Jack Sandler was the 35-year old Head Coach of Colby College’s Men’s Lacrosse Team and a native of Long Island. He attended the Friends School growing up, and was a first-team all NESCAC player his senior year at Bates, after being named NESCAC rookie of the year in 1999. Jack Sandler passed away on Thursday night of an apparent heart attack, and lacrosse teams across the Northeast are in mourning.
At only 35, he was a young rising star in the college coaching ranks, with a decade of head coach experience under his belt already. Having cut his teeth at Bates in his first college coaching job under Coach Peter Lasagna, Sandler got a great introduction to the college coaching world. Jack was a Bates Lacrosse alumni, and I covered him for three of my four years at Wesleyan.
Bates Head Coach Peter Lasagna sent over the below statement on Jack Sandler:
“Our sport lost a great man, an ambassador, a young leader in our game.
He reveled in the legends that preceded him, knew every important name, contest and the historic power of each one. He was the quintessential “old soul”.
I enjoyed the privilege of coaching one of the most gifted scorers ever at any level. To then work with him and ultimately face him from opposite sidelines was as perfect and precious a circle as I could ever wish for.
We will celebrate this great man’s life every day. He left all of us and the sport he devoted his life to better than he found us.
My thoughts and prayers are with Jack’s family, friends, and the Bates and Colby Lacrosse families.”
Jack was a shifty player, who always went 100%, and if you slept on him for a minute, he would make you pay. As Coach Lasagna said, he truly was a gifted scorer. Jack was originally recruited by Al Brown back in 1998, and he finished with 199 points as a 4-year starter, which puts him second all-time for Bates Lacrosse scoring. I know from first-hand experience. He had a goal and assist in his last game against my Wesleyan team in 2002, which helped foil our comeback attempt.
That game had also been an emotional one, as Morgan McDuffee, a teammate and friend of Jack’s at Bates, had been killed earlier in the year in a stabbing in Lewiston, ME. Bates played their hearts out in that game, and Jack Sandler was one of the seniors leading the way, playing for something bigger. Sandler continued to hold up McDuffee’s legacy as time wore on, and it was true testament to their friendship and Jack’s high level of character. I was always impressed at how Coach Lasagna, Jack, and the Bates team responded to that tragedy.
Morgan was with all of us today win or lose…happy we can keep him in everyone’s mind! pic.twitter.com/S0qDpNi4lL
— Coach Sandler (@coachsandler) March 4, 2013
Jack took all that he had learned under four years with Lasagna (two as a player and two as a coach), and captured the top assistant job at Dickinson College for 2005. I was actually the number two candidate for that job, but when Coach Dave Webster called and told me had offered the spot to Sandler, I couldn’t complain. I had played and coached against Sandler for years and knew he was an excellent candidate, especially when it came to handling an offense.
After only a year at Dickinson he was offered the Head Coach position at Skidmore, and for the next 8 years, he helped that program reach new heights as they made 4 consecutive conference finals, won a regular season Liberty title, and were ranked as high as #11 in the country (their highest rank ever). Sandler was named conference coach of the year twice, in 2007 and 2011.
In his first year at Colby, Sandler took the Mules to the NESCAC playoffs. Colby had not made the playoffs the year before and was dealing with heavy graduation losses. Still, Sandler made positive waves. Colby went 8-7 last year, with an impressive 5-2 record at home. The program was improving in the ultra-competitive NESCAC, and Sandler was a big part of it. No matter where he went, his teams got better.
Coach John Raba of Wesleyan, the longest-tenured coach in the NESCAC right now, had this to say about Jack Sandler:
“I am shocked and saddened that we lost such a good coach and man. Jack was a tremendous ambassador for Colby and the game of lacrosse. He put his heart and soul into his players, and everyone that ever encountered him really valued him for the person he was. He will truly be missed. Today is a tough day for anyone who knew him.”
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Sandler family. Jack was a great man on and off the field, and he will be missed. We are also keeping the Bates, Skidmore, Colby, and Dickinson lacrosse communities in our minds. This is a hard loss to understand.
When you look at Jack Sandler’s legacy, you will see one of positivity and growth. He remembered those who helped him, and we can all pay tribute by paying that idealism forward, into action. Jack Sandler will forever be honored at Colby, Bates, Skidmore, and out on Long Island.
Hopefully, his passing will inspire a new generation to walk in his footsteps.