Duffy A Local Choice For Cannons Head Coach
Steve Duffy, a Boston Cannons assistant the last three seasons, was introduced to the Major League Lacrosse world as the new Cannons head coach Wednesday afternoon via conference call. Duffy is the third consecutive head coach promoted from an assistant coach position, following Scott Hiller (assistant 2001; head coach 2002-05) and Bill Daye (assistant 2005; head coach 2006-11).
Some first impressions and tidbits from Duffy, Boston general manager Kevin Barney and Cannons players Paul Rabil, Matt Poskay and Mitch Belisle, who also joined the call.
Love the Boston Accent
Duffy is a Waltham, Mass., native and coached at Waltham High School for 18 years before stepping down after the 2009 season. If you didn't know his hometown before, it's immediately apparent he's from Boston or nearby (actually a western suburb) when hearing him speak.
Think of the typical Boston accent and then read the following, putting emphasis on the italicized words: "I'm real excited about my opportunity hear with the Cannons. We're looking to defend our title as MLL champions. We obviously had an outstanding year, great camaradarie on the team and I hope to continue that."
People will likely make snarky remarks about the accent, but the twang also indicates a local connection to the fan base that Bostonians should appreciate. I can imagine Duffy doing a midseason post-game interview after a loss, and it sounding just a little bit better that it would from an outsider.
Transition Should be Smooth
Having been around the MLL and the Cannons for three years, Duffy is familiar with needed expectations from pro players and coaches. He realizes players have other full-time job commitments that need to be worked around or adjusted and that coaches sometimes need to adapt to that on the fly. In short, he has a working knowledge of the league. And he's familiar with the current roster and what they can do on the field.
That will help off the field as well, especially with the expansion draft set for Dec. 7 and the supplemental draft a week later. Duffy was involved in the decisions over the last two months to decide the 23-man roster and the protected list for the expansion draft. He will fill former coach Bill Daye's job in all roles, including having the final say on personnel decisions, GM Kevin Barney said. It has not been uncommon in MLL for the GM to focus on the business side of operations and leave personnel decisions to the head coach or coaching staff. That will be the case here.
"I'm familiar with what goes on in the Boston Cannons organization and seeing how things have gone," Duffy said. "I'm looking forward to representing the Boston area and the Cannons in lacrosse, and being the ambassador for the program and the league."
Jim Murphy, a Cannons assistant coach since 2003, will remain on staff and work with the offense. Duffy said he's looking at a few local coaches to fill his previous role, which was a defensive assistant and included handling game day substitutions, man-down plays and practice planning.
Seems to be Accepted By Players
A sampling of comments from Rabil, Poskay and Belisle that indicate support of the hire.
Rabil: "I'm ready to keep the wheels in motion and get on the phone with Duff ... and talk about the next steps. We all have the same long-term goals each season. We just have to focus on all the little things in between. There's the expansion draft next week, and I'm sure all three of us will be talking with different ideas. That's been something that's been pretty successful for our organization, the pipeline of communication between captains and the coaching staff and the rest of the players. We can't skip a beat there. That's the next thing I'm looking forward to. This is great and now we have to start building momentum for 2012."
Poskay: "He put in the work. He took a blue-collar approach to it and that's kind of our approach anyway. He did the little things. One thing that helps us and helps him is that we're not a rebuilding team, we're a reloading team. "
Belisle: "He's been around us for a long time and knows what makes us tick individually and as a team, and what it took for us to win. He's got that blueprint down and saw what it took. It's going to be a great start."
Has Solid Local Ties
Accent notwithsanding, Duffy is a lifelong resident of Waltham, Mass., and founded the Waltham Youth Lacrosse Program in 1994. In addition to being the longtime boys' high school coach, he was recently inducted into the Waltham High Hall of Fame, is a vice principal in the school district, and has coached camps and clinics in the area. He took over the Waltham High team in 1992 and the team made the state tournament for the first time in 1995.
Barney said local ties were taken into account when doing the hiring, but wasn't the end-all for making the decision to promote Duffy.
"I've always viewed myself as an ambassador of the region," Duffy said. "I don't see any pressure there. I tried to be an ambassador the last 20 years."