Interview: Cannons Head Coach Sean Quirk

Interview: Cannons Head Coach Sean Quirk

LPG: What do you miss most about coaching at Endicott?

Quirk: You know my 18 years as the head coach at Endicott, really building that program from a brand new program to a top 10 D3 NCAA program, it was really rewarding.

The young men that I coached there were obviously a huge part of that. Really what I miss most is just those day to day relationships of coaching those young men, mentoring those young men, spending time certainly on the practice field in the film room.

The office, those bus rides that the locker room uh just consistently every single day. And, you know I always talk a lot about relationships and culture, that's something that I really miss mostly about college coaching particularly at Endicott.

LPG: If we fast forward to last summer, you get a chance to be in the PLL. What was the biggest difference for you between MLL and PLL?

Quirk: I think making that jump from college coaching to going into the MLL, certainly the competitiveness that the intensity the level of, of play was, was certainly a jump.

The challenge was not practicing every single day as you do in college.

Then, with the merger going into the PLL, I really saw that next jump of competitiveness.

These guys, the players, the front office, are taking the professionalism to a completely new level.

The television deals that the PLL has and the visibility, eyeballs getting on professional lacrosse, and the growth of the game, that's another aspect that I see as a big difference.

A lot of these guys are becoming full time professional lacrosse players. The training that they're putting in, the dedication that they're putting in are some of the biggest differences that I've seen in the last couple of years.

LPG: How much of your day do you have to dedicate towards the Cannons to make sure that the team has success on game day?

Quirk: I think like any season things are cyclical, right? If you start in the fall, when the season ends, you're trying to resign players, renegotiate contracts, and look at free agents to continue to build your team for that following year.

And then, it's a lot of conversations with players getting them ready for training camp. Making sure that they're physically and mentally ready to go for that training camp.

Once we're in season, we spend a ton of time every single day.

My coaching staff is chatting about our personnel, about our systems, watching film with our players throughout the week, and having offensive and defensive meetings throughout the week.

On game weekend, it's full steam ahead. We're implementing what we went over that previous week.

So, it's a lot of time that the coaches and certainly the players are putting in year round.

LPG: What were your expectations of the players in terms of Xs and Os? Was there an extensive playbook? Were you adding new things week by week? How did that process go?

Quirk: This past year, as we merged into the PLL, we were in an unusual situation with an expansion team.

We had to build this team from ground zero through the expansion draft, the entry draft, the collegiate draft, and then any trades that we may make.

With Sean Kerwin being our offensive coordinator and John Klepacki, our defensive coordinator, who have been on the Cannons staff for a number of years with me, we had an idea of how we wanted to build this team.

It really started with three core standards of accountability, respect and trust of the players and coaching staff.

From there, we went out and we sought players that we thought were high character, hard workers, were leaders and had extremely high lacrosse IQ while being talented and could fit a certain system that Coach Kerwin and Coach Klepacki could put in.

So these guys, let's face it, they're playing at the highest level. They've been coached by the best coaches in the collegiate game. Their IQ, as I mentioned, is off the charts.

We keep things very basic in a sense with our systems and depending on who our opponent is will adjust a little bit but we don't over complicate things for these guys on game day.

It's just really getting them to play at a high level, a gritty level, that they feel that they can consistently do over the course of an entire game and an entire season.

LPG: There were some slight changes from the PLL to MLL in terms of the rules and obviously very different than than college rules. When did you feel comfortable coaching in the PLL, given those different rules?

Great question. Last season, coming in from the MLL, obviously a shorter shot clock, a shorter field. We started before training camp with those things.

We talked to some of our veteran guys that had been in the PLL. We started to get a sense of style and and feel and tempo for the game with some of those rule changes.

Once we went into training camp every single day at double sessions, we would go over how our philosophy was going to be implemented with a shorter shot clock.

A shorter field using midfielders a little bit differently because of that shorter field.

We really felt honestly very comfortable going into game one with those different rules because we leaned on some of our veteran players that have been playing with those rules and just consistently went over it throughout practice leading up to that training camp and beyond.

LPG: Would you be willing to say what other coaching staffs either challenged you the most on game day or a staff that you looked forward to competing against?

Quirk: Yeah, absolutely. Lacrosse is a small community and I have the utmost respect, I can say for every single head coach and coaching staff in this league. I think the PLL does an extraordinary job of vetting coaches and getting not just great lacrosse minds, but great people to represent the PLL and represent each club.

Andy Towers, I've known him since literally he was in college. Guys like Jim Stagnitta and Coach Sudan, coaching against them formally in the MLL. Other guys like Nat Saint Laurent and Chris Bates, I kind of knew through the lacrosse world but, but got to know really well this past year.

