Thunder to pursue young talent

March 30, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

On paper, it looked so neat, as if all the pieces would fit. The Thunder, general manager Darrell Russell reasoned, was bound to improve this season.

The year before, 1992, the Thunder struggled to a 3-5 record and finished last in the MILL's American Division. The goals yield, 18.4 a game, was the worst in the seven-team league.

Nowhere to go but up, right? Alas, the Thunder stayed right where it was.

Surrendering 17.3 goals, again the league high, the Thunder finished last in the American Division at 2-6, then lost to the New York Saints, 10-9, Sunday in the first round of the playoffs.

"It's disappointing because we expected better," Russell said. "We had every reason to believe we'd improve. But we didn't."

Before the season, the Thunder traded for veterans John Tucker, Butch Marino and Ricky Fried. They joined holdover veterans Rick Sowell, Jeff Jackson, Todd Curry and Tim and Pat Welsh.

"We relied on a lot of veterans, thinking we'd get one more year out of them," Russell said. "It was a mistake. We're going to have to make changes. We'll have to look at fresh talent right out of college. We might sign more Canadians."

The Thunder brought in Dave Lee from British Columbia to play goal. Although only 23, and a rookie, Lee grew up playing indoor lacrosse.

"We were counting on Dave for a good job, and by season's end he was playing well," Russell said. "But it took time. The season is so darn short that by the time he got it together, it was over.

"I hope he'll come back next year. With this season of experience, he'll be better. When you're building a team, you start there, with a goalie. But we can't tell now. Dave may choose to go back to school, or he may meet a girl back in British Columbia."

Attendance was satisfactory. For four home dates, the Thunder drew 35,572, an average of 8,893, topped by the throng of 11,408 that turned out for the Jan. 30 date with the Philadelphia Wings.

"Our attendance growth has been steady, if not spectacular," Russell said. "Every year we've gone up a bit. The only problem franchises in that regard are Detroit and Pittsburgh."

Russell said he intends to return for his sixth year as general manager, even though this season's record was the Thunder's worst during his tenure. Coach John Stewart, who enjoyed rousing success as Loyola High's coach for 14 years but has a six-year record of 16-20 record with the Thunder, may or may not return.

"I'll have to think about it," Stewart said. "I like coaching and I like lacrosse. The frustration comes with the MILL itself. Because there are so few games and only one practice a week, you're limited on what you can do. There are no meetings or conditioning or off-season training.

"As long as it's fun, I'll stay. That's what I have to decide. Is it still fun?"

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