Sure, I’m talking about Connor Fields, Tehoka Nanticoke, and the Thompsons. But, more importantly, I’m talking about T.D. Ierlan, Kyle Mcclancy, and our very own John Maloney.
You see, of all the things the Great Danes have done for lacrosse in the last decade, they have not won a title, or even been to Memorial Day weekend. It’s these facts, however, that make Albany’s undeniable recent success even more interesting.
It would be a lot easier to understand why such talented players like Ierlan, Mcclancy, and Maloney would have opted to join squads like Syracuse, Denver, or Virginia during their recruitment days. These programs have impressive pedigrees and have repeatedly shown up on the big stage. Are we really going to kid ourselves thinking that UAlbany is the only D1 school they got an offer from?
One could argue that household names like Fields and Nanticoke saw the brand of lacrosse that the Thompson Trio branded (figuratively and literally), examined their own skillset, and decided that that’s where they wanted to take their talents. From the outside looking in, that’s simple arithmetic. But what about the guys that went to UAlbany knowing that their roles would – on the surface – be diminished to be seen as guys whose job is to get the ball to Lyle, Connor, or Tehoka?
My assertion is that there’s one man at the center of all of this, and his name is Scott Marr.
Scott Marr’s brand of lacrosse is so very different than John Tillman’s, or John Danowski’s, or even John Desko’s. For years, Marr has shown the lacrosse world his uncanny ability to build a certain culture; a style of lacrosse that makes certain players dream of wearing purple.
Yes, there’s offensive sets and slide packages, just like any other top tier program. But what produces the style of lacrosse that makes UAlbany a must-watch team is the beautiful chaos – a full-field style of play that moves like water. At times it rages like a flooded river, and at other times it flows like a shallow stream that eases its way around rocks and fallen trees. It’s free-flowing. It’s the discipline of responsible creativity. And it’s clear that extremely talented players not named Fields or Thompson or Nanticoke want in on the action, without being drawn by tangible proof of a Final Four weekend pedigree.
I mean, who could forget this?
I really wanted to get an inside look at all of these things, so I asked Powell Pathfinder John Maloney (UAlbany, Chesapeake Bayhawks) a few questions.
Mikey Diggs: What other programs did you have offers from?
John Maloney: Yale, Air Force, Siena, Mercyhurst, and Lemoyne.
MD: Why did you choose Albany? What made you want to play there?
JM: I played on a summer team called the Rochester Blaze. From that team, my goalie and fellow Powell athlete Blaze Riorden, middie Tyler Aycock, and attack Mitch Rupp had already committed to Albany. They had raved about Coach Marr and had nothing but great things to say. So, when I got my chance to visit and could experience everything first hand, I committed the next day.
MD: What was your experience playing for Scott Marr like?
JM: My experience was incredible and life changing. He inspired me enough that I now want to be a coach for the rest of my life. I want to at least try to have the same impact on players and people that he had on me.
The main takeaway playing for Coach Marr was the amount of fun I had. I will never forget the bowling trips he took us on, the endless amount of Pearl Jam radio he had us listen to, and the numerous bus trips. One of my favorite memories was the pregame practice before one of the biggest games of my career at Maryland, where myself, him, and about 75% of the team did the whole practice shirtless. But by far the best was every year the Sunday morning right before winter break Coach Marr would have the whole team over to his house and his wife, Tracy, would make us a feast that would have fed an army. We ate and talked and laughed, and end the party by going to play on his homemade ice rink out back.
MD: How different of an experience was it to play for a program like Albany compared to what you’ve heard about other Division 1 programs?
JM: I think one thing that separates us from the rest of Division 1 programs is the family that has been created over the years. Coach Marr affected us all in a way that we wanted to make sure we performed and acted in a certain way; we wanted to pass that mentality down so that the Albany family legacy could be continued.
The way we were treated as freshman by the upperclassmen is something I will never forget, and that is something we tried to continue as we became the leaders of the team.
Coach Marr also made sure he formed a great relationships with all of our families. In most programs players may only see their coach at practice and in games, but Coach Marr would hug and talk to every parent at the tailgates and made sure to have us thank them each and every time. Another thing that sticks with me is when I moved in my freshman year. I was nervous as hell and didn’t know what to expect, but Coach had told me to call him when I got there. So I did, and as my parents and I pulled in and we were shocked to see not only 5 seniors waiting there to help me unload, but also Coach Marr and both the Assistants. After hugs, talking, and unloading my stuff, they all hung out in the dorms with me and my suitemates until we were settled and comfortable.
MD: How would you describe the style of offense that you ran at Albany?
JM: Our offense at Albany was free-flowing and allowed for guys to be creative, which taught us to work off each other. Having Lyle was a luxury that not many other teams had, so running a two-man game with him at X or just letting him go one on one usually resulted in a goal. But most teams adjusted and would send two or three to him at a time, which is sort of what you see now with Connor Fields. So, it was everyone else’s job to get to open gaps and be ready to catch and make a play. We also obviously liked to play fast paced but for us it was an everyday thing. During practice, we would always have some sort of up and down drill which forced us to play fast, but under control. Our fast breaks looked very easy and like everyone was just working on their own, but we practiced them so much that everyone knew every option and circumstance that could come, and would work with and react off each other.
It also is an offense predicated on being unselfish and everyone was happier to get the assist than if they did a goal. The “one mores” or extra passes were something that was always celebrated in practice and that carried over to our overall offense and why it was so efficient.
MD: What was it like playing with the Thompson Trio?
JM: Again, I was just really lucky to have not only a coach like Coach Marr, but also teammates like Lyle, Miles, and Ty. They made practice fun and competitive every single day. And every day, they would do something that would make you step back and realize how crazy it was to even be on the same field as them. Two things from my freshman year stick out the most: one day, we were scrimmaging and either Miles or Lyle rode the ball back at midfield and threw a 50-yard bounce pass to the other on the crease, and whoever caught it threw 10 fakes and put it in. And then another day during 6 on 6, I swear Lyle threw the ball in to the crease over 100 miles an hour and Miles caught it one-handed, with his sick behind the defenders back (who was face guarding him) and in one motion caught it, shot, and scored.
They gave me the confidence to try new things and they also sort of took me under their wing teaching me some things here and there. But most everything I learned was just through watching them in practice and in games but also on film.
To me, Lyle was different because he had a year without the others, and between him, Fields, and Seth Oaks on the team my junior year we had some serious scoring. We middies had to kind of find our role and do other things our team needed for us to win games. But the best part about Lyle was that we always knew that if we were on offense and he was dodging, if we could find a way to get open and put our stick out, the ball would be there in a second. He would dodge doubles and take a beating and throw it over the top and all we had to do was step in and shoot. He also was the first one to celebrate for us, and would pump us up, which definitely instilled confidence in us all.
MD: What do you think it is that draws young players to want to be a Great Dane, rather than just being content to want to learn from Lyle Thompson’s style?
JM: I think people who appreciate the game see that Albany does it the right way, and they admire the group of gritty hard-working kids who win games and compete at the highest level, while actually having fun behind the scenes and creating lifelong bonds with their coaches and teammates. Every school has their draw and every kid has a certain aspect they are really looking for in a school, and I think what it means to be a Great Dane is to work hard, respect and love the game, but to smile and have fun doing it.
These guys weren’t simply lured by the guy that wore #4. These guys want to play for Scott Marr. They’re lured by the beauty of the freedom. And as John Maloney puts it, they’re brought there by the culture – both on and off the field – that Scott Marr has built there so carefully and thoughtfully.