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Syracuse women’s lacrosse: Who will replace Gary Gait as head coach?

Important decision incoming for John Wildhack in the wake of the major Syracuse lacrosse coaching shake-up.

2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Well that was insane.

On Sunday evening, the Syracuse Orange lacrosse world got turned upside down with the news that John Desko would be announcing his retirement and Gary Gait would be replacing him as head coach of the men’s program.

Obviously, this means that both SU lacrosse programs experienced coaching changes in one shot. While Gait becomes the fifth head coach in the men’s illustrious, 106-year history, the women are now searching for the person to become the third head coach in their ownhistory.

Will John Wildhack focus his search on one of many prominent women’s lacrosse alumni now in the coaching ranks, or will he turn his attention outside the Syracuse network?

Before last night was even over, Brent Axe of tweeted out that former Orange great and current Boston College assistant Kayla Treanor has reportedly already been offered, and subsequently turned down, the position.

Treanor is one of the best players in program history and has been very successful since becoming a BC assistant in 2018, helping guide their offense and, of course, winning a national championship this season.

However, it appears that Treanor is out of the running, at least right now.

In that case, let’s take a look at some of the other top options to become the next head coach of the women’s lacrosse team:

Katie Rowan Thomson

You might remember her as simply Katie Rowan, which was her name back when she was a three-time, first-team All-American for Syracuse from ‘06-’09. Rowan is one of the best players in program history and the program’s leading scorer.

Rowan now has 12 years of coaching experience under her belt, six as an assistant and six as a head coach. She spent four years as a Syracuse assistant and two as an Albany assistant before becoming head coach at Wagner in 2016, where she compiled a 31-27 record in three seasons. In 2019, she went back to Albany, where she’s gone 25-16 in the last three seasons.

Rowan has the most extensive coaching experience of any of the Syracuse women’s alums in the conversation, and she was on Gary Gait’s staff for a combined four years.

Michelle Tumolo

Tumolo is yet another of the highest scoring players in program history (fourth) who is now a coach at the DI level.

She took over the Wagner program when Rowan left for Albany back in 2019. In her three years as head coach, she’s guided them to a 29-13 record and a NEC title in 2019. Before coming to Wagner, Tumolo spent five years as an assistant coach at Florida, Syracuse and Oregon, combined.

Tumolo only graduated from SU in 2013, so she’s very young, but she’s began her coaching career immediately as soon as her collegiate career ended.

Joe Spallina

And now, to throw a wrinkle into the Syracuse equation.

Joe Spallina is a Long Island lifer. He went to high school (Rocky Point) and college (Adelphi) on Long Island, and has spent his entire coaching career there. Spallina just completed his 10th season at Stony Brook. Before that, he coached his alma mater for four seasons, compiling an almost-inexplicable 73-2 record and three consecutive Division II national championships. He also spent six years as head coach of the Long Island Lizards of the MLL (R.I.P.), as well as their general manager for a couple seasons.

So, yeah, the guy screams Long Island. But would he be enticed to head upstate to further his coaching career? He could arrive just one year ahead of his son (we hope!), Class of 2022 No. 1 recruit Joey Spallina, if that’s of any interest to him.

Spallina has done a great job in his career of doing more with less. Stony Brook usually doesn’t attract the quality recruits that the big-name schools do, and yet Spallina has been pretty successful in keeping competitive with that supposed lesser talent. He also has experience working with top talent, having served as an assistant coach for Team USA since 2018.

Will John Wildhack be ready and willing to look outside the Syracuse family for his next women’s head coach? If so, Spallina looks to be the top exterior candidate in terms of experience and success.

Regy Thorpe

Thorpe is an interesting candidate who combines Rowan and Tumolo’s Syracuse connections with Spallina’s extensive coaching experience.

He spent two years as a player at Syracuse, helping captain the 1993 squad to a national championship. More importantly, he spent 10 years as an assistant and associate head coach of the Syracuse women’s lacrosse team under Gary Gait from 2010-2019. A big plus for Thorpe is that many current members of the Orange already have at least some experience with him as a coach and/or a recruiter.

Thorpe is in an interesting situation. He’s currently an assistant with the Pitt women’s team, which is scheduled for its inaugural season in 2022. Would he walk away from that job before it even really begins to go back to his old stomping grounds and a far superior program? Will we get the chance to find out?

Caitlin Defliese

The in-house option to consider would be Defliese, the current defensive coordinator and brains behind the SU zone defense.

Defliese came to SU in 2017 after spending the previous five seasons as associate head coach at Stony Brook under Joe Spallina.

She’s the only person here whose never been a head coach, but 10 years as an assistant and five within the SU women’s program are positives in her corner. If not, hopefully we can hold onto her as defensive coordinator since our defense will have some rebuilding to do next year.

A couple other names to consider could be Kathy Taylor and Alyssa Murray Cometti. Taylor is the head coach at Colgate and has a lot of local and Central New York ties. She has previously been the head coach at LeMoyne and Fayetteville-Manlius HS, as well as Cortland. She also went to and played for Cornell. Alyssa Murray is yet another of the best players in program history who has coaching experience at the college and youth levels.

I’m a little disappointed for the women here, who are primed to have such an incredibly talented roster in 2022 but just lost their leader. This is a hire that John Wildhack needs to get right, because you do not want to squander the incredible talent and strong position that the program currently holds.

What do you guys think? Who did I miss? Who do you like to be the next head coach for the women’s lacrosse team? Let us know in the comments!