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Wildhack: Gait is the right person for the job, not the right alum

Orange Nation

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It is hard to imagine considering the career Gary Gait has had in lacrosse, but years ago the legendary player never knew coaching could be a career. 

Fast forward almost two decades later and Gait has become just the fifth head coach in Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse history. 

For anyone taking over this storied program would be daunting. For Gary Gait, arguably the best player of all-time, the expectations are sky high, and he is not running away from them. 

“The pressure on the men’s side is the pressure I put on myself. Any coaching job I’ve ever taken has been to win the championship,” Gait said. 

Syracuse Athletic Director John Wildhack is also embracing those expectations. When asked about how the player talent pool is more spread out than it was in the ‘SU lacrosse golden years,’ Wildhack believes that to be an advantage. 

“We’re the best program in the history of the sport,” Wildhack said. 

“Either men’s lacrosse or women’s lacrosse, we can offer them an unparalleled experience. There are expectations and let’s embrace those expectations. Let’s leverage the success and attributes we have to build championships programs for both … I want my Memorial Day weekend consumed with lacrosse,” Wildhack added.  

Wildhack moved quickly in naming Gait as the program’s newest leader. Though he stressed this was a decision to find the right person as head coach, not the right alum. Which he saw spending four days with Gait during the women’s lacrosse final four. 

“(Gary) really knows on to communicate. He knows how to connect with his team. He knows how to manage. He knows the right words at the right time,” Wildhack said. 

As for the previous alum who oversaw the program, John Desko, Wildhack insisted that it was his decision to retire. Gait cited he heard after his women’s team was done with the national championship, that Desko was going to retire. It did not take long for Wildhack to meet with Gait and the SU legend accepted the job. 

But Gait is not letting the hall of fame coach, who coached Gary as assistant under Roy Simmons, Jr., fade into the background. Like Desko mention in his retirement press conference Tuesday, there is an offer for him to stick around the program.  

“I think that’s important because he’s been such an important champion for the program. He deserves that and I’m sure will have an opportunity in the future to honor him.” 

Gait addressed his reason for leaving the women’s program for the men’s. He said it is not because one job is better than another, it is just something he has wanted to do for some time. Gait told the media he turned down other men’s opportunities to stay with the women’s program, but this is an opportunity he could not pass up. 

Wildhack said the process to find Gait’s replacement for the women’s team is already underway and the applicants are strong. 

Whether Wildhack decides to go the alum-route like he did with Gait is still up-in-the-air. What is not, is the expectations regardless of whom he chooses are high for both programs. 

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