Coaching changes in the middle of a professional sports season are difficult on just about everyone, since the new coach inevitably arrives when times aren’t so good. But it’s particularly difficult in the National Lacrosse League, which has only one practice per week.
The Colorado Mammoth know that feeling. That organization cleaned house on March 4 by firing Bob Hamley and his two assistants, Ed Comeau and Sean Ferris. A day later, the Mammoth named Chris Gill, Pat Coyle and Dan Stroup as co-coaches.
“It’s an adjustment for everybody, but more so for the players,” Gill said.
The Mammoth were 4-7 at the time of the change, with one of those losses coming at the hands of the Buffalo Bandits in Denver on Jan. 18. There’s not exactly time for the new staff to reinvent the wheel in that situation.
“We’re not going too crazy. We’re not giving them 100 things to think about,” Gill said. “We’re trying to keep things simple, keep the game plan simple. With the talent we have, we’re confident these men can do it. It’s doesn’t matter if we’re up, 6-0, or down, 6-0. We just want them pushing along.
“It’s tough on the coaches, but we’re working through it. It’s just the business.”
Gill was known for his offense during his playing days. He scored 338 goals in his career, and was part of Colorado’s championship in 2006. Gill retired after the 2010 season.
The Mammoth have the worst goals-against average in the league, so Gill knows that has to change if Colorado has plans on turning its season around. Some success was noted in the team’s first game under the new set-up, a 10-9 win over Calgary.
“Basically, you win or lose games with defense,” he said. “We wanted to shore up some things defensively against Calgary, and it worked out fairly well. In this league, if you let too many goals in, if you let them have too many chances, things aren’t going to work out for you. They have the talent, they had the coaching. Sometimes a different voice can make players react differently. It wasn’t like we were reinventing the wheel. We’re just trying to tweak some things here and there. All the players are buying in so far.”
The new Mammoth coaches don’t have to do much about one part of the team. John Grant Jr. is having another outstanding season.
Grant, who has been a regular among the league’s top scorers for years, is back in that spot in 2014. He went into Saturday’s game with 63 points, good for third in the NLL. Grant added four goals and two assists Saturday on 18 shots.
“He’s probably the best player with his stick skills in this league,” Buffalo Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said. “His shot is extremely accurate. He’s a big, solid guy that can fight through picks. ... The second you don’t cover him or lose your guard, he’ll kill you.”
Grant didn’t have a couple of his usual offensive playmates on Saturday night. Adam Jones, the former Canisius standout, is still recovering from an injury. Casey Powell did not play as well.
The Bandits used to hold the record for the best “start” in indoor lacrosse history by themselves. Now they have company.
The Edmonton Rush won their 10th game in a row on Friday night, beating the Calgary Roughnecks, 15-7. No team has ever won its first 10 games to start the regular season.
However, Buffalo has the only perfect season in league history. They won all eight of their regular season games in 1993, and then went on to win two playoff games and the league championship.