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Syracuse men’s lacrosse: 6 candidates to fill the vacant assistant coach role

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Kevin Donahue’s departure creates a rare void in the full-time coaching staff. Who could replace him?

Syracuse Athletics

Late last week, Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse assistant coach Kevin Donahue announced his retirement from coaching.

Kind of.

Donahue is stepping away full-time from his current position and will remain with the program “on a volunteer basis and will continue to assist in the team’s summer camps.” No word on how that affects current volunteer assistant Steve Scaramuzzino and if he’ll still be with the team.

Either way, for the first time since the summer of 2007 when Lelan Rogers was hired, there’s a vacancy on the Orange full-time coaching staff. Opportunities like this don’t come that often, and the timing of the retirement announcement was not ideal.

In talking to Lindsay Kramer of Syracuse.com, head coach John Desko left all options open.

“I don’t have any preconceived ideas. We’ll see as the applicants come in if they have more of an offensive or defensive (background),” Desko said Friday afternoon. “Recruiting’s going to be a big piece of it, having someone come in that has good experience recruiting. How about relationships, contacts if you will, throughout the country, will come into play too. We’ve got coaches here that have been on both sides of the ball and will be able to adjust responsibility-wise. Some of it will be determined by the person coming in. I’m not necessarily looking for this defensive guy or this offensive guy.”

Desko also said the new assistant doesn’t have to be a Syracuse alum. I’m honestly not so sure if there’s any qualified alums that could fill the role right now. Ryan Powell is currently the program’s advisor for camps, clinics and player identification. That’s not a coach. Dylan Donahue, who graduated in 2016, just finished up his first season as an assistant at Onondaga Community College. Not enough experience. John Galloway is currently the head coach at Jacksonville and I highly doubt he would leave to go back to his alma mater as an assistant.

In most instances, a college lacrosse team has a head coach, an offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator, and a volunteer assistant to help out in a variety of different ways. There are some teams that do it a little differently.

For example, new Harvard Crimson head coach Gerry Byrne, a long-time defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, has an offensive coordinator as well as an offensive and a defensive assistant.

Former Orange midfielder and ESPN reporter/analyst Paul Carcaterra has a couple of things on his checklist for the new guy.

Syracuse should go after pretty much every assistant available, same for a few (Matt Brown at Denver, Sean Kirwan at Virginia, JL Reppert at Maryland). For most assistants, this could be the next step to becoming a head coach somewhere.

So with that, here are six candidates that the Orange should consider, all of whom are offensive-minded assistants.

Mike Abbott (Penn Offensive Coordinator)

The older brother of former Orange midfielder Matt Abbott, Mike Abbott is entering his second season as Penn’s offensive coordinator. A year ago, he helped the Quakers win the Ivy League Championship and reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament with players such as Simon Mathias, Adam Goldner, and Ivy League Rookie of the Year Sam Handley. Penn’s attack unit scored a school-record 239 goals in 2019.

Prior to Penn, Abbott was an assistant at Colgate for seven seasons, the final three as the associate head coach. In his first season, Peter Baum was given the Tewaaraton Award as the country’s top men’s lacrosse player. While with the Raiders, he was part of three of the team’s eight most prolific scoring seasons in program history. Abbott also spent five seasons as an assistant at SUNY Cortland.

As a player, he won a national championship with Virginia in 2003 before moving to Cortland for his final two years, winning a national title in 2006.

I have heard Abbott’s name thrown in the mix for the vacancy.

Pat March (Princeton Offensive Coordinator)

Staying in the Ivy League, March is entering his fourth season as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator. In his first three seasons, Princeton ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense with 14.67 goals per game in 2017 (2nd), 13.62 goals per game in 2018 (3rd), and 13.93 goals per game in 2019 (tied for 10th). One big reason for that is the emergence of Michael Sowers, who has already become the school’s all-time leading scorer in only three years.

Prior to Princeton, March was Vermont’s offensive coordinator and helped the Catamounts go from 55th in scoring offense to two 11th place finishes. March also coached Ian MacKay, the America East Offensive Player of the Year, in his final season in Burlington. March coached at Dickinson College for two seasons and helped the team set records in goals, assists, and points.

Along with Abbott, March’s name has also been thrown in the mix for the job.

Doc Schneider (UMass Associate Head Coach)

Regarded as one of the best assistant coaches in the country, Schneider has done it all at UMass. Entering his 11th season as an assistant with the Minutemen, Schneider spent his first five seasons as a defensive coach before shifting to the offensive side in 2015. He’s spent the last two seasons as an associate head coach and has coached the team’s goalies since his arrival in 2010.

Schneider’s best year was in 2018 when the Minutemen finished sixth in assists per game and ninth in points per game. He was also named the IMLCA Assistant Coach of the Year. A UMass alum, Schneider was a four-year starter in goal for the Minutemen and was a Tewaaraton finalist in 2009.

Kyle Georgalas (Army West Point Associate Head Coach)

Another top assistant in the sport, Georgalas is also superb in other areas other than offense. Entering his ninth year in West Point. Georgalas has worked with the Black Knight’s offense, man-down defense, and goaltenders. He’s also worked with Army’s faceoff unit.

In 2019, Georgalas helped coach freshman Brendan Nichtern to a program-best 50 assists in a season en route to the team’s first Patriot League Championship since 2010. Prior to arriving to Army, Georgalas spent five seasons as an assistant at Cornell, his alma mater, manning the faceoff unit and substitutions along with assisting the defense. He was also the program’s recruiting coordinator.

Michael Phipps (Georgetown Assistant Coach)

A Maryland graduate, Phipps has spent the previous two seasons with Georgetown, guiding the Hoyas to two straight Big East Championships. Phipps helped coach Daniel Bucaro and Jake Carraway to monster seasons in 2019 with both reaching over 55 goals and 85 points.

Prior to Georgetown, Phipps was an assistant for three seasons each at Navy and High Point. In Phipps’ final season at Navy in 2017, the Midshipmen offense averaged 15.21 points per game, a program-best since 2007. At High Point, Phipps also developed the team’s goalies, notably Austin Geisler who finished in the top five in saves per game and save percentage in 2014.

Will Manny (Utah Assistant Coach)

A surprise candidate on this list for some, but he has some things the others don’t.

Manny was a big part of Utah’s offensive success in their first season in 2019 with Jimmy Perkins and Josh Stout at attack. But other than that, Manny is a young assistant coach. He can connect with newer guys coming into college and also be a mentor. He’s also the only one on this list that plays professionally in the Premier Lacrosse League. Imagine having a coach that also plays professional lacrosse.

A lot of these guys would be great selections, but I think long-term, Manny would be outstanding for the program. If he would get offered the job, would Manny want to leave Utah? As much as I would love to see him take the next step in his coaching career, there’s a little bit of me that wants to see him stay at Utah to help expand the sport of lacrosse and grow the Ute program. They could be producing something special in a short period of time.

Paul Carcaterra would pick Will Manny as his guy.

Any other candidates that come into your mind? Drop your suggestions in the comments below.