The John Desko era is officially over for the Syracuse Orange men’s lacrosse program. And it turns out the Gary Gait era has come to close for the women’s program as well, given Sunday’s Inside Lacrosse bombshell report that Desko will retire and be replaced by Gait.
As College Crosse notes, this is one of those insane internet fan things that exists for years, then finally happens in the real world. Given what transpired for the men’s team this season and the past decade, there was always a chance that Desko left. But replacing him with Gait does come as a little bit of a surprise.
After playing for Syracuse from 1976-79, Desko was on the coaching staff from 1980-98 before taking over the program for the 1999 season. From that point on, the Hall-of-Famer went 266-93 with five national titles, 10 trips to the Final Four and six conference championships (four Big East, two ACC). He’s among the top coaches of all-time — at Syracuse or anywhere — and for that, we have a lot to be thankful for.
However, the last decade has admittedly been tougher for SU as the landscape around men’s college lacrosse has shifted and the Orange have struggled to maintain the same foothold atop the sport. Syracuse’s last Final Four came all the way back in 2013, and the Orange haven’t won it all since 2009.
Last spring seemed like it was set to be an end to both streaks before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. With most of the top players back from that squad, SU was expected to contend for a title once again — yet barely made the NCAA Tournament, and the Orange were drubbed by Georgetown in the first round. As has been well-documented at this point, there was also the Chase Scanlan incident this year; the latest and potentially most severe in a string of player-related issues for the team.
Gait, as you know, is a Hall-of-Famer in his own right and until Sunday, was the highly successful coach of the Orange women’s lacrosse program. Since taking over in 2008, Gait’s led the team to eight Final Fours and three national title games, along with nearly 200 total wins. While the team hasn’t gotten over the hump to win it all, they looked pretty close this season despite a national championship game loss to Boston College.
Though Gait’s coached the women’s team for over a decade, he’s obviously no stranger to the men’s game. Along with numerous accolades as a player on the Syracuse men’s side, he played in the pros from 1991-2005, plus 2009-11. He began coaching in 2005 with the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth, and later served as an assistant with the MLL’s Hamilton Nationals as well.
Gait’s departure from the women’s sideline leaves a major gap for that program. But Syracuse WLAX is also on much more stable footing than when he first took over.
We’ll have more during the week on this, as it’s quite a bit to digest for both teams. How do we feel about the moves? Share your own thoughts below.