coach in 1994, guiding and mentoring experienced and skilled athletes, not having to coach at the micro level and worry about the physical and mental development of the average college player.

"These are guys who can play," Seaman said. "My job is to bring in the people who play, Jim's job is to do it on the field with them. We go more with letting them play and figuring out who plays well together."

"There's no question in this league the players pick up things extremely quickly," said Cottle. "You can make adjustments during games that you would have to practice in college because of youth or maturity."

There was a time in the MLL's existence when making a transition from college to the pro league was not feasible financially, and while it still might not be even 10 years since its creation, it has become more sustainable for experienced coaches with other sources of income. Cottle is one of the camp directors for Top 205 Lacrosse Camps.

Stagnitta and Seaman, along with O'Hara and other former college coaches, started Pregame Lacrosse, a company that analyzes players at exposure camps, providing evaluation and recommendations for parents and athletes. Income aside, coaching in the MLL means not having to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the college game.

"It's changing, the whole atmosphere of college lacrosse, the landscape has changed dramatically the last few years from recruiting to expectations," Stagnitta said. "It wasn't something that I planned. It wasn't something I was focused on. I didn't know if it was the next logical move for me."

Cottle agreed.

"Right now the MLL is at a very attractive spot for guys that want to coach because of some of the negatives that you have in college," Cottle said. "The recruiting, being away from your family all the time, there are some positives to coaching in the higher level."

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