Despite Storm, Long Island Teams Doing OK
"Jac, you're going to have to speak up. We're kind of in the middle of a hurricane here."
That's what SeanMichael Pagano, the head coach at Briarcliffe – an MCLA-II school located in central Long Island – told me as I checked in on him Monday night at the height of Hurricane Sandy, which was battering the lacrosse hotbed.
It didn't help that there was an alarm creating quite a din during our conversation. Pagano, who has turned the Bulldogs into a non-varsity power, is also an investigator in the New York State Police department, working mostly with rape cases and homicides. With Sandy unleashed, he was transferred to what he called "anti-looting patrol" with a state trooper.
"That alarm you just heard, we're at a building and the alarm is going off so we raced over here," said Pagano. "It was just the electricity that went out and released the magnetic doors, so the alarm started going. People usually don't loot in the middle of a hurricane – they wait until the end – but the weather is kind of crazy. There are a lot of trees down and the car is rocking while we're driving. But there are still some crazy people out, driving around and seeing what's going on. At least I'm getting paid for this."
Pagano doesn't get paid much to coach at Briarcliffe despite the program's ascendency, but for him, like all coaches on Long Island and those in the path of Sandy, it's all about the safety of the players. Briarcliffe, located in the middle of the island, has closed its campus and sent its students home.
Dowling, like Briarcliffe, has multiple campuses. Dowling's Oakdale site, the home of the defending Division II national champion Lions, was evacuated because it's situated on low-lying areas, according to Dowling head coach Tim Boyle. As such, the site was evacuated and those students who didn't head home were shipped off to the Brookhaven dorms. Those few members of Boyle's team who couldn't make it home were billeted by other members of the program.
"They are all in good shape," said Boyle.
Boyle is far from minimizing what has been going on.
He's seeing it first hand.
"Right now, I'm looking at limbs literally flying down our street," Boyle said. "My back yard is riddled with large limbs. The neighbors' fence is down. A couple of panels of my siding have come off and we'll deal with that Wednesday. There was a tree down on the street that I had to move this morning. We're fortunate right now. We're out of the flood zone, but there are a lot of people down here who are a lot worse off than we are."
Gene Peluso, the head coach at Stevens, also lives on Long Island.
"We're holding steady here," he said. "I placed a friendly wager with my 13-year-old daughter about when the power would go off, but the power is still on, so she's winning the wager. I'm thinking it's going to be okay. Obviously, Hoboken is a different story."
And, obviously, Hoboken is on Peluso's mind. The Division III school is located in the New Jersey suburb and, unlike Dowling and Briarcliffe, the Ducks draw from a more national demographic, meaning more of his players are tethered to campus. "We've got kids from Wisconsin and California," he said.
The City of Hoboken has instituted a curfew, locking students to their dorms, and many of the first and second floor apartments near the campus have been evacuated.
"It's pretty dicey," said Peluso. "It's kind of a sit around and wait thing, and that's what we've been doing since this morning. I've been communicating with [assistant coach] Matt Madalon and just trying to make sure everyone is okay and safe."
Peluso recalled his freshman year at Nazareth in 1991 when an ice storm paralyzed the Rochester region for nearly a week, and then-coach Scott Nelson had to account for his players through phone calls or foot patrol. In the age of cell phones, email and social media, it's easier to both check in with the players and keep parents in the loop.
"It's still nerve-racking," Peluso said. "We don't know what Hurricane Sandy has in store, so we just have to sit and wait. But I sent something out on Facebook asking where everybody was at, and people started filtering in. 'We're playing video games and the power is still on,' they responded; things like that. The coach in me wants them to be studying, but they are thinking about a day off tomorrow and they'll get to study when things get back to the status quo."
Pagano's kids were using social media, as well.
"They are all at home tweeting on their twitter accounts about how important they are," said Pagano, with a laugh. "They have no idea how lucky they are. I have two kids and a pregnant wife at home who are wondering how they are going to ride this storm out without me."
College players on Long Island and nearby appear to be well taken care of. Let's hope it stays that way.