Sandlin to fill in for Salisbury's Berkman

Defensive coordinator named interim coach while Berkman recovers from heart problems

March 14, 2012|By Edward Lee

With Salisbury announcing Monday evening that Jim Berkman would not return to coach the top-ranked Sea Gulls until at least March 21 in their Capital Athletic Conference opener at York, who is going to pilot the team against Washington & Lee Wednesday night?

Meet Ben Sandlin, the defensive coordinator who was a first-team All-American defenseman for Berkman in his senior year (2008). Sandlin, who has been a member of Berkman’s staff since graduation, confirmed that he would be the interim coach Wednesday night, but emphasized that he would seek input from his colleagues on the staff.

“We’ve got seven assistant coaches, so I’m sure there will be a lot of little things said among the coaches about decisions during the game,” Sandlin said Tuesday. “I’ve been with Coach for four years in coaching and four years in playing, and all the assistant coaches but one have played for Coach. So we know what he wants and what’s expected of us and what the team expectations are. So I don’t think that should be too hard.”

This is not the first time Sandlin has filled in for Berkman, who missed last year’s contest against Hood to attend a funeral. But this is the first time that the coaches have reviewed game film, scouted an opponent, and devised a game plan without some guidance from Berkman, the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach with 395 career victories.

“That’s been a group effort,” Sandlin said. “I’ve just been making sure that everybody’s doing their part. We’re getting all the information from all the coaches, and we’re coordinating it and putting it all together. But the game plan is not mine. It’s all the coaches. The scouting is from all the coaches. So I’m just kind of making sure that it’s all getting done.”

Senior attackman Matt Cannone said the players have a lot of faith in Sandlin, who collected 120 groundballs and caused 69 turnovers in 60 career games at Salisbury, because of his relationship with Berkman.

“He has such great assistant coaches though that he’s taught pretty much all the tricks he knows,” Cannone said of Berkman. “And I feel like our leadership on the field and off the field would help push us through.”

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