I had an opportunity to coach the all star game this year with Coach Bates and what a great lacrosse mind. A spectacular human being and somebody I really respected and have gotten a pleasure to know and, even build a friendship with.

It's a great group of coaches. We all work well together, but like anything else come game time, you want to get after it.

You're going to compete there on the other sideline. It's no holding back on game day, but I think we do all have a great admiration and respect for one another.

LPG: Since the teams are owned by the league, everyone gets the same support. This isn't the Yankees versus the Orioles. What can you do as a head coach to give your team an edge on game day or even off the field?

Quirk: I think all coaches and head coaches talk about the preparation. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail right?

You have to prepare the coaching staff as the head coach. You have to prepare the players. The assistant coaches have to prepare the players. They need to prepare me.

The players need to hold each other really accountable while holding themselves accountable.

Because the nature of the beast and it being ultra competitive, the parity just being ridiculous in the league, anyone can beat anyone on any given weekend.

That preparation, that camaraderie, that culture in the locker room, we focus on that with our team.

Also, the salary cap was new to some of these coaches in the league where we had been doing that in Boston for the last five years.

I feel like going into this process, we really knew how to manage that cap. We knew how to spend money. How to sign players to two or three year deals rather than just one year deals.

And not just build the team for this year, but sustaining it for years to come.

LPG: You mentioned contract length. You're bringing back the poles through 2024. There is some flexibility with the short sticks. What have those conversations been like with the players in regards to their contract length?

Quirk: When you go through an expansion draft, you're getting guys that are on rosters that, let's call it black and white, their coaches release them, because they didn't feel like they were going to help their team.

Those guys have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder to prove that they can play in this league, that they want to be wanted.

Then you go into that entry draft of the MLL guys and you pick up a few there and then the collegiate draft.

You're getting a mixed bag of players from different areas, different emotions, different playing lengths in professional lacrosse.

Honest to God, two days into training camp, you could just sense it in the locker room, that these guys felt something special.

They were connected. They wanted to do this together. They had that trust, that respect for one another. We had that for the players.

So long story short, as the season goes and ends it with a playoff run against the Atlas, it's time to resign these players, every conversation was extremely easy.

To be honest, every guy wanted to be back in the Cannons uniform. They saw the potential that we have to compete for a championship.

Many of them said Coach, 'I want to spend the next several years here. I don't want to play for another club. I want to be on the Cannons.'

They weren't greedy with expectations financially of what they wanted to sign for.

They want to win a championship.

To me and my coaching staff, those are the guys we want in the locker room. Those are guys that we want to go to battle every single weekend with.

Those guys want to compete for one another and ultimately win a championship.

The conversations went well. I think we signed a lot of players to two and three year contracts, which is really great for the sustainability of the Cannons Lacrosse Club.

LPG: Coach Kerwin and Coach Klepacki are involved with Virginia and Western New England right now and certainly they have recruiting responsibilities during the summer.

What are your expectations of them in spring? Do you not to reach out in the morning and then afternoon time is Cannons' time? How does that relationship work?

Having worked with both of those great coaches for a number of years, I'm ultra respective and sensitive to the fact that their number one job and priority right now is to get their men ready at their respective institutions. They're trying to win championships.

We have a great system down of when we communicate and when we meet as a coaching staff.

Once the PLL season gets going, they certainly have their responsibilities still at their respective institutions with recruiting and continuing with player development.

But, with what those two guys put into the Cannons, I'm certainly, and I know our players are forever grateful. They put 100% in 100% of the time.

You almost wouldn't know that they have other coaching duties based on their commitment level and how much they do for our team and for each player.

LPG: When you look back at last year's draft class, were there any discussions with Stephen Rehfuss prior to drafting him about how you were going to deploy him in the offense?

Yeah, you know, you could say he was a steal in the draft. Coach Kerwin coached against him several times that that Virginia Syracuse game.

He was somebody that he identified really early on that would fit. We talked earlier about our systems and what we try to do and Stephen is certainly that type of player.

He was a multi year captain at Syracuse. We love that, you know, we want leaders. He's versatile. He can play attack. He can play midfield.

He can carry. He can play off ball. He can finish. He's really a swiss army knife type of player.

He was just one example of our staff identifying really early on that was somebody that we thought would be there later on in the draft. We were really fortunate enough to get him.

LPG: Zach Goodrich has been with you from the start of his career. Did he exceed your expectations when you drafted him?

I can honestly say I love the kid so much for what he stands for, as a player, as a person, as a leader.

He's willing to do anything.

He's as humble as they they come. And, I think that that's what I really learned about Zach Goodrich.

Thank you to Coach Quirk!

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