Former U.S. Men’s National Team Coach Tom Flatley Dies at 80

Tom Flatley received the ILF’s Spirit of Lacrosse Award at the 2008 U19 Men’s Lacrosse World Championship, played in British Columbia, Canada.

Tom Flatley, head coach of the 1982 U.S. men’s national team that won the world lacrosse championship, and later, general manager of the U.S. U19 men’s team from 1988-2008, died Tuesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Flatley, of Garden City, N.Y., was 80 years old.

Flatley guided the 1982 U.S. team to a 4-0 record to capture the world championship, played in Baltimore. Team USA defeated Australia, 22-14, in the gold medal game.

As general manager of the U.S. U19 Men’s program for 20 years, Flatley helped the U.S. in securing six world titles and amassing a 36-0 overall record. 

“Tom Flatley contributed to the U.S. men’s national team program in several capacities for 30 years,” said Skip Lichtfuss, director of national teams for US Lacrosse. “As a head coach, assistant coach and general manager of six U19 teams, Tom was consistent, committed and accomplished. He was a quiet and considered leader, a poster child for the characteristics of selflessness.”

Flatley served the game in numerous capacities from 1971 through his retirement in 2009. As a high school head coach, he piloted the Sewanhaka varsity lacrosse team for seven seasons, compiling a 114-18 record and winning the Nassau County and Long Island championship in 1981.

Flatley also served a combined 30 seasons as junior varsity head coach at Sewanhaka and Garden City High Schools. In 22 seasons at Garden City, his teams compiled a 300-29-1 record for a winning percentage of over 91 percent.

In addition to his lacrosse achievements, Flatley is generally regarded as one of Long Island’s finest high school football coaches of all time. He recorded 264 wins as Garden City’s varsity football coach over a span of 25 years, winning 18 Nassau County championships. His .879 winning percentage was the highest in New York among football coaches with 200 wins or more.

“Tom was unique in that he experienced great success coaching two sports with players ranging from high school to the international level,” Lichtfuss said. “He was able to effectively communicate and lead young men across each of these platforms. His mere presence commanded respect from his teams. His ability to coach, manage and win at each of these levels while maintaining a consistent, straightforward approach, is what defines Tom’s legacy.”

Flatley’s career also includes service as general manager with the professional New York Saints indoor lacrosse team and as a coach on the club level. He served on the USCLA’s rules advisory committee for many years and was president of the Long Island Summer Lacrosse Association from 1970-1985.  

In recognition of his contributions to lacrosse, Flatley was awarded the US Lacrosse Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. He has also been inducted into five Halls of Fame: the Long Island-Metro Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Sewanhaka High School Hall of Fame, Garden City High School Hall of Fame, New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Hall of Fame and the Nassau County High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

“What you saw is what you got from Tom,” Lichtfuss said. “On the surface he was stoic, measured and no nonsense. But having both competed against Tom’s teams and experienced first-hand his contributions to the national teams, I appreciated his sense of humor. He always had his teams’ backs and respect.”

His daughter, Christine Bellocco, told Newsday, “Dad was like an onion, and as you peeled away the layers and got to his heart, you found an amazing man. He was never comfortable talking about himself, a truly selfless individual who liked to spread the accolades to his coaches and players.”

Flatley is survived by three adult children and nine grandchildren. A private funeral and burial are scheduled for Friday.

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