Knight, McDonald, Powell, Sweet, and Zimmerman Join National Lacrosse Hall of Fame

John Strohsacker

(L-R) Doug Knight, Jim McDonald, Brooks Sweet, Casey Powell and Don Zimmerman.

Five lacrosse greats who excelled as players, coaches and game administrators were formally inducted as the newest male members of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame Saturday evening at The Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley. 

The inductees – Doug Knight, Jim McDonald, Casey Powell, Brooks Sweet and Don Zimmerman – were officially welcomed during the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, sponsored by RPS Bollinger Sports & Leisure and the Markel Insurance Company.

Each inductee was introduced by a short video that summarized their career highlights and included comments from a presenter. Each inductee then came forward to address the sold out gathering of current Hall of Fame members and nearly 400 additional friends, family and lacrosse supporters who gathered for the event. 

Knight was a three-time All-American on attack at the University of Virginia, and received the Raymond Enners Award as the national player of the year in 1996. He earned All-ACC honors three times and was named the ACC Tournament’s MVP in 1997 after leading Virginia to the title. Knight still ranks as Virginia’s all-time leader in career goals (165) and is now second in career points (249). His professional career included two seasons as an indoor player for the Baltimore Thunder, and three seasons in Major League Lacrosse (MLL) with the Boston Cannons and Philadelphia Barrage. 

Inducted as a truly great player, Knight is often mentioned with teammates Michael Watson and Tim Whitely as one of the best collegiate attack units of the past 25 years.

“Those guys really taught me a ton about how to play lacrosse. I was a pretty raw, athletic talent when I came to UVA. Watching how polished they were and how they played, and their selflessness to share the ball, really taught me a lot,” he said.

Hall of Famer Dom Starsia, who coached Knight at Virginia, served as his presenter.

“Doug was an irreverent, emotional, athletic, fearless player,” Starsia said. “It was about the sense of competition and playing really hard. For him, what was important was when the lights went on for the game. We couldn’t ask of him in practice what we were getting from him in games. He played so hard, and such a physical style of lacrosse, that he would not have been able to hold up.”

McDonald was inducted as a truly great contributor after spending over 50 years engaged with lacrosse as a coach and administrator. McDonald coached the University of Baltimore from 1956-63, compiling a 67-15-2 record and winning four championships. He also served as a longtime coach at the youth and high school levels. McDonald spent 30 years as a member of the National Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee, including 24 years as its chair. He also served as a board member for 18 years for the Lacrosse Foundation. 

McDonald marvels at the progress of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

“We’ve come a long way. This is unbelievable,” he said. “We started in a little corner room in the Hopkins gym, and now, to have this complex is incredible. What I’ve done in this game is because of my love for it. I’ve enjoyed it and it just meant a lot to me.”

Reiley McDonald served as his dad’s presenter and noted that Jim’s passion for the game is based on relationships.

“For dad, lacrosse is about the people that he’s met in the game,” he said. “So many people along the way became great friends of his; people that he loved and liked being with. I believe that’s his real passion for the sport. He thoroughly loved the process of selection for the Hall of Fame because he loved getting to know the people he was talking to.”

Powell was inducted as a truly great player. He was a four-time collegiate All-American at Syracuse, and the national player of the year in both 1997 and 1998. He was also the national midfielder of the year in 1996 and the national attackman of the year in 1998. Powell ranks second in Syracuse history with 287 career points and fourth with 158 goals. He played on the U.S. Men’s World Championship Team in 1998 and 2006, earning the gold as a member of ’98 squad. 

Powell also had a legendary professional career, playing for six different teams during a 14-year MLL career. He ranks second in league history with 527 career points and was the league’s MVP in 2014. He also earned All-Pro honors as an indoor player four times, including the NLL’s MVP award in 2010.

Hall of Famer Roy Simmons, Jr., who coached Powell at Syracuse, served as his presenter.

“There’s been nobody before or nobody after whose had the style of Casey. He’s a one of a kind player and a one of a kind person. His name is synonymous with fabulous lacrosse – box, field, college,” Simmons said. 

“He probably could have been a Hall of Famer while he was in college; he was that good. When we got in trouble, we wanted Casey to have the ball, and he wanted the ball. He was a magnet. He drew the slide and he drew the double team. He went to the cage and got you the goal or the assist that you needed. He was totally unselfish.” 

Sweet began his collegiate career at SUNY Farmingdale, where he was a junior college All-American in both 1976 & 1977, and helped Farmingdale to the 1977 JUCO national championship. He then moved to the University of Massachusetts, earning first team All-America honors in 1979 when he led the nation with 61 goals scored. Sweet tallied 172 points on 106 goals and 66 assists in two seasons, ranking second at UMass in career points upon graduation. He played for Team USA in 1982 and was named both the Most Outstanding Attackman and All-World as the U.S. captured gold. He played four professional seasons in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League and was a three-time league all-star. 

Inducted as a truly great player, Sweet said that the 1982 World Championship, in which he scored seven goals in the final game, ranks as the highlight of his career.

“I know I worked hard to get there, and I guess when you work hard at something, it pays off,” he said. “It just so happened that in the championship game, I scored a lot of goals. I can’t even remember half of them. Playing at Homewood Field with the stands full and hearing people calling your name…it was beyond exciting.”

Sweet’s younger sister, Melissa, served as his presenter and talked about growing up in a lacrosse family.

“I never remember a time when lacrosse wasn’t important. It was always a part of our life, an all-family event. My dad and I would get up at 5 a.m. to drive to his games when he was at Farmingdale. It was our family pass-time. It was an event when Brooksie had a game,” she said.

Zimmerman was inducted as a truly great coach, with a collegiate coaching career that spanned across parts of five decades, 1978-2016. He won three NCAA national championships in seven seasons as the head coach at Johns Hopkins, amassing a 73-15 record. Zimmerman then recorded 164 wins as the head coach at UMBC from 1994-2016. He also served as an assistant coach for the gold medal winning Team USA in 1986. Zimmerman received the America East Conference’s Coach of the Year Award three times, the Hero’s Coach of the Year Award in 1984, and the IMLCA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. 

He spoke about his evolution as a coach.

“As a young coach, I was a control freak. We had a playbook this thick. Over the years, I realized that it’s a player’s game. Prepare your guys for the game, but when the whistle blows, let them play. In my latter years, we had very few plays. We let the guys play,” Zimmerman said. 

Interacting with his players, one-on-one, is among Zimmerman’s fondest recollections. 

“Some of my more memorable times with players was when a kid would just knock on my (office) door, unannounced, and ask if we could talk,” he said. “It wasn’t all about lacrosse. He maybe had an issue I could help him with. If he left feeling better, I felt better. I really enjoyed those moments and those opportunities.”

Jake Zimmerman, who played for his dad at UMBC, served as his presenter.

“I think even at a young age, I was aware that he had a love and passion for lacrosse,” Jake said. “And that became fully aware for me when I became one of his players. From day one of my freshman year through my final game as a senior, I saw how passionate he was and what the game meant to him.” 

The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, a program of US Lacrosse, was established in 1957 to honor men and women who by their deeds as players, coaches, officials and/or contributors, and by the example of their lives, personify the great contribution of lacrosse to our way of life. Over 400 lacrosse greats are honored in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, which is located with the Lacrosse Museum at US Lacrosse Headquarters in Sparks, Maryland.

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