Q&A With Bayhawks Coach Dave Cottle

By Steve Guglielmo |  3/23/12 12:20 PM

Q&A With Bayhawks Coach Dave Cottle

MLL's Steve Guglielmo caught up with Chesapeake Bayhawks Head Coach Dave Cottle to get his thoughts on falling short in last year's semi-finals and what the team is doing to bring home the Steinfeld Trophy in 2012. 

You have an extremely successful collegiate coaching background. What is the biggest difference between the college game and the MLL game?

I think the biggest difference is the shot clock which speeds up play. I also see that the MLL players are the best players in the world because they’re capable of thinking for themselves and they react naturally rather than what they’re taught in practice. I think the players make a lot more decisions in the pro league. I think the pace of the game, the quality of play in the game and the decision making by our professional athletes are the biggest differences. That isn’t meant to be a knock on anyone else. That is just the difference. I’m just saying that the shot clock determines the pace of the game.

How does the preparation for the x’s and o’s differ?

We have an exorbitant amount of time in college versus very little time in the pros. You have to be extremely organized. You can’t waste a player’s time. They have so much going on in their lives; they have jobs and families and lives. You have to be extremely organized and make sure that every minute you have with them counts. The biggest challenge, and it’s no different from college, is getting them to buy into the team. As the team goes, they go. If you can get them to buy in and like each other in the locker room and care about each other, that’s the difference maker. You have to build relationships in less than a year, which is different than in college. You may build a relationship in 45 days vs. 4 years. Having communication in the off-season is the real key. We try to draft a lot of college captains because they have leadership skills, even though when they come into the league, they’re going to be deferring to veteran players. I think the older you get the more character toughness and work ethic means, rather than just talent. Our owner built a successful business on that concept and we’re applying those principles to our team.

You’re in a unique position as both head coach and president of the team. Tell us what it’s like to handle dual roles?

We wear two hats. One is the long-term vision and the second is short-term. Long-term encapsulates the business side, from selling tickets, sponsorships, getting a good work force together and using those same business principles in hiring the people that work for us. But once we get on the field we start concentrating on short-term responsibilities and goals. You want to win immediately without mortgaging your future. You have to balance it. Brian Reese is a great GM that understands that you don’t mortgage the future in order to get one guy. Everyday we talk about how we can make ourselves better. We won’t make a deal unless we’re sure it makes us better.

The Bayhawks were MLL Champions in 2010 and you fell short last year in the semi-finals. What does the team need to do to bring that Steinfeld Trophy home again this year?

If we could change one thing from last year, we would change shooting percentage. We shot a very low percentage. It was one of those years that as a group in the midfield we shot much lower than the guys had throughout their career. It could be we were taking bad shots or it could be that we just had a bad shooting year. But that’s the first thing. If we change that, then I think the rest of it will fall into place. I thought we were disappointing both offensively and defensively. I don’t think we scored the amount of goals that we should score, which put pressure on our defense. Bad offense lends itself to bad defense. I think if I could change three things, one would be shooting percentage, improve transition defense and improve overall groundball play. If you win the face-off battle and win the shooting percentage battle, in college lacrosse you would win 68 percent of your games. Those two components give you the highest success rate. Those are areas we need to continue to get better in.

It has been a crazy off-season with the addition of two expansion teams and major trades. How difficult has it been to put together a roster capable of winning the MLL Championship?

Excellent question. We took a scary path. We were the only team that didn’t protect a goalie, but with that decision we got to protect an extra field player. We felt like the MLL Collegiate Draft didn’t offer a lot of middies that were ready to play in the MLL, so we protected 12 field players even though we lost some guys we really liked. As we got into the MLL Expansion Draft and the Supplemental Draft, we had no idea how it was going to pan out. We were very fortunate at the 13th pick in the expansion to get Kip Turner. That took the pressure off of us in the goal. And then we traded a pick for Brian Spallina. So we got an MLL All-Star two years ago and an MLL All-Star last year to get us from 12 to 14 and then we got a few guys back. The first test was the Expansion Draft, which was scary. You don’t know who you’re going to lose. We were very fortunate in the Supplemental Draft. We picked up John Orsen who two years ago was outstanding. And then we got Kevin Kaminski who I really liked at the University of Delaware. I thought the pieces really started to fall into place. We felt, and time will tell if this is true, that we needed a pole who could face off and that was CJ Costabile and we really liked getting a local kid in Tyler Fiorito in the MLL Collegiate Draft. We were very fortunate to get both of them. The pieces kind of fell together but it was a scary situation because it was 1/3 at a time. But we feel that we have an improved roster from last year. We were all concerned after the expansion about what would happen to the six teams that were involved, but we actually feel right now that we’re much deeper than last year. We also made a trade that will really significantly change the perception of our team. We traded a draft pick and a college player for John Grant Jr. I really believe that our roster is much deeper and much more talented than it was a year ago.

What have you done this off-season to prepare for next year?

We’re trying to better utilize our time in spring practices. I thought last year I didn’t do a good job of constructing a team for the practice schedule. I just tried to get good players. Next thing I know we’ve only got four middies at spring practice. I thought we did a better job of constructing a team so that when we practice we will be able to get more out of it. That was my fault. I didn’t do a good job last year. We constructed a better 40-man roster and it’s more thought out. The other thing is that we’re very fortunate our players communicate with each other all the time and keep the lines of communication open. Brian Reese is also a great communicator. They’re actively involved. Our guys will do anything we ask them to do, we just have to tell them when it’s going to happen. We’re working to do a better job with lines of communication.

What are your expectations for next season?

It’s one of those things that if you say you want to go undefeated and you lose, is your season ruined? Our goals are to try to get our players to work together and continue to improve and play the best lacrosse that they can at the end of the year. It’s funny when you look at it; there are a couple of parts to the season. There’s preseason and then there is the early part of the season when you’re missing your NLL and college guys. If you draft college guys that play in the Final Four, you don’t get them until June. You go through 3 different transitions as a team. That’s why I thought Hamilton got a lot better throughout the season; their college guys gave them some added juice. It’s a good thing if you’re losing, but if you’re winning you have a choice. Either you don’t upset the apple cart or you take a step back so that you can improve at the end of the year. Boston last year didn’t play a lot of young guys. Their whole team kind of stayed together. They didn’t really have to go through that change. Our biggest question is in goal. How the goal works out. We will see if the team on paper plays with the competitive toughness and the will to win and shares the ball with each other. If they do that then they have the talent to be successful. That’s our job as coaches to get them to buy in.

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