Ever since the Fizz’s inception, Syracuse fans have flooded the site for Syracuse basketball and football recruiting news, insider information and the latest SU buzz. Before the Chase Scanlan investigation, the women’s run to the championship game, and now Hall of Famer John Desko’s “retirement”, lacrosse was nowhere to be found on the Syracuse blogosphere.
So, what happened? We woke up. Nobody is going to peer pressure you into following lacrosse (although you should). But Syracuse is a lacrosse school. No, not because of the deep roots the Onondagas have in the sport. It’s because the men have more national championships (11) than any other program in the country. This might be hard for fans of a football team that doesn’t even sell out the 49,250 Dome capacity, but when kids dream about playing NCAA lacrosse they dream about playing at Syracuse.
Most of the readers are basketball and football fans. So let’s use language you can relate to. Head Coach John Desko retired after 23 seasons at the helm with five national titles, which came after 19 as an assistant with six national titles. Oh, and by the way, he was an All-American who led the Orangemen to their first NCAA Playoff birth in 1979. Translation: the Jim Boeheim of Syracuse lacrosse just retired after one of the toughest seasons he’s seen in his 46 years on the Hill.
There are two names you can use to draw a parallel to the Gary Gait hiring. One of them is Carmelo Anthony. Gait is arguably the best lacrosse player the program has ever seen (Jim Brown might get some lacrosse GOAT credit). But the thing is Gait might be the best lacrosse player the world has ever seen. Remember, Syracuse is a lacrosse school. The GOAT at SU is the GOAT. So the more realistic comparison is Michael Jordan coming back to coach the Chicago Bulls. That parallel gets even stronger when you compare their brands. Of course, “Air Jordan” still reigns supreme in 2021 after Michael’s iconic dunk. But “Air Gait” will forever be revered in the lacrosse community. That’s right. We have your attention now.
Syracuse has only had four coaches. All of them are hall of famers. It’s not every day that any program in any sport at any level moves on from a hall of famer, and considers the replacement an upgrade. But Gait spent 14 years on the women’s side waiting for the job to open up, not knowing if it ever would. Nobody is more qualified to lead the program.
The plot thickens when you consider how Desko’s time at Syracuse ended. All we can do is evaluate the facts. The move was announced as “Desko is retiring, and Gait is taking over.” Think of that “retirement” as the classic “mutually agree to part ways”. On May 12, just three days before the horrific first round exit in the NCAA Tournament, Gait was asked by syracuse.com if he planned on returning next year. He laughed and said, “As far as I’m concerned, that decision has already been made. That’s what I want to do…. If it’s up to me, I’m coming back.”
Everyone is entitled to change their minds, but that makes you wonder what went on behind closed doors with Syracuse’s most prized athletic program.
The focus at the Fizz will always be on the gridiron and hoops, but in the summer when both programs are in a lull, it’s definitely worth investing some time and attention into lacrosse. Not even because it’s a sport you should follow, but because whether you follow it or not unprecedented is unprecedented.