The Jack Kaley Way: Winning on Purpose

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


This story was originally published in the October 2010 edition of Lacrosse Magazine, honoring the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame class of 2010.

Kaley died on Thursday, Aug. 19, from cancer at age 83.

Jack Kaley was no lounge lizard.

Not during trips to coaching clinics or conventions. He was there for business, constantly learning by asking questions he hoped would lead to answers on the field.

Rich Donovan played defense for Kaley in the early 1970s at East Meadow (N.Y.) High and was a young college assistant in the early 1980s when his former coach spotted him sitting outside a clinic, eating a bagel.

“He stopped me, saying, ‘What are you doing out here?! Get back in there, sit in the front row and take notes!’” said Donovan. “He’d be in there, asking questions like he was 22 or 23 years old. His work ethic was second to none. He never thought he knew it all.”

But Kaley knew — and knows — quite a bit.

From East Meadow, where he went 227-90 in 17 seasons, to champion Long Island club teams, to NYIT, where from 1993-2009, Kaley won four NCAA Division II titles and had an 84.9 winning percentage, the highest of any D-I or D-II coach all-time. Most recently in July, Kaley coached Team Germany for the fifth time at the FIL World Championship. He’s won more than 500 career games.







Game day success, Kaley said, resulted from a combination of factors.

The game plan: Unique pressure zone defenses that were designed to flummox offenses. Hard riding plans such as the Hugo strategy — as in, “Where he goes, Hugo!” — and swarming ground ball techniques that he preached provided extra possessions. And an up-tempo, transition game and crease-oriented 2-2-2 offense were ideal to create efficient shots. Scouting was also crucial.

Practice habits: “I blew the whistle,” Kaley said. He controlled the pace. Practice should be fast and with limited breaks. He didn’t like if an assistant coach stopped a drill or scrimmage to talk to one player, say, who misfired on a shot, “because then 36 others are standing around scratching their noses.” The goal was to become a tough, well-conditioned team that would outwork and outlast any opponent.

The way they played: In 2005, Kaley analyzed game statistics and found from 1993-04, his NYIT teams averaged 18 more ground balls per game than opponents. “That means about nine shots and four goals a game,” he said.

“I built my team on kids who were willing to pay the price and hustle,” Kaley said. “My theory was that we’re in better shape. Let’s keep the pressure on for 60 minutes. Let’s see if they worked as hard as us in practice. If not, they’re going to fold.”

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