November 12, 2012

Gabrielli Primed to Make Providence a Contender

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Former Duke defensive coordinator Chris Gabrielli said he and his assistant coaching staff at Providence are "genuinely" excited about the potential for the Friars program. "A lot of things are underway, to get us to the level where we’re going to be one of those programs that has everything," Gabrielli said.
© Peyton Williams

New programs pouring resources into NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse have become a popular conversation piece, and focus of stories on LaxMagazine.com, recently; Michigan, Richmond, High Point, Marquette, Boston University, and the list goes on.

But not much time has been devoted to programs recommitting to the sport with similar gusto, like Providence College, which in June hired former Duke defensive coordinator Chris Gabrielli and has a plan in place to take the school to an “elite” level of support.

Providence will break ground this week on a multi-sport athletic facility that will be completed in the next 12 months. It will overlook a brand new turf stadium, which will be built once the previous project ends. All the while, over the next two years, Providence will incrementally become a fully funded scholarship program.

LaxMagazine.com recently caught up with Gabrielli, who was featured prominently in Episode Two of Lacrosse Magazine's “The Big Game” series from April, in which he described Duke's defensive game plan — and the challenges of containing reigning Tewaaraton winner Steele Stanwick — ahead of a 13-5 win at Virginia.

The interview…

Generally, how has everything gone moving to Providence and getting started?

It’s been terrific. Really, the most special part about this is the commitment that’s been made to Providence College. That’s certainly what attracted me here. I wouldn’t have left Duke if it weren’t for the amazing opportunity. A lot of things are underway, to get us to the level where we’re going to be one of those programs that has everything — elite, elite athletic facilities. They’re breaking ground next week on a facility that’s going to house our brand new locker rooms, video room, coaches’ offices, a brand new weight room, a brand new training room. It’s going to be obnoxious — that’s kind of the best way to describe it. It’s going to be remarkable.

And we have a plan in place to elevate to a fully funded athletic scholarship program. This year we’ll compete with about 6.4 scholarships, and we’ll upgrade every year, and by the 2015 spring season we’ll be competing with the full allotment of 12.6 scholarships. With that progression, and the development of our new facilities, the commitment has really been made. People can say they’re committed to winning, but you have to really put the resources in. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. The administration has provided me with really, really competitive assistant coach salaries, two full-time assistants, a tremendous budget. The commitment is all-in now, and that wasn’t really the case in the past. I give past teams and past coaching staffs here credit for what they did here, being in the Big East and competing with limited resources.

Tell me about the hiring process. When did it start, and when did you take the job? More specifically, what attracted you to the position?

In early- to mid-June, I was in conversation with Boston University about their position that was becoming available, and then I got a phone call from Providence, from one of the associate athletic directors, Steve Napolillo. Right away, I was intrigued because they were in the Big East. The Big East is big-time. But my only concerns were the lack of scholarships, because I feel it’s really hard to compete — borderline impossible to compete — annually in the Big East without a full allotment of scholarships. That was my very first questions. I was put at ease immediately by Steve Napolillo when he told me about the plan, and the commitment that’s been made to the lacrosse program. About three or four days later, I got on the phone with the athletic director, Bob Driscoll, and we started to have the phone interview, and he got me even more excited about the opportunity. Finally, I interviewed on-campus, and I was blown away, first and foremost, by the people at Providence College.

While we’re a big-time Division I athletic program, in the way of Big East basketball and Hockey East hockey, Providence has a small family feel. They treated me wonderfully, really answered all of my questions, and presented the place terrific. I knew very little about Providence, and that’s why I’m trying to create videos about the school and the program, because I was blown away by the beauty of the campus and the potential in the way of recruiting. We’ve seen it immediately, in the way of recruiting, it has been a really fun place to talk to prospects about, even if we weren’t getting all these things we’ve talked about — it’s already an amazing place with amazing people — but we are, which has put us over the top. That’s how it developed. After the interview process, it went pretty quickly from there. I was offered the position by Bob Driscoll and immediately accepted.

It was all sort of a blur, because at Duke we went to the final four again, and it’s a long season, and sort of exhausting mentally and physically, even for coaches. To dive right into the interview process, where you’re trying to put your best foot forward, even while you’re still getting over the emotion of losing when we were fighting for a national championship. That was a challenge, but a fun one, for sure.

You’ve got roots in the Northeast, having grown up in Farmingdale, N.Y., and gone to school at UMass, but you also spent the last six seasons in Durham. Knowing your background, where are you going to be looking for recruits?

Certainly, my roots are in the Northeast, being a Long Island guy and UMass guy. We’ve relied on those connections at Duke, or wherever I’ve been. But the longer you coach, the more connections you make nationally. Providence is a cool place because we attract kids from all over the country. We have kids on our roster from California, Texas, Florida and everywhere else. But absolutely, we’re going to focus on the immediate Northeast, for obvious reasons: It’s a hotbed for our sport. New England lacrosse, in the last 10 to 15 years, has really boomed. There are talented players coming out of here from all over the place. We’re less than three hours from Long Island, we’re driving distance to New Jersey and Philadelphia. Upstate New York and the Albany area, we’re two or three hours away. We really have an ideal location. We can get kids on campus quickly, because they don’t have to jump on a plane, they can drive here and be here almost immediately. We’re definitely focusing our efforts on places like Long Island, Upstate New York and all of New England.

And that includes Boston, which is less than an hour away…

We’ve gotten some tremendously talented kids from those areas who’ve committed in the last couple weeks — kids who are potentially as strong of prospects as kids we recruited at Duke. We’ve been very, very excited about that. We have a lot to sell. We have athletic scholarship money to offer. The kids we’re recruiting who are currently juniors, we’re recruiting them with the fully funded scholarship plan. We’re able to offer those kids scholarships, because by the time they get here, we will be fully funded. By the time they get here, our new stadium will be completed, as well as our new facilities. All those plans, we can show to recruits while they’re on campus and say, ‘Hey, by the time you get here, all of this is going to be done,’ which is pretty cool.

I’m a perfect example, I knew very little about Providence College and Providence College lacrosse, before I was presented with this opportunity. I’ve just been wowed by it. I was able to get John Galloway excited, Brett Holm excited, and all the recruits excited. It’s all genuine. It’s right here in front of us. We’re very, very fortunate that we’ve been provided with what we have been, and the support has been tremendous. We’re so psyched.

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