Dom Starsia (right) with 2017 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee Doug Knight in the locker room at US Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md.

Doug Knight's Unlikely Path to the Hall of Fame, as Told By Dom Starsia

I did not realize it was late in my final spring as the head coach at Brown University.  I had gone over to Westminster School outside of Hartford to see one of our recruits, Dennis Fitzgibbons, a post-grad set to attend Brown in the fall.  It was simply a courtesy call, as much as anything.

It did not take long, however, to turn my attention unexpectedly to a wildly athletic, undersized, unorthodox and yet fearless left-handed attackman. I may have wanted to get to know more about him, but my attention was soon diverted again when I was offered the position at the University of Virginia. I had plenty to do that summer moving the family to Charlottesville and did not think too much more about recruiting until walking into the office for the first time in late August.

Marc VanArsdale had worked a year for Jim Adams and already settled in the office that first day.  When I greeted him with, “Marc, I have this wild little left-handed attackman I really like that no one knows about,” he immediately responded with, “Doug Knight!”

Seems that Marc had seen Doug a year or two before at a Hobart camp and we, eerily, shared the same impression.

I might still describe Doug in some variation of that first impression — athletic, unorthodox, just fearless. He dove over, under, around and would get brutalized while making one spectacular play after another.

When I finally got a hold of Doug and we arranged to meet soon thereafter, I told him I thought he could be an excellent lacrosse player at Virginia. He looked at me like I had two heads and proceeded to inform me that he was a soccer/hockey player likely to play those two sports at a Division III school in New England. He said that he only played lacrosse because they made him do something in the spring.  I told him to think about it and that we would talk again.

Meanwhile, heralded high school star attackman Michael Watson committed to Virginia and would join Tim Whiteley, who was a year ahead and already on campus. Longtime and very successful St Paul’s School (Md.) coach Mitch Whiteley challenged me on more than one occasion with, “I hope you have someone good to play with Timmy and Michael.”  When I began to respond that I had this little attackman out of New England that I really liked, I could sense his skepticism.

By mid fall of his senior year (how’s that for early recruiting!), I needed a decision from Doug, and we slightly increased a minimum offer to nudge him away from Yale.  Mike Waldvogel threw a bit of an “Ivy League hissy fit” and threatened to go to my athletic director to protest the pressure we were putting on Doug to decide.  Believe me Mike, Doug was no Yalie, and perhaps unwittingly, one of the finest attack trios in our game’s history came together.

My early teams at Virginia were populated primarily with skilled, Maryland-based players.  Upperclassmen are always interested in the new players coming on board, and ours were mildly intrigued when I continued to talk about this kid from New England.

Unfortunately, Doug arrived on campus with some form of “Adirondack spotted fever” and was only physically able to attend about half the practices.  When he was there, he could only just barely keep up with his new teammates.

Doug, to this day, is the most one-handed player I have ever coached. And while you might not think it unreasonable to have college attackmen switch hands during line drills, Doug could only barely function with the stick in his right hand. More than one of those upperclassmen came to me to exclaim, “I don’t think so, Coach,” about Doug’s chances.

No one — including me, perhaps — knew quite what to make of Doug during that first fall.

Near the end of that fall session, we scrimmaged Hampden-Sydney with our first and second years. Almost from out of nowhere, Doug was all over that field that evening and had six goals in the first half. I can tell you that I smiled at all those upper-class jaws dropping again. The legend of Doug Knight was off and running.

I might still describe Doug in some variation of that first impression — athletic, unorthodox, just fearless.  He could only really “fake left, go left,” and those ACC defensemen would just be waiting for him on the corner.  He dove over, under, around and would get brutalized while making one spectacular play after another.  He led the nation with 58 goals in 1996, his junior year, and I can only recall that one of them might have been scored right-handed.

Doug broke his stick the night before our opener against Syracuse in ’96 and looked at me like, “What now?” I handed him mine. “Try this,” I said. He had eight goals the next day.  I can still recall Roy Simmons afterwards asking me, “Dom, who was that number 7?”

Knight, Virginia's all-time leader in career goals (165), became known for diving across the face of the goal to score, a maneuver the NCAA outlawed in 1999.

They took the dive out of the game the year after Doug graduated.  He was selected as the USILA National Player of the Year in ’96, first-team All-American again in ’97 and was an iconic player of his generation.  Doug, Michael and Timmy finished their careers Nos. 1, 2 and 3 as Virginia’s all-time leading scorers.

All because of a courtesy call.

Dom Starsia, a National Lacrosse Hall of Famer and US Lacrosse Magazine contributor, is the winningest coach in NCAA Division I men's lacrosse history. Starsia compiled 375 wins in 34 seasons at Brown and Virginia, leading the Cavaliers to four NCAA championships. He was a two-time All-American defenseman at Brown and played for the U.S. national team in 1978.
Starsia will present Doug Knight as a truly great player for induction into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame on Sept. 23. Click here for more on the event and the Class of 2017.