Road Trip Dad –
Team of HOF Rivals
Dan Witmer | December 9, 2019
Yeah, I stole my title from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s New York Times bestseller about President Lincoln’s cabinet – 10 bonus points if you knew that.

I did not attend the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Association (IMLCA) Convention this past weekend in Baltimore, so I thought about writing an article about what I missed and what I didn’t.

One of the highlights of the annual gathering of boys’ high school and men’s college lacrosse coaches is their recently-added IMLCA Hall of Fame induction dinner (started in 2015; this weekend was their fifth group of inductees). Every year I’d look at the list of honorees and say to myself, “Wow, I should go to that dinner this year.” Then I’d procrastinate, or look at the price tag, and then later on I’d find myself regretting not going.

Well, when I saw the list of this year’s inductees, I found myself saying something a little different.

“Wow,” I said, “they’ve got some D-III guys this year, and I coached against them.”

Don’t get me wrong; those D-I legends certainly deserve their places in the IMLCA Hall of Fame. Jameison, Emmer, Seaman, Edell, Ciccarone, Simmons, Moran, Hayes… no arguments here, but in all of their first four years of inductions, I think only Renzie Lamb was a career D-III coach (yes, Dave Urick was at Hobart when they were D-III, and Dick Szlasa coached at Drew for a while, etc).

This year, however, both Don Leet and Chuck Winters joined the ranks of those others. Coach Leet was a genuine icon at St. Lawrence University, head coach from 1970 until 1997, and Coach Winters was at the helm of the Cortland State Red Dragons from 1973 till 1983.

And I shared the sideline with them both.

I can’t say that about all the previous IMLCA inductees – even Lamb, Urick, and Szlasa; Oswego State never played Williams, Hobart, or Drew. But we did play St. Lawrence and Cortland.

So I started thinking… over the course of my 28 years, what other Hall of Fame coaches did I go toe-to-toe with?

I made a list. Fair or not, I included only coaches who are/were my age or older (sorry John Haus and Guy Van Arsdale, but my research shows that you guys graduated in ’83; you’re too young for my criteria; Jim Lyons, Steve Beville, Bill Bergan, Jason Hurley, Matt Kerwick – take some consolation in hearing me say, “Sorry, but you’re not old enough”).

But as I looked at the group of my rivals who did meet my criteria, I was amazed at their collective credentials. I didn’t research all 28 coaches, but I’m guessing that most of them – if not all of them – have been inducted into at least one Hall of Fame, whether their college’s, their alma mater’s, their regional US Lacrosse chapter, or some other organizations. And many are probably in multiple HOFs. If they’re not in any Hall of Fame, they certainly deserve to be... says me.

I might have missed some names, and I truly apologize to anyone who feels like they were snubbed or overlooked, but the list got so long that I decided to chop it up into two pieces – half today, the other half next week.

I’ll try to do this diplomatically, i.e. alphabetically:

Jim Berkman – proud to say we graduated the same year (1982), Coach Berkman from St. Lawrence and me from Oswego State. Before he started his amazingly successful career at Salisbury University (including 12 national championships!), he coached at Potsdam in 1985. According to the internest, the Lakers won 10-9 that year, so I’m undefeated against the winningest coach in college lacrosse history…

Al Brown – longtime coach at Alfred University, back when they were a perrenially-nationally-ranked program (featuring an attackman named Alberici, from Auburn HS, among others).

Jerry Casciani – coach and administrator at Cortland State, when they were nationally-ranked, too.

Erv Chambliss – probably known better in college football circles, but Erv coached the men’s lacrosse team at the U of Rochester and later at Union College. According to the intermess, he’s still coaching football at U Albany.

Terry Corcoran – one July at the Top 205 Camp, Coach Corcoran talked me into bringing the Lakers down to Chestertown to play his Washington College Shoremen the following spring. By the time that season arrived, Corc had left for Skidmore College, so I didn’t get to go head to head with him – instead butting heads with Haus and then JB Clarke for the next few years. I did, however, meet up with Coach Corcoran at some fall scrimmages against the Thoroughbreds.

Steve D’Argenio – head coach at SUNY Farmingdale as they transitioned from the JUCO ranks to D-III. Steve had coached high school lacrosse before taking over the Rams, and I believe he’s still involved in LI lacrosse.

Jerry Demeo – former A-A at Cortland and currently listed as an assistant at SUNY Maritime, Jerry was the head coach at the now-defunct Southampton College when we played them back in the mid-80s. He has also coached at Stony Brook and at the high school level.

Mac Diange – Mac was head coach at Geneseo when I started coaching, and he left in the late 80s to become an assistant coach at West Point. Now, almost 30 years later, Mac is still at the Academy, where he has taken over the West Point Prep program.

Tom Diehl – pretty sure Tom was hired as LeMoyne’s first-ever men’s lacrosse coach. He and I would often commiserate about being part-timers in a world that had more and more full-time coaches; he was also one of the first to give me summer work, coaching at the LeMoyne Lacrosse Camp. Coach Diehl got the Dolphins’ program up on its own two feet before leaving Syracuse to take over at D-I Marist.

Tom Gill – longtime coach at the US Merchant Marine Academy, Coach Gill also helped Richie Moran with the Irish National Team.

Dr. Chip Hunter – the first head coach of the Potsdam men’s lacrosse team, from 1977-1984. He also coached basketball and golf… another fatherly influence.

John Johnson – after a Hall of Fame coaching career at Canandaigua HS, John retired and took over the head job at St. John Fisher College – and immediately added two of his retired Section V rivals to his staff. Together, he, Randy Garrett (Fairport HS), and Mark Rice (Penfield HS) made for quite the coaching staff; I don’t think I ever attended a recruiting event without seeing at least one of them there (and usually it was all three of them).

Russ Ketcham – Long Island veteran of stints at SUNY Maritime, the USMMA, and Hofstra, as well as North Shore and Garden City high school programs.

I’ll stop here; check back next week for the second half of this “Who’s Who in College Lacrosse Coaching” list.

And please – drive carefully.

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of two books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit  is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.