On Monday, the yet to be named New York National Lacrosse League expansion team announced that Regy Thorpe will serve as the team’s inaugural head coach and general manager. This was an excellent move by that organization. It is a move that will not only serve as a catalyst for developing box talent in the U.S., but also is smart because Thorpe is just a great person that can lead this new organization.
This past weekend at LaxCon, I had the opportunity to interview Regy Thorpe for my Know The Game podcast, the recording of which will be coming out this week. In that conversation, there are numerous topics we cover, but the American involvement and growth with regards to the box game was definitely the center point of it all. He wears plenty of hats in the lacrosse world right now. Thorpe has been a UWLX coach, highly involved in 3d Lacrosse, is the head coach for the US Men’s Indoor team… the list goes on. All of these, however, are just side gigs to where he spends his daily life — as the associate head coach for Syracuse Women’s lacrosse with Gary Gait.
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It appears that he will be stepping down after this NCAA season to move full-time to the NLL. This makes sense, since the combo GM/coach role is one that does fill up your weekly schedule. Doing only one or the other can usually result in the need for another job, but people like Paul Day in Philly go full-time and in Day’s case, even moved into the market. Getting Thorpe out of central New York may be a tougher sell, though.
Looking at this move purely from a coaching standpoint, there was good reason Regy Thorpe was on the list of possibilities. There are definitely other people around with either previous NLL head coaching experience, multiple years of being an assistant or just a large number of CLA Senior A seasons under their belt. In Thorpe’s case, he has experience coaching professional players, being an MLL head coach in the past, is currently coaching the USA Men’s Indoor team and spent some time as a Junior A coach. That means he has coached with and against some of the top NLL talent out there, and given his playing background in the league, knows what it takes to perform at a high level and win. He also has a great history of teammates, fellow coaches and contacts to form a great coaching staff. It will be interesting to see how that comes together.
On the general manager side of things, Thorpe brings something truly unique to the table. While in Six Nations, he coached current NLL players like Seth Oakes, Warren Hill, Leo Stouros, Quinn Powless, Randy Staats and Johnny Powless, among others. The players he worked with there are all going to be within their first few years on the league and have serious star power. On top of that, his Team USA duties has allowed him to see and study more American box players than really anyone else remotely associated with the league. He knows who can play, who needs to develop, and how close they are to being where he needs them to be. When you add that experience to scouting the usual places in Juniors across Canada, you get a very comprehensive view of possible NLL talent. This is the perfect time for him to be taking over an NLL team.
This makes sense for New York because they are going to be an expansion team. San Diego and Philadelphia are proving right now that the new NLL expansion model can produce a quality team quickly. San Diego already has a pair of wins while the Wings are knocking on the door aggressively.
Saskatchewan’s Derek Keenan explained it simply when asked about San Diego’s early success. “I’ve been a part of expansion teams, so I know what it used to be like. You used to only be able to get the bottom portion of other rosters. Now, you can get the middle.”
When you add that aspect of the expansion draft with a trade or two and good drafting. There’s your youth, team players, experience, and star power.
If he is able to cultivate some of his USA talent that is instantly recognizable on Long Island, they have some real potential to find that great combination of a good team on the floor, support off of it and long term viability. So while there is still plenty of time to work through for this 2019 season, this is just another sign that the future of the NLL continues to be bright.