This week LAS enjoyed a Fireside Chat an NCAA Head Coach. His name is Malcolm Chase and he’s the head coach at the University of Southern Maine. With Chase at the helm, USM is a real up and coming program destined to rock the Division 3 boat a little more. Chase has the pedigree, desire and attitude to be very successful in the coaching game, so listen up and take heed: USM is here and they are for real.
LAS: Who are some of your players we should watch out for this year?
USM Head Coach, Malcolm Chase: Watch out for transfer midfielder Kyle Baker (Kennebunk, ME/Merrimack), freshman Mark White (Oakville, ONT), a crafty Canadian who can create; Josh Plowman (Gorham, ME) and Tim Clark (South Portland, ME) bring great leadership to the close D; Tim Bryant (Peterborough, NH) returns after a stellar first year at Attack, leading the team in points and earning 2nd team LEC All Conference Honors.
LAS: Describe your team’s pregame – what do you do to get ready for a big game?
Malcolm Chase: We try to give the guys the locker room as their own space, in terms of music and what they need to do individually to get their mentally prepared to go to battle. We are fortunate to have a young man on our team who leads us in a prayer before each game that allows us a moment of calm and reflection on how fortunate we are to get to play this game. Then we have specific shooting drills, dynamic stretching and footwork designed to lead us right up to game time. On away trips we tailor our warmup to best resemble our home game routine.
LAS: What team are you guys looking forward to playing the most this year? Why?
Malcolm Chase: Chapman and Whittier will be awesome opponents for us to get an early look at two top quality teams who, much like us, like to Run ‘n Gun and take some chances.
LAS: Where is your least favorite place to play a road game? favorite?
Malcolm Chase: Western Conn has a beautiful stadium built on the windiest part of campus – the wind presents challenges in terms of cross field passes and communication on the field. That and being the farthest LEC opponent make their location the least favorite.
Favorite place is right here at home on Hodgdon Field. There’s nothing better than a sunny Spring afternoon game, fans along the sidelines and parents firing up the BBQ for a post game celebration.
LAS: When your team travels for road games, what is the transportation like?
Malcolm Chase: We usually travel by bus to regional games, and tend to have a decent frosh-generated selection of DVDs for those trips. For the West Coast Trip we managed to get direct flights out of Boston and then we are caravanning ourselves all over SoCal for a week.
Malcolm Chase: Lodging is your standard Marriott or equivalent for regional trips. But I’m looking forward to taking the guys to Anaheim Plaza Hotel this year, which is a cool little hotel with a classic feel across the street from Disney and only 15 minutes from the beach.
LAS: How do you feel your conference levels up to the other NCAA conferences?
Malcolm Chase: The LEC opponents are getting tougher and tougher. While Keene and Eastern Conn are still running the show, they know that all of us are gunning for them to compete for that automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
LAS: If you had to predict the mens’ NCAA title winners right now, who would they be?
Malcolm Chase: That is the toughest question you’ve asked. Starting with D II, although they may be a year or two away, I’ll give our New England comrades Merrimack College a hard-earned spot in the championship game. LeMoyne will flex their experience and prove way too powerful in the second half taking the trophy 17-11.
In Division III: So many teams, so many questions… Middlebury beats Denison in a squeaker! 9-8
D1: Virginia is always loaded, and we learned that you can never count out ‘Cuse. But who doesn’t want to see a new champ, so why not? Maryland over Harvard 13-9. That’s right, Harvard.
LAS: All right, back to the easy questions… Have your guys adjusted to the new heads? How do you think they will affect USM’s game and the general play of lacrosse?
Malcolm Chase: So far the guys feedback has been positive, and the stick doctor is busy working on configurations to create the best feel in the newly shaped pockets. Our faceoff mids are actually excited to have more of a chess match at the X, working on moves and counters versus simply beating your man to the pinch and pop. Our style of play will not change much. As our defenders are encouraged to step out and play already, we should be able to cause a few more turnovers if teams elect to hold the ball on us.
LAS: What are the team goals for 2010?
Malcolm Chase: After our first LEC playoff win in history last year, I know that our young team is eager to earn our way back into the conference tournament and see how far we can go. Everyone is improving so there are no easy games.
LAS: What did the team do differently this fall/winter to achieve those goals?
Malcolm Chase: I’m noticing a lot more of our players in the field house on the wall and in the gym. It seems that our young crew realizes that the next step for our program is a tough one and that hard work is the most important ingredient toward taking that step.
LAS: Is there a game or road trip you are most excited about this spring?
Malcolm Chase: Clearly, the return to the West Coast is something we look forward to each year. Or as our guys like to call it, “Going back to Cali’”. This trip brought our team much closer together last year, and helped build the foundation for much of our success. Because we have to fund raise every penny in order to make it happen, our Spring Trip is something that we truly value.
LAS: How did you hear about USM? What interested you most about the coaching position and school?
