Rich Kilgour, as usual, will be behind the Buffalo Bandits bench tonight as an assistant coach when they play the Vancouver Stealth tonight in Langley, British Columbia (10 p.m., Radio 1520 AM).
You could have gotten some long odds about that happening last summer. Kilgour has taken a long road since then that turned out to be a circle – he’s exactly where he started.
Kilgour’s story begins in June of last year, when Darris Kilgour – Rich’s brother – was fired as coach of the Bandits. Rich’s first reaction naturally was a bit of shock and anger.
“After all his success as a coach, after the first time he misses the playoffs in 11 years, he’s let go,” Kilgour said. “But that’s the nature of the beast. It’s a ‘what have you done for me lately?’ business.
“But then, besides it being my brother and getting over that, I start to think. A new coach comes in, and he usually wants his own staff. You start thinking about what happens to you. Our defense wasn’t too strong last year. I’m the defensive coach, so a lot of that falls on me. It felt like I was in limbo.”
Then came the first twist in the story: Kilgour was invited to apply for the head coaching position. First, Rich had to check with Darris for his approval.
“We were on the same page. He gave me his blessing,” Rich said. “I was sure he’d be OK with it. It’s a professional business, and this was a great opportunity to be the head coach of the Buffalo Bandits.”
Kilgour was a finalist for the job, reportedly along with fellow assistant coach Dan Teat, Colorado assistant Ed Comeau, and former Toronto coach Troy Cordingley. Bandits General Manager Steve Dietrich picked Cordingley.
“I held nothing against Troy,” a former teammate of Kilgour, he said. “We threw our names in the hat and they picked him. I don’t think he back-stabbed anyone. He’s got Cups on his resume. There were no hard feelings. I was a little upset with the Bandits organization, but I was only mad for a couple of days.”
Kilgour went on to take a job as a head coach with Six Nations in an Ontario summer league, guiding the team to the Canadian championship. He isn’t ruling out the possibility of a promotion in the National Lacrosse League down the road.
“I would love to be a head coach in the NLL, for sure,” Kilgour said. “At this point in my career, being a little older and having traveled for 20-odd years, it would have to be very specific. I wouldn’t want to fly to Calgary every week.
“At the end of my playing career, a couple of deals came up. But now after all these years, it would have to be a sweet deal.”
Shortly after Cordingley was hired, the second twist in Kilgour’s journey came. Cordingley went searching for his assistant coaches, and he discovered the best men for the job were already here. Cordingley hired Kilgour as well as Teat to return to their positions for 2014.
Apparently the long relationship between Cordingley and Kilgour paid off.
“For sure. If it hadn’t been Troy, who knows if I’d be here?” Kilgour asked. “We played winter and summer together. He was my position coach for a few years. We know each other. We have similar views.”
That means the transition turned out to be relatively seamless.
“Troy cut his teeth under Darris. He was an assistant under Darris,” Kilgour said. “They are both emotional, hearts-on-the-sleeve style. That has stayed the same. Every coach has his own tendencies. .... There were little changes, nothing too specific. Winning teams do the same things.”
The new coaching combination has worked out well so far in 2014.
However, the team hit a bit of a hiccup last weekend when the Bandits lost road games in Edmonton and Minnesota to fall to 8-4 and out of first place in the NLL East.
That makes tonight’s game an important one.
“We have no plans to go on a six-game losing streak, like we did last year,” Kilgour said. “We’re going out to win every game. In Edmonton, we got away from the game plan. In Minnesota, maybe we ran out of gas at the end. That was a loss we could live with. We battled on the road and had some great chances in overtime. We’re not happy, but it was acceptable.”
Tonight’s game will not be shown on Youtube.com.
The game can be accessed by logging in to Universal Sports’ website, but only by those who can watch the Universal channel through their cable or satellite provider.
For example, those who have Time Warner Cable’s “Sports Pass” will be able to log in at the Universal site and see the game live. The contest will be shown on tape delay on Universal on Thursday at 5 p.m.