Champion Bayhawks face changes in 2006

New owners, coach contend with exit of Gait, Powell

Pro Lacrosse

May 10, 2006|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

When the defending Major League Lacrosse champion Bayhawks launch their 2006 season at Long Island on Preakness night, they will be sporting a new look in everything from ownership to coaching to playing personnel.

Even the league in which they compete will feature a makeover, with the creation of a Western Conference that includes teams in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"It's the end of an era for the MLL and a very exciting time," said Bayhawks co-president and owner Scott Hiller, who will also serve as the interim head coach. "They did it at the right time."

With the original ownership group selling to co-president Jeff Harvey and Hiller in a deal finalized early this year and player-coach Gary Gait deciding not to return, leadership of the franchise has undergone a complete facelift.

"The past group did a pretty good job and we're just going to try to build on that," said Harvey, who will handle the business side of the operation.

They started yesterday with a preseason news conference at Sports Legends, where Harvey announced a growing list of sponsors, more television coverage - including two games live on ESPN2 - and special nights that will begin with the hoisting of the league championship flag at the home opener May 27.

Gait, Mikey Powell and Gavin Prout (Loyola) were among the players who decided not to sign a league contract and were placed on the did-not-report list. That means they cannot play for the Bayhawks but can remain in the league if traded elsewhere.

The co-Most Valuable Player of the MLL last season, Gait, considered one of the greatest lacrosse players ever, scored 42 goals and finished his Bayhawks career with 129 goals and 54 assists. Powell, who sat out the 2004 season after being taken No. 1 in the college draft, had 27 goals and 10 assists in 11 games.

"It's going to be tough without Gary," said veteran attackman Mark Millon, who returns to Baltimore after one year with the Boston Cannons. "He's a great player, a legend. But everybody knew this was going to happen eventually."

Gait moved to Denver, where he has diverse business interests associated with the sport. "We tried to get him to come back and play, but it just didn't work out," Hiller said.

Powell "wanted to do different things," according to Hiller. "He wants to get himself situated and get ready for the U.S. team." Powell is back living in upstate New York, where he starred at Syracuse.

"No one has been able to pin him down on why he doesn't want to play," Millon said. "I personally looked forward to the opportunity to play with him, but I don't anticipate him showing up anywhere [in the league]."

So, the roster defending the title will be younger, probably decidedly so after the MLL draft following the college season. The Bayhawks have three of the top 10 picks and four of the first 13.

"It'll be a different team," said Millon, the league's co-MVP with Gait in 2005 and the all-time leading scorer with 206 goals and 305 points. "I don't think it's going to be like last year, when they kind of ran away from everyone."

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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