Malcolm Chase: I grew up in Maine and always knew USM as that school in your backyard that happened to have a lacrosse team. When my AD called me four years ago to interview for the position, I was honored and intrigued. Here was a chance to build a program, to create something special and extremely important for the local lacrosse community. Having coached at established programs with two great coaches at Roanoke and Connecticut College, I learned a lot in terms of recruiting and preparation. But I also knew that USM is a unique place and would require a very unique approach if we were going to move forward. We are very fortunate to be at a large university that offers excellent academic programs for so many while maintaining a small, New England liberal arts feel, and boasting a 14:1 student to faculty ratio. Our programs have a long-standing tradition of excellence in Business, Education, and Engineering. And with progressive programs within the Sport Management and Health Fitness departments we have been given a tremendous boost in reaching and recruiting prospective student-athletes who value their education every bit as much as the opportunity to play at a high level of athletics.
LAS: What are your five favorite songs right now?
Malcolm Chase: Let’s see…
“Empire State of Mind” by Jay Z
“Get Down“, off the new 311 Album
“Dull Boy” by Mudvayne
“If I Could Be With You” by Jackie Gleason off the Whatever Works Soundtrack
“Close Edge” by Mos Def
LAS: I know you’re an old guy like me now, but what kind of stick are you using? Gimme the details.
Malcolm Chase: We are old guys now, huh? (note from Connor: Malcolm is in ridiculous shape and doesn’t actually seem to age ever) Did you not take note of how hip my musical selections were? Right now, I’m rocking a pinched Reebok 6K with a deep bag and mid to high pocket a la Canadian Mike (another note from Connor: this is in reference to “Canadian” Mike Ladoucer, a fixture in box leages (including the NLL), summer tournaments and awesome pre, post and during-game sideline activities. I met him at my first Glastonbury tournament where we almost fought each other. We’ve been friends ever since). Hold is about a 6 out of 10. This is set on an old, sawed off Warrior Titan d pole that has a nice check-made bend resembling the new STX Katana shaft. Thin hockey tape knob on the end and another thin shooting reference strip about hips width from the end.
LAS: Who are your heroes in lacrosse? Who inspired you to want to play and then coach in college?
Malcolm Chase: John Fay (UNH ‘81/Team USA ’82) – one of the greatest players to ever play this game. To this day, he is doing things on the lacrosse field that I would guess maybe 1% of current college lacrosse players could do or would even have the imagination to attempt.
I learn something new every week at 3v3 Goon Ball from this living legend.
I had limited access to college lacrosse as a kid, but I managed to record the 1993 National Championship when Syracuse edged UNC 13-12. I would watch that tape every day, emulating the ‘Cuse long poles – especially Ric Beardsley, and go out in my backyard and beat on my little brother and his friends. That sounds like something Beardsley would have done, right?
Coaching was a natural progression as I can’t stay away from this game and am continually “Living the dream.”
LAS: What was your college career like?
Malcolm Chase: Divided but rewarding. I began my career at Ohio Wesleyan, as a freshman from Maine on a team ranked #2 in the country. My coach was Lelan Rogers, and in that one year I learned more about this game than I have in my entire career. It’s no secret why he was instrumental in rebuilding Cortland and now a very nasty Syracuse defense.
After taking a year off to grow up, I learned that academics and location had become higher priorities in my educational experience. I transferred to Whittier College outside of Los Angeles and started over. From #2 to “Who?” was a bit of culture shock, but I soon realized how cool it was to be an underdog. To have everyone betting against you and to roll into someone else’ s house and take it to them was one of the coolest feelings I’ve had as an athlete. No doubt, these experiences serve as valuable lessons to our USM team as we are often underestimated by our opponents.
LAS: Favorite Pro laxer?
Malcolm Chase: Casey Powell. He is a student of the game. Many would have walked – nay run from the indoor game after the beating he took his first year in the NLL. But he stuck with it, took the time to learn the game, and earned respect from his peers. I think he opened the door for so many Americans who are now following in his footsteps. As he may have lost a step or two since college, his mind for the game has developed so much more because he has immersed himself in both box and field lacrosse.
LAS: Are you a fan of of indoor or box lacrosse? What’s your preference between field and box?
Malcolm Chase: A little, two years ago… today, a whole lot. I was very fortunate to have been invited to play with the US Indoor Developmental Team and participate in the Boston Blazers training camp last year. Although I was cut during camp, I learned so much from the organization about the indoor game and myself as an athlete.
Box is the most demanding sport I’ve ever played and I have so much respect for the work that those guys put in each week to compete. Beyond that, I learned a ton as a coach by observing the calm, simple approach that Tom Ryan and Randy Fraser took to a team with a lot of question marks and high expectations. As I am a long pole first, gotta lean towards field lacrosse as a preference. But the best players in the World are playing both to stay on top. See Powell comments above.
LAS: Final thoughts?
Malcolm Chase: With the support of dedicated assistant coaches, an energetic group of student-athletes, and a community hungry for a local powerhouse lacrosse program, we have created a new culture for lacrosse at USM. Our players exhibit a winning attitude on and off the lacrosse field, elevating our team GPA, graduating in record numbers, and volunteering in the community. With plans for a new turf field to add to our impressive athletic facility, I couldn’t be more excited for the future of Southern Maine Lacrosse!
Thanks Malcolm, for the lengthy interview and the awesome answers. You’re the man.
This has been another Lax All Stars Fireside Chat. Stay tuned to the LAS Network for more interviews, and see our full list here.