Time is now to make room for `Big Man' Edell in Hall

April 17, 2004|By MIKE PRESTON

IT'S INEVITABLE that former University of Maryland coach Dick Edell will get into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. The record is impeccable. But instead of waiting possibly years, the group's 35 board members should approve Edell's induction in June.

Edell, 60, has been suffering three years from inclusion myopathy, an illness in which muscle cells slowly destroy each other. The disease isn't life-threatening, but one day it will incapacitate him.

Edell is one of 350 eligible Hall of Fame candidates. Five men and five women can be inducted annually, but only one male and one female coach. Right now, the process is in the middle stages.

But board members and top lacrosse officials keep getting letters supporting Edell. No one is asking for sympathy. Edell would not want that. He grew up poor and lived among automobile and steelworkers in Dundalk, where his father was a door-to-door insurance salesman. He has way too much pride.

But Edell should be able to enjoy his accomplishment while he is still healthy. He walks short distances with the aid of a cane, and might need assistance on longer ones, but he looks good, feels good and sounds good.

Lacrosse, whether you like it or not, always takes care of its own. It's time the sport took care of Edell, affectionately known as "The Big Man" around the Maryland campus.

"No one questions the caliber of the coach, or the character of the man that Dick Edell is," said Josh Christian, director of Museum Service at US Lacrosse. "It's only a matter of time before he gets in."

"He definitely belongs in there, and for it to happen now would be great for him," said former Terps attackman Matt Hahn, 27. "It's well deserved, and it would be nice for us to watch him enjoy it."

No one can argue against Edell's record. In 29 years of coaching at the University of Baltimore, Army and Maryland, he compiled a 282-123 record, good enough for a 69.6 winning percentage. During an 18-year stay at Maryland, Edell was 171-76 with 13 NCAA tournament appearances, including three in the 1995, '97 and '98 championship games.

His critics can say that Edell never won a national championship. That's bogus. Championships are hard to win in any sport, even in one as small as lacrosse. To advance into the final three times, to win at the University of Baltimore and Army and still have the fifth all-time winning percentage in your sport is phenomenal.

Almost everyone knows the impact Edell has had on Maryland. It's similar to the one Bob Scott had at Hopkins, which is why these two will be named honorary captains tonight in the 100th meeting between the teams at Homewood Field.

When you think of Maryland, you think of great defense, the blue-collar work ethic, the passion and fierce competitiveness.

You also immediately think of Edell, and that big 6-5 body pacing the sidelines with his fists pumping and him screaming in that loud, high voice.

"He had great success at Maryland, and gave guys opportunities they would not have had at other schools," said Hahn. "He didn't always go after the guy with the flashy stick work or the blue-chip players. That's not to say we didn't have talented players at Maryland, but he always wanted the hard-working athlete. Coach was just a great character to be around."

His players loved him.

"As much as he prepared you for a game, he prepared you for the rest of life," said former Terps attackman Michael Mosko, a 1987 graduate who now owns an advertising agency in Washington. "He taught you to be a good citizen, good student and a good lacrosse player, and it was always in that order. You take away great memories from the games, but you took away things for life from Coach Edell.

"He would come through those dorms at 8 in the morning to make sure you were going to class," said Mosko. "As much as the extra sleep might appeal to you, you really didn't want to see his giant silhouette on the wall."

There are numerous stories about Edell: about the one time he hit an official in the head with a water bottle because he couldn't get a timeout. He would attend the weddings of former players, and the funerals of parents of former players. He knew the names of more janitors at Cole Field House than the people who hired him.

And he will long be remembered for the quivering lip, the one that put fear into anyone near him. Because of his sense of humor and passion, Edell will go down as one of the sport's greatest characters, but that alone should not be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.

But combined with his record and impact on the game, Edell is an eventual slam-dunk. Edell was one of the first coaches in the game to use stall tactics, and few teams could match Maryland's passion. Lacrosse is fortunate to have good coaches who are good people, like Towson's Tony Seaman, Princeton's Bill Tierney, Maryland's Dave Cottle, Virginia's Dom Starsia and UMBC's Don Zimmerman.

They, in one way or another, are cut from the mold of Edell. It's not always easy for board members to select the right person, and to compare Edell with any other Hall of Fame coach would be a disservice to both.

But this sport needs to give something back to Dick Edell because he gave so much to the sport. A spot in the Hall of Fame would be great. Not in one, two or three years, but now.

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