With Gait bidding for job, Slafkosky's fate uncertain

Star may have edge for UM lacrosse post

September 05, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Dave Slafkosky will be in charge when the Maryland men start fall lacrosse practice tonight, but it could be Gary Gait's team when the Terps play for real next spring.

Gait and Slafkosky occupy offices at opposite ends of Cole Field House, and both are eager candidates to succeed Dick Edell, whose tenure at Maryland ended at 18 seasons because of health concerns.

Slafkosky, an assistant to Edell for 24 seasons, was named interim coach, but the front-runner for the permanent post is Gait, one of the game's great names and an assistant with the Terps women during their run of seven straight NCAA titles.

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said yesterday that senior associate athletic director Rob Mullens will chair a search committee that will "move as expeditiously as possible." After finalists are determined, Yow will participate in the interview process, and she has already lauded Gait's credentials.

"It's a great job," Gait said. "I'd like to have it."

Gait spoke less than 24 hours after he had helped the Long Island Lizards win the inaugural Major League Lacrosse championship. A member of the Canadian national team since 1989, he is scheduled to play and be an assistant coach at the 2002 worlds. The demands of being a Division I men's head coach would probably force him to retire as a player.

"That's something I have to take a serious look at," said Gait, a dynamic midfielder who led Syracuse to three NCAA titles. "Obviously, being a head coach is the thing that must take priority. It would be very hard to do both."

Gait came to Maryland as an assistant to women's coach Cindy Timchal in 1994, the year before the Terps began their stranglehold on the NCAA tournament. He has no experience coaching collegiate men.

"I was coaching boys when I was 15, a team of 13-year-olds in Victoria," Gait said of his hometown in British Columbia. "I was an assistant coach with Team Toyota. ... Being around Cindy, certainly a great head coach, I've learned how to deal with personalities, make tough decisions."

Though Gait has never been involved in recruiting high school boys, his success as a player would presumably open a lot of doors.

"I've been involved in the game for a long time, and people recognize that," Gait said. "I don't think that's going to hurt."

An Annapolis native who played for St. Mary's High and Johns Hopkins University, Slafkosky is best known for his loyalty to Edell, whom he assisted at Army before they came to Maryland before the 1984 season. Edell credited Slafkosky as the Terps went to NCAA finals in 1995 and '97.

"If I didn't learn anything from Dick in 25 years, then I would be pretty stupid," said Slafkosky, who has served Edell as both an offensive and defensive coordinator.

"I think we've done a pretty good job. There are a few people who think we haven't, because we never won a national championship. I've coached from both sides in a national championship game, and there aren't a lot of guys who can say that."

Slafkosky said his interest in the job is tempered by the health of Edell, who is suffering from a non-life-threatening muscular disease.

"When I was offered the interim job, I couldn't get too excited because my best friend is sick," Slafkosky said. "I hope they make the decision quick, because [high school] kids are making up their minds about college."

Slafkosky will open practice with returnees from a team that lost to Towson in the NCAA quarterfinals. He hopes to be around for a Red-White scrimmage Oct. 12 and a mini-tournament with Towson, UMBC and Penn State on Oct. 20.

Asked if he was interested in the job, Loyola coach Dave Cottle said, "No comment."

A former Maryland player who remains active in the Terrapin Club and will serve the search committee as a consultant hoped that rumors of Gait's impending hire don't scare off any qualified candidates.

"I truly think it's the best job in lacrosse," said John Lamon, who played for Maryland in the late 1970s.

"We owe it to Maryland fans to open up the process, and I hope that all the great coaches who are interested throw their name in the hat. If Gary Gait proves in that process that he's ready, I'm behind him."

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