E-LACROSSE: Last year had to have been a great year for you.
The Hofstra lacrosse team has just finished up a scrimmage against Butler and Stony Brook. The players are huddled to the side dressed in grey, baggy sweatshirts and sweatpants. It's usually easy to tell the coach from the players - look for the loud, yelling figure who is dressed differently from the rest of the pack. But locating Hofstra Coach John Danowski is difficult. He's dressed the same as the players and standing amongst them, speaking in calm, quiet tones. E-Lacrosse's Mark Lutin caught up with Danowski to discuss Hofstra, the NCAA, local lacrosse and the state of the game.
E-LACROSSE: I have to tell you, I've been to a lot of games here, I have never seen you go berserk or pull a "Woody Hayes." What's the story? Are you really a calm person?
DANOWSKI: I have a hard time sometimes being super tough on players. It is something I have worked on -- I'm sure the players after the first three weeks here would disagree -- but I think one thing I have learned over the years is you have to be level-headed. There are so many plays in the course of a game, so many plays in the course of a season. When it's appropriate the guys will know when I am angry but I don't like to demonstrate it in front of other people. I don't think it appropriate to dress a student down or dress the team down in front of other people.
E-LACROSSE: I don't think I've ever seen you chew a ref out.
DANOWSKI: I work so hard watching what our own players are doing I don't have the time to watch the officials. Look when they miss the obvious call, I'll zing 'em under my breath but they are never going to win or lose a game for us. Games are won and lost by players.
E-LACROSSE: How about a brief biographical sketch. Where did you grow up, favorite sport, college?
DANOWSKI: I'm a local kid. I grew up right down the road in East Meadow. My favorite sport was whatever was in season. I played everything. I played basketball, football and lacrosse for East Meadow High School and then went to Rutgers University. I had thought about Penn, Ace Adams was the coach there and I wanted to play for him, but I had a football scholarship to Rutgers and that turned out to be the better situation for me. I ended up playing football there for three years and lacrosse for four years.
E-LACROSSE: At what point did you know you were going to be a coach?
DANOWSKI: The one thing I was sure about was that I would never, ever get involved with education or coaching. My father was a coach and a teacher. He coached football at Fordham University and later at East Meadow. My brother was a teacher and coach. So I was surrounded by teachers and coaches and as a result I was absolutely positive that the one thing I wasn't ever going to do was coach. Of course when you're young you are allowed to have such insight and knowledge.
E-LACROSSE: So at what point did you blow it?
DANOWSKI: Well, in fact, I ended up teaching but like a lot of professions in the '70s there was little demand for teachers and it was very competitive. I had a few teaching jobs but I was laid off. I ran a residence hall at Farmingdale College, I ran a residence hall at C.W. Post. I tended bar. I did everything kids in their 20s do to get by. I coached football, basketball -- I even coached a little lacrosse.
E-LACROSSE: Okay, when did the first break come?
DANOWSKI: When I was a graduate assistant in the movement science program at Columbia University in 1981, the job of head lacrosse coach opened up at C.W. Post. Three of us went down and applied -- me, Tony Seaman and I couldn't tell you the name of the third guy. Now, I had been playing club lacrosse that year for Tony and when he came back from his interview he said that if he gets the job I could be his assistant. I said, "Yeah, sure." I didn't tell him I was applying for the head job as well, but I was 25 or 26 and I figublack I was lucky enough just to get an interview. Well, Tony got the job and sure enough he made me his assistant coach. Then, as luck or fate would have it after a year Tony left to coach at Penn and I moved up to the head coach slot. I was 27 and head coach at Post -- a mater of being in the right place at the right time.
E-LACROSSE: Did you like it there?
DANOWSKI: I loved it there! I was a $4,000 a year part-time head coach; I ran a dorm and made $10,000 total. It was a terrific situation, terrific kids. They loved the school, loved lacrosse. My last year there we went 12-3 and the year after I left they made the tournament.
E-LACROSSE: And from there to Hofstra?
DANOWSKI: Again, I was lucky. In 1986, the position opened up here as a part- time coaching position, paying $6,000 a year. They had the lights, they had the turf, a great stadium, more scholarship opportunities. In all honesty, had it been a full-time position I probably would not have gotten it, but since it only paid $6,000 it limited the number of applicants. Plus I was a part-time guy and I knew how to do it part time; I knew how to get it done.