Last week I started listing all the iconic college coaches I had the privilege of competing against in my own coaching tenure, coaches who are in at least one Hall of Fame, or certainly deserve to be. I presented them alphabetically, last names A to Z, starting with Salisbury’s Jim Berkman and cutting off at SUNY Maritime’s Russ Ketcham.
Without further ado, here’s the rest of my list, the second half of the alphabet, starting with one of this year’s IMLCA Hall of Fame inductees – Don Leet, of D-III’s St. Lawrence University:
Don Leet – congrats to the newest member of the IMLCA Hall of Fame! In his 28 seasons coaching SLU lacrosse, Coach Leet took his Saints to eight NCAA tournaments – and he coached football, too. Even at the un-ripened age of 22, I knew who this man was and was awed by his presence.
Jeff Long – still going as strong as ever, Longman played for Navy, the 1978 and
1986 US National Teams, and
the Sailing Shoe. His Ithaca Bombers always seem to be somewhere in the Top 20 Coaches’ Poll.
Corky Lynch – Corky was the head coach at Oneonta when I started, and his players loved him and played hard for him. In addition to coaching lacrosse from 1980-1993, he also was the swimming and diving coach – and assistant soccer coach. Ahh, those good-old days of D-III…
Stewart Moan – I didn’t really get to know Stewart until he came north to coach at Oneonta, but he’d coached all over the place before that (assistant at Duke and Drew, and head coach at Haverford, Lynchburg, and Marymount). He’s still at it, currently plying his trade at Susquehanna University. During the almost 20 summers I worked the Top 205 Camp, we were nearly inseparable.
Scott Nelson – another Class of ’82 guy (NC State, no less!). Coach Nelson was the first head coach at Nazareth, starting the program in 1986 and winning the first of three national championships in ’92. Since leaving Naz, he’s coached at Brown, Marist, Binghamton, and is currently at Pfeiffer.
Steve O’Shea – “Oshe” was the head coach at SUNY Albany from 1988-1994, back when we played each other every year. We joked for years that it seemed like the home team always won, but I distinctly remember winning at Albany in ’94, in what might have been the last year we played one another.
Paul Rose – Paul was head coach at Colgate when I started, and we played one another all five years he coached the Raiders. Then he coached at Morrisville from 1987 through 2007, and we continued to play one another, scrimmaging at least once a year when the Mustangs were a JUCO program, and then competing as SUNYAC rivals as they transitioned to D-III. Truly one of my favorites, his passing in 2010 was a huge loss to the entire lacrosse community.
Ray Rostan – Hall of Famer Ray Rostan and I crossed paths just a few times; he was head coach at RIT while I was playing for Oswego, and then he was at Ithaca in ’82 and ’83 before heading south to Hampden-Sydney, where he went on to coach for 32 years.
Tony Seaman – technically, we met just once on opposing sidelines. In ’82 I had mono and instead of playing my final year at Oswego, I put on a coach’s hat and served as assistant coach, and we just so happened to have CW Post on our schedule that year – Coach Seaman’s first year of college coaching. The two of us go back many, many years – I’ve written about our relationship several times – but if you didn’t know, he was my junior high soccer coach and my varsity lacrosse coach at Lynbrook HS. For the record, the Lakers were leading at halftime, but the Pioneers came back and won in the end. Oh yeah, and Post’s assistant coach that spring was this big guy named Danowski…
Fran Shields – we played the Camels of Conn College just once, I believe, but Coach Shields had already taken that program to national prominence. A Geneva HS and SLU alum, Fran went on to become Athletic Director at Conn College, and I looked forward to seeing him every year at the conventions.
Bill Tierney – yes, I shared a sideline with Coach T, too, for two years. He was at RIT for three years (’82-’84), and while I can’t lay claim to any wins against the Hall of Famer, I do remember a 9-7 “moral victory” loss against his nationally-ranked Tigers – at the time, it seemed like a very big deal.
Ed Van Tine – another great guy taken from us all way too soon. Coach Van Tine was at Buff State back in the ‘80s, when they had a men’s team, and we shared a lot of laughs. He not only coached at Buff State, he also served as Canisius’ first head coach, and went on from there – to Hamburg HS and then St. Francis Prep… a true legend in WNY.
Manfred von Schiller – coached at Hamilton College for 37 years! Like Coach Leet, I looked at Coach like a father-figure/role model, the kind of coach I had always wanted to emulate.
Hawley Waterman – yet another fatherly coaching icon, Hawley was the head coach at Kean College back in the ‘90s when we made a few trips down to New Jersey for weekend trips. He coached lacrosse for 25 years, but he also coached other sports at Kean, too, as well as serving as Athletic Director, too.
Paul Wehrum – head coach at Herkimer CC, where the Generals won eight JUCO national championships, and then head coach at Union College, where he took the Dutchmen to the NCAA D-III tournament five times. Coach Wehrum goes back to Lynbrook HS, too – he was our football coach (when I was playing varsity soccer). Oswego often scrimmaged Herkimer, and then we played Union a few times while Coach was in Schenectady.
Rory Whipple – while Whip was at Clarkson and then Hartwick, Oswego teams had a tough time beating either of his squads. He later went on to Bryant, and then Florida Southern, and is now head coach at Tampa, running one of the best D-II programs in the country.
Mark Wimmer – Mark was the assistant coach at Albany when Coach O’Shea was running the show, and I found out through the internest that he was actually the head coach between Oshe’s departure in ’94 and Coach Marr’s arrival in 2001.
Chuck Winters – Congrats to Coach Winters on his IMLCA Hall of Fame induction! Head coach at Cortland State from ’77-’87, you cannot talk about the “cradle of lacrosse coaches” without including his name; he coached a lot of them. Coach Winters went on to become an athletic administrator at West Point and then Athletic Director at Gettysburg, and he served on the NCAA rules committee and USILA executive board for years.
There you have it – about 30 of the biggest (and older) names and characters of the D-III landscape, all Hall of Famers in my book. Don’t worry; sooner or later, the younger guys will get their own moments in the spotlight, if not from me, from someone else, somewhere along the way.
I often feel like I’m guilty of being a name-dropper and, unfortunately, this opus of respected and revered D-III legends doesn’t do anything to change that. I’m guilty as charged. But I also think it’s only right to recognize all
these men, not just the two Hall of Famers, and I can’t help but think how fortunate I am, how lucky I’ve been, to know these gentlemen. They gave (or give) so much to the sport, and did (or still do) things the right way.
Thanks to all of them, and thank you for reading.
Drive carefully, everyone!
- Dan Witmer
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.