SU Men’s Lacrosse Season Preview: Coaches
By: Jesse Cook
Citrus TV Sports Men’s Lacrosse Beat Reporter
Three familiar faces joined the Syracuse men’s lacrosse coaching staff this past off-season.
S.U. grad and former Syracuse women’s lacrosse head coach Gary Gait takes on the mantle of head coach of the men’s roster.
Former Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala takes over as an assistant coach and Redwoods L.C. faceoff specialist T.D. Ierlan joins the squad as a volunteer assistant coach.
These three pack a much bigger punch than a few one-line sentences can convey.
Coach Gait is considered by many to be the greatest lacrosse player of all-time, reaching above legends like Paul Rabil, Jim Thorpe, his newly-appointed assistant coach Pietramala, and Syracuse legends Jim Brown and Oren Lyons.
Gait’s 14-year long tenure at the helm of the women’s team brought the program to three national championship games, however they never took home the title under his leadership.
Alternatively, he led the Baltimore Bayhawks to two Major League Lacrosse championships as a player-coach, winning both the league’s Most Valuable Player Award and championship title in 2005.
S.U. attack Owen Seebold said he cannot wait to start the season with Gait as head coach. He said, “[Gait] is like an idol for a lot of people; he changed the game in so many ways.”
“He’s one of the greatest lacrosse minds and definitely one of the greatest players ever,” continued Seebold. “It’s been really cool to have him on our sidelines and in our corner. You know he’s very creative with the sort of ideas he comes up with on offense.”
While Gait poses ideas for the offense, Pietramala takes on the defensive side of the equation. Widely considered the greatest defensive lacrosse player ever, the Hicksville-native joins on as the defensive coordinator.
He won the Schmeisser Award for the top defenseman in college lacrosse in back-to-back years in 1988 and 1989, becoming one of a select few defensive players to win the Enners Award for the nation’s top overall player in ‘89, as well.
This season will mark the first time Pietramala joins a coaching staff in a role besides head coach. He led a rocky Cornell program between 1998 and 2000 and then led his alma mater, Johns Hopkins, to three national titles in 20 years, missing the National Tournament only once (not including 2020 when there was no Tournament).
Ierlan comes to the squad revered as the all-time leader in every N.C.A.A. faceoff and ground ball record, so his presence will play a vital role in the development of budding senior specialist Jakob Phaup.
Phaup finished 2021 at 23rd in faceoff percentage in all of college lacrosse and sixth in the A.C.C., however he led the conference in both 2019 and the shortened 2020 season.
While the Pennsylvania-native finished top-10 in faceoffs in 2020, then a senior at Yale, Ierlan led the entire league.
Coach Gait said Ierlan shows an incredible dedication to the Orange program, despite working as a volunteer. He said, “Volunteers are tough to get full-time and, you know, we were lucky to get [Ierlan] for the time we do.”
“He does work with [faceoff specialists] every day through phone calls, game planning, practice planning, so he works with them everyday, he’s just not in-person everyday,” continued Gait. “We’re happy with the direction that’s going.”
The Lacrosse Hall of Famer joked about expanding Ierlan’s role with the team. He sarcastically jabbed, “We’re gonna dress him, actually, and uh, have him—no, I’m kidding (laughs). We’d love to dress him.”
Gait, Pietramala, and Ierlan join two members of John Desko’s staff this season in Offensive Coordinator and Assistant Coach Pat March and Director of Operations Roy Simmons III.
Simmons is the grandson and son of Roy Simmons Sr. and Roy Simmons Jr., respectively, who led the Orange as head coaches for a combined 68 seasons. This is his 31st season with the squad. The Simmons family has been a part of the S.U. lacrosse program for 91-straight years and 93 years total, including Simmons Sr.’s two years as a player in 1924 and 1925.
March has been key in building the routinely top-tier Cuse offense. In the last five years, March’s tactics has built four top-10 offenses.
While Gait leads arguably the most illustrious career of this coaching staff, he is not alone in possessing sizable chunks of lax history.
Anticipating the season opener against Holy Cross, Seebold continued to gush about his new head coach. The senior said, “It’s just been really cool to have someone like that and he’s got a really relaxed, laid back kind of mentality, so that makes it easy for us to go up and talk to him and he makes it easy to learn and develop that relationship.”