The Washington, D.C. Product Returns to Baltimore By Way of California
By Nelson Coffin
It is highly unlikely that an outsider would ever reach the inner circle of Baltimore's close-knit prep lacrosse culture. But when the ultimate insider, John Tucker, does the inviting and the invitee comes, indirectly, from the only program in the country that can hang with the MIAA on a consistent basis, it can happen. In fact, it did this year when Loyola Blakefield tabbed former longtime Landon assistant Jack Crawford to run its program. He replaces Tucker himself, as the two-time U.S. World Team member steps aside to devote more time to his duties as athletic director at the campus in suburban Towson, Maryland. Crawford's lineage may not be from the old-boy Baltimore network, but its close enough for the folks at Loyola.
"Getting a guy from outside Baltimore was something we wanted," said Tucker, who guided the Dons to a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship in 2001 and to the finals last spring. "He's a guy who can add fresh ideas and fresh vision to a league that already has great coaching." He's from - gasp - D.C., where the 38-year-old Bethesda native attended St. John's College High School before enrolling at Johns Hopkins. That's where he met Tucker, then a senior star midfielder for the Blue Jays. Crawford's high school lacrosse experience, in the lacrosse hinterlands of 1980's D.C., was bolstered by a familial connection to the game. His dad had played at the Naval Academy and had instilled in Jack a love of the game and the impetus to keep at it despite not having the hotbed background of most of his Hopkins teammates. "I was actually recruited by Hopkins to play soccer," said Crawford, who played his first year on the pitch under former Hopkins lacrosse coach Don Zimmerman, now at UMBC. And he ended up playing lacrosse as well, running midfield on teams boasting a ton of stars. He was a role player who learned as he went along.
And Crawford always remembered what he learned. That portfolio of knowledge served him well when the freshly-minted 1988 Hopkins grad applied at Landon, where he was hired as an assistant to Coach Rob Bordley's burgeoning powerhouse at the Bethesda school. "We still exchange notes and talk about new drills," said Bordley. "He's a very analytical coach and a disciplinarian at heart." Crawford's lacrosse duties at Landon were to guide the face-off, goalies and extra-man units. He did well, fashioning impressive results from talent inherited from the growing youth leagues in Montgomery and Howard Counties.
"Jack is a great X's and O's guy who never stopped studying the game," said Bordley, a Princeton alum. "He teaches history. He gets to the classroom early and has everything ready for his history classes, and he brings that same meticulous attention for detail to lacrosse."
Crawford also guided the eighth-grade team at Landon, which helped lay the foundation for the varsity's good fortunes. Landon has captured 22 straight Interscholastic Athletic Association titles in a row. Crawford was there for 11 of them and 190 wins to only 17 losses. The 1998 team was the first Landon team to win the consensus mythical national championship, which they've competed for ever since, winning it outright in 2002 again. "We had a lot of autonomy there," said Crawford, who left Landon after the 1999 campaign. "I think that's one of the reasons we were so successful." While at Landon Crawford coached over 45 players who went on to play NCAA Division I lacrosse. Two goalies under Crawford's tutelage that have made the most impact at the Division I level are Alex Cade (Notre Dame) and Danny McCormick (Maryland).
Tucker took notice of his friend's success, hoping to lure Crawford to Gilman, where Tucker won a title in 1998 before eventually moving on to Loyola. "But he wanted to run his own team," Tucker said. Crawford did just that, moving to California's Thacher School in Ojai, an hour north of L.A. He led the Toads for three key years, orchestrating the rise of Thacher Lacrosse in the private school California CONDOR League. His 1st year the team went 6-4 and placed third in the league. The team improved to 2nd in 2001 with a 10-2 record. Last year, the Toads were co-champions, winning 10 and only losing 1. But despite all the success out west, Crawford was missing his eastern home region when he heard of a possible opening at Loyola. "I had run into John and he told me about the job," said Crawford. "Since most of my family is from Maryland, I wanted to come back. And I couldn't be more excited about coming to Loyola and working with such great kids at a school where they put a lot of resources behind you."
Crawford does not fear being an alien to insider cliques in Baltimore. "I don't spend any time worrying about it," he said. "I'm aware of the lacrosse culture in Baltimore and the environment here having gone to Hopkins. But I realize there's only so much you can control." Tucker will assist Crawford this spring. He'll take the offense while Crawford concentrates on his areas of expertise and Tom Pierce runs the middies and defense. "There really isn't much difference in John's style and mine," said Crawford. "The emphasis on certain things might be a little different."
Some may think the new arrangement to be a little strange but not Crawford. "The most important thing is that if you ask either John or I if we think it's odd, we'd say no," Tucker pointed out. "It's just going to be a bunch of coaches working together." And that working arrangement should benefit Loyola in the long run. "Jack is extremely popular, but he's driven," said Tucker. "A lot of credit for what has happened at Landon has to go to him." And if Crawford's drive and work ethic can influence the young Dons at all levels of the program, they have a great chance of continuing to compete for the MIAA crown regularly. Loyola does not play Landon in an official 2003 game, but they are scrimmaging in pre-season and E-Lacrosse will be there!
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