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Syracuse men’s lacrosse: Takeaways from Gary Gait’s introductory press conference

For the first time, we heard from Gary Gait as head coach of the men’s team. So, what did he have to say?

2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship Photo by Greg Fiume/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

On Thursday afternoon, Gary Gait was officially introduced as the fifth head coach in Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse program history.

In just the opening few minutes of the press conference, we got a look at Gary’s phenomenal orange blazer (see below) and heard Athletics Director John Wildhack refer to Gait as the “Michael Jordan of lacrosse”.

How’d it go after that? Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting moments from the day:

Gait on the state of the program:

“That is definitely one of the things that I want to bring to this program is heighten the level of chemistry and really take the program to the next level on the offensive end; really create that chemistry like I remember it being. And I’m certainly thrilled to have that opportunity to try and bring that back to the program, and create a real buzz around the way Syracuse plays again”.

I’m definitely down for some buzz about the program that doesn’t involve us getting blown out five times in one season!

On both the men’s and women’s teams being his dream jobs:

“To be able to come back here and coach at Syracuse is certainly a dream come true. It was a dream to come back and coach the women, but now to have that opportunity to be on the men’s side is unbelievable.

We’ll continue to support and work with the women’s program. I will give them whatever they need. Whatever I can do to help, I’ll be there for them. And I look forward to the day when we both can raise the national championship. And hopefully that will be very soon”.

According to Gary, he found his dream job twice on Syracuse’s campus. Now the question is, can he deliver the results that we’re all dreaming of?

On the transition with coach Desko and his role moving forward:

“He’s already been a tremendous help. Before the press conference he called me and said...whatever I needed, he’s willing to help. We’ve already set up a meeting to sit down and talk about the players and his opinions and get his input. And I certainly told him that you’re welcome to come out to any practice, you know, an extra set of eyes never hurts. I think that’s important because, you know, he’s been such an incredible champion for this program and he deserves that. And I’m sure we’ll have opportunities in the near future to honor his greatness and what he’s done here”.

Given the family atmosphere of the Syracuse lacrosse program, it’s not necessarily a surprise to hear Gait talk as much as he has about Desko remaining at least somewhat involved in the program. Like he said, an extra set of eyes never hurts.

On his own experience and his vision for the team’s style of play:

“I’ve had a lot of experience with every style of play in the game, and I think that’s going to really help me. I think about being creative and trying to evaluate the players and come up with a style of play that will allow us to hopefully bring back 20,000 in the Dome to come watch us play. It’ll be between style and flair, but always has to have substance and success”.

Even if it’s just generalities, it was fun to hear Gait describe his vision for how he wants his teams to play. We heard him use the word ‘creativity’ multiple times throughout the press conference, which is definitely not a surprise for the man behind “Air Gait”. Also, even hearing the notion of getting that many people back into the Dome for a lacrosse game was enough to get me pumped up. 20,000 is an audacious number, and I love it!

On his strategy for recruiting:

“I think moving the recruiting date back to September 1 of their junior year will help us. It’s much easier to identify a top player as they’ve matured a little bit physically and as a player. I think one of my focuses is to be really targeted on the recruiting and maybe reduce the size of the classes a little bit, but just make sure we get the top kids in each position”.

I was very interested to hear Gait talk about focusing on potentially reducing the size of recruiting classes while targeting specific players for specific roles. Of course, there’s built in risk to this strategy because it emphasizes even more than usual not missing on recruits if you’re not brining in as many. But, as he mentioned, moving back the recruiting date helps in evaluating and making it easier to hit on as many as possible.

On building his staff:

“Yes, we’re getting close. We should have some staff named in the next couple days, I would hope. So, we’re working on it very quickly, and I think that’s important. Pat’s (March) out on the road right now. He’s working, doing his job, which is awesome. And, we’ll fill in the staff in the next few days”.

I perked up when I heard this one. Keep your eyes peeled for some news possibly by next week for how Gait will be filling out his coaching staff. The rumors have been strong that Dave Pietramala could be brought on as defensive coordinator, which would kind of be a mind-blowing move for Syracuse fans. Of course, there’s no arguing with Petro’s credentials. It might not be the worst idea to bring a national championship winning coach in to Gait’s staff...even if he is from...Hopkins.

On John Desko’s impact on him and the program:

“Well, going back to my playing days, John, he was the structure, the backbone of our program. Coach Simmons was amazing. He was spiritual. He was unique. He was different. But John really dialed in the game, and what we needed to do to have success. And I think it made me realize that you have to be able to do both, and teach both”.

I thought it was interesting to get a little behind-the-scenes info on the dynamic between coaches Simmons and Desko when they worked together back in the day. They are two Hall of Famers and two of the most successful coaches in lacrosse history, but seemingly went about it in completely different ways.

Wildhack on the hiring process:

“There are two alums who played lacrosse here, and I have tremendous respect for their knowledge of the sport. I reached out to them, and we came up with a very, very short list. We vetted that, carefully, and it became quite clear to me that the best person to lead our men’s program was someone who’s already here, coach Gait”.

Wildhack on championship expectations for the men and the women:

“Yes, there are expectations. Let’s embrace those expectations. Let’s leverage the (program’s) success, and leverage the attributes that we have to do exactly that: to build championship programs for BOTH men’s and women’s lacrosse. I want Memorial Day weekend to be really crazy. I want to be hoping from Friday with the women’s semifinals to Saturday with the men’s, then Sunday the women’s championship. I want my Memorial Day weekend to be consumed with lacrosse”.

It’s been far too long since my Memorial Day weekend has been consumed with lacrosse. Preach it, John Wildhack!