Attackman Matt Danowski is one of 49 U.S. hopefuls vying for a spot on the 2018 U.S. men's national team.

Danowski Duo Maintains Team-First Mentality in Quest for Gold

U.S. men’s national team coach John Danowski and Team USA attackman Matt Danowski share a bond that goes beyond the lacrosse field.

The father-son tandem currently coach together at Duke, as head coach and an assistant, respectively, but according to the younger Danowski, their strongest memories were built when John was coaching from the sidelines and Matt was leading the offense with a stick in his hand.

Their relationship began to grow when John Danowski left Hofstra and accepted the head coaching position in Durham, N.C., on July 21, 2006, taking over a program that was rebounding from a suspended season of just eight games and a year full of criticism due to a rape scandal involving three players, who were exonerated.

With a fresh start and a new coach, the first game of 2007 was more than a game. Fans welcomed the Blue Devils back to Koskinen Stadium, where they turned the corner in a season-opening 17-11 win over Dartmouth on a sunny February afternoon.

The win especially meant more to the Danowski duo, who took the field together for the first time as father and son, coach and player. They would get two years together at Duke as the NCAA had granted Matt and his 32 teammates who weren’t seniors in 2006, an extra year of eligibility for the lost season.

“The year 2007, when we came back from 2006, that was obviously pretty meaningful for a lot of reasons,” said Matt Danowski. “To get to the national championship that year, and that year itself, was something I’ll never forget. It was his first year coaching [at Duke] and it was his first year coaching me. That year in general, 2007, will always hold a special place for us. We didn’t win it, but we had a really good run. It was the first time doing that together.”

“Everything is about a team, not the individual. [Coach Danowski's] been pretty clear about that since day one. It’s not about me and my career. It’s about getting Team USA back on top to where they belong.” – U.S. attackman Matt Danowski

Together, it’s been 10 years since Duke missed out on the NCAA title by one goal to Johns Hopkins. Matt Danowski is just one of eight players in NCAA history to participate in the NCAA Tournament with his father as the team's head coach.

The Danowski duo is the only father-son tandem in NCAA history to each post 50-plus assists in a single-season with the elder Danowski registering 54 for Rutgers in 1973 and the younger with 52 in 2007 and 54 in 2008. Matt earned the Tewaaraton Trophy in 2007 and finished his career as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer with 353 points.

Separately, John has won three NCAA titles after his son graduated (2010, 2013, 2014), and Matt has won one gold medal as a member of the 2003 U.S. under-19 men’s team, leading Team USA with a team-high 27 points as the World Championship MVP.

But now, the duo is back at it again – this time for the red, white and blue.

If Matt makes the final roster for the 2018 U.S. men’s national team, which competes in the World Championship in Netanya, Israel, he will have one more opportunity to win a title with his father.

“It would certainly bookend my career, that’s for sure,” said Matt Danowski. “If you ask either of us, when I was a senior in high school and I chose to go to Duke, if he ever thought he would’ve coached me at Duke and now coach me during this Team USA tryout process, if this was where we would be, we would both say absolutely not. I never thought I would be playing this long and I don’t think he would have an opportunity to coach either at Duke or for Team USA. Where we are right now, I don’t think any of us saw this in 2003.”

Matt Danowski, who suited up for the Chesapeake Bayhawks of the MLL this past season, added it was “a definite” that this would be his last shot at Team USA.

At 32 years old, he envisions himself playing just one more year, if he makes the team. He has been a part of the U.S. program for the past 12 years, since first trying out his sophomore year of college. In the summer of 2006, he was named an alternate for the U.S. senior team and then made the U.S. training rosters in 2010 and 2014.

He missed the final cut for each World Championship.

Therefore, in 2010 and 2014, Danowski competed as an MLL All-Star against the final rosters for the eventual U.S. gold medalists and silver medalists, respectively. Seven years ago, Danowski had a team-best three points for the All-Star squad in the 13-12 U.S. win, while he dished out two goals in 2014, a 10-9 victory for Team USA.

“Obviously, it was extra motivation for those guys who weren’t on the team, who were on the MLL All-Star team, to play well and show everybody we are capable,” Danowski said. “But more than anything else, it was about giving those guys a really good look.”

As tryouts began for the 2018 U.S. training team, John Danowski and U.S. assistant coach Seth Tierney convinced him to try out one more time.

“Part of the chemistry of this team needs to be some of those guys who have been cut and needs to be some of the guys who have lost in this game,” John Danowski said. “I think not only are the guys who got cut important, [but also] guys who have lost in the game and guys who have won in this game because it’s their team. At the end of the day, it’s not my team. It belongs to them.”


Following the Blue-White scrimmage on Sept. 3, Team USA and Duke head coach John Danowski poses for a photo with his former Blue Devils CJ Costabile, Matt Danowski, Ned Crotty, Brendan Fowler, Will Haus, Myles Jones, Michael Manley and Jordan Wolf.

Despite his reservations about his father being the head coach, Matt Danowski entered his name into the tryout pool and made the 49-player training roster in July 2017. John Danowski treats his son just like as any other U.S. hopeful.

“Nothing’s set in stone,” Matt Danowski said. “I felt the same way when we were at Duke and he was coaching me there. If anything, at Duke, he was coaching me a little bit harder to get that message across to the guys that this was going to be the same. If it was any different here, it wouldn’t be any fun.”

The head coach made it clear that he’s looking for a team, regardless of past experiences. The final roster will not be the MLL’s leading scorers or an All-Star team, according to his son.

“Everything is about a team, not the individual. He’s been pretty clear about that since day one,” said Matt Danowski. “It’s not about me and my career. It’s about getting Team USA back on top to where they belong.”

The U.S. training team faces off against reigning NCAA champion Maryland and NCAA semifinalist Towson at Team USA Fall Classic Oct. 7-8 in Sparks, Md. Buy tickets today at the US Lacrosse Member Store.

This weekend, the U.S. training team competes against reigning NCAA champion Maryland and NCAA semifinalist Towson at the Team USA Fall Classic at US Lacrosse headquarters. According to the younger Danowski, it’s another opportunity to learn about each other and improve as a team.

Duke alumni – CJ Costabile, Ned Crotty, Brendan Fowler, Will Haus, Myles Jones, Michael Manley and Jordan Wolf – as well as Hofstra’s Kevin Unterstein, may “bust [his] chops” because his father is the coach, but Matt Danowski continues to emphasize a team-first mentality.

“I was searching for that next experience, that next situation where you’re part of a team, you’re part of a championship team, which are things as an athlete that you’re looking to do,” Matt Danowski said. “It’s really searching for that next challenge – and this is it.”