When the Syracuse Orange knew that John Desko was ready to retire from coaching men’s lacrosse, they didn’t have to look far for his replacement. In fact, they didn’t even have to look outside of the building.
Gary Gait had been coaching the women’s lacrosse team for the last 14 years, building a formidable program that is now cemented into national rankings. When the chance to hop back to the men’s side prevented itself, he took it.
Creative style ✅— Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse (@CuseMLAX) June 10, 2021
20k strong in the Dome ✅
Gary's vision for the Orange should excite the fans. pic.twitter.com/zFwMAQxMuR
Hardcore Syracuse fans need no introduction to Gait. But for those that do...
Gary, along with his twin brother Paul, was a core contributor for the men’s lacrosse program during its golden age. The team lost just one game during three straight championship seasons from 1988-1990. After winning the Lt. Raymond J. Enners Award (presented to the NCAA’s best MLAX player) in both 1988 and 1990, Gait capped off his collegiate career by taking home NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player in 1990.
Gait went on to have a lengthy professional career in lacrosse, winning a total of nine championships between the National Lacrosse League, Major League Lacrosse, and Lacrosse Canada. He was also a part of the Heritage Cup, featuring the best box lacrosse players from the U.S. and Canada, in 2002 and 2004. He and the rest of Team Canada won the latter. Gait wrapped up a phenomenal playing career in 2006, winning the World Lacrosse Championship with Team Canada.
Shortly after that, Gait took his first NCAA head coaching position with the Orange women’s team. He had experience as an assistant coach for Maryland’s women’s lacrosse program from 1995-2001. The Terrapins won seven consecutive national championships with Gait on their staff.
Gait didn’t quite reach those heights with the women’s program, but he did lead the Orange to the National Championship game in 2012, 2014, and 2021. All three times, they came up just short.
If anything, that stretch without a title seems to have motivated Gait even more. During his first press conference on January 13th, he had this to say:
“If you’re not in it to win it, then you shouldn’t be in it.”
If that’s not the mind of a fierce competitor, I don’t know what is.
His passion for the sport has already captivated the locker room. Redshirt Junior and team captain Tucker Dordevic said that under Gait, the team’s mentality has already changed - for the better.
“It’s a much more laid-back environment,” Dordevic said. “He’s giving us more of a chance to have fun with the ball.”
Back in his playing days, Gait pioneered many of the more advanced moves in lacrosse. Behind-the-back passes and shots, once unheard of in the sport, became the norm during his three straight title runs. As head coach, Gait is ready to bring that mix of style and flair back into the fold.
The Orange open the season on Saturday, hosting Holy Cross at noon. The following week, Gait will have his jersey hung in the Carrier Dome rafters, becoming the first Syracuse men’s lacrosse player to receive that honor. The only way to make it better would be to add another championship banner alongside it.