E-Lacrosse's Peter Anderson spoke with Tony Seaman at Towson University in October 1998. Seaman's sudden departure from Johns Hopkins and immediate hiring by cross-town rival Towson highlighted an off-season filled with coaching moves. Two weeks of fall practice had given Seaman a chance to evaluate his team and the job ahead. The coach discusses the future of the Towson program, the break up at Hopkins, the lacrosse media, and even weighs in on the demise of the dive.

E-Lacrosse: It's been a Coaches Carousel this year, with changes all over. Your move from Hopkins to Towson was a hot conversation at the World Games this summer, and people have heard various stories about how everything happened. I know our readers would want to hear your take on the whole thing.

Seaman: The course of events at Hopkins was the biggest surprise of my life. I already had my evaluation and met with the athletic director and had been told that I was being rehired and what my salary was going to be.
And this was all only a week and a half before. We were in the middle of a lacrosse camp and I was called into the athletic director's office on a Monday morning and then we went down to Dean Benedict's office and I was asked to resign. I had no expectations of that. I had heard no rumors of that, in fact, completely the opposite. And when I asked when it was going to be announced and was told 1 o'clock. It was quarter to 1 at that time, so I never got a chance to talk to any of my players. In fact I barely had time to talk to my wife and to my two kids. Thank God they were in camp and I could get a hold of them so that they didn't find out on TV or over the radio. And thank God my coaching staff was there so that they could be told. In fact, coach Cowan wasn't there. I didn't have time to call my captains. I had absolutely no time to do anything.

E-Lacrosse: Did you ever get a chance to address your players?

Seaman: No, I never even got a chance to talk to them. Needless to say, in this town something like that is considered very newsworthy, although why it would be so newsworthy I don't know. Something that dramatic gets out real quick.

E-Lacrosse: Did you feel vindicated after being hired by Towson almost immediately following your resignation?

Seaman: Towson had actually been in touch with me about some recommendations for other people seeking the coaching job. So I had been in contact with them and called them later that afternoon and told them. I didn't know whether they were still looking or whether they had already filled the position but I told them I was interested. They said that they had to start looking into things and see if that would be acceptable to the president.
Five days later I was hired as the coach here. And yes, that made me feel good.

I think sometimes you have to sit back and take a look at things. This was a real kick in the teeth and a blow to my ego. I had never been asked to resign before anywhere in my life. Especially after I was told I was being rehired and told that we had a good year, which we certainly did. Most of the years had been good years. I think the worst year we had there was when we were 9-6.

It was a real shock and I think it would have been real easy to jump to something else too quickly. We looked around and I got three or four things immediately. We took a ride up to Dartmouth and we took a few calls from out west from some other schools and for some administrative positions as well. It just worked out great though. I have a great deal of respect for the administration here, especially for president and the vice president. The athletic director is first class. They really impressed me and my family. My family all wanted to stay here in Baltimore and that was a major factor in my decision too. I think my wife would have liked me to sit around for a year and take a look at what was out there, but I think this worked out for the best. That was the worst fifteen minutes of my life. I guess I'm just a naïve person, but I just never expected that in any way, shape or form.

E-Lacrosse: Some of the criticism at Hopkins included that you weren't recruiting in Maryland enough. At Towson, are you going to recruit more heavily in Maryland or primarily use your Long Island pipeline?

Seaman: I don't think that's quite right. I recruited as heavily as anyone recruited in Maryland. You're going to go where there are good players. I always had my share of good players from Maryland at Hopkins; your Billy Evans's, Milford Marchant's and Werner Krueger's. I mean, there's always ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen kids on that team from [Baltimore]. Probably more than any of the other teams that are in the playoffs except for Maryland. The problem was convincing Baltimore kids that they should stay home and not go away. It's just like Hofstra and C.W. Post and Adelphi. They have tremendous trouble on Long Island convincing Long Island kids that they should stay home. Boston University, Boston College and Holy Cross have trouble keeping kids in their home town. It's a big problem right now, with communication and transportation so modernized and convenient and inexpensive that it's easy to go three, four or five hours away and still be easily accessible to home.

Hopkins in the fifties and sixties and seventies had all those championships together and had all those home grown kids. But very few people ever went away then. I was a kid of that era and you didn't have money to go away. You didn't have money for planes and it was real expensive to do that type of thing. So they were considerations that we all had and god bless the next coach, whoever he is.

At Towson we have a whole different story than at Hopkins. We have tuition based on in state and out of state because it's a state school. So I would have to be crazy not to recruit in state because it's a great economical deal. It's an unbelievable money saver for a family and for a student. The education here is one third the cost of Hopkins if you're an in state resident. $10,000 buys the whole thing-tuition, room and board, books, fees, and this isn't a bad academic school. This is a good school, and I would have to be nuts not to recruit in state, or even out of state. It's only another five thousand dollars for out of state kids, so it's half price compared to the Ivy's.

E-Lacrosse: What will you do differently here than you did at Hopkins?

Seaman: The only thing I'd want [to be] different would be to have back a couple of breaks in one goal games that hurt us the past couple of years in the tournament. If I really knew how to do that I'd be a better coach than I am. We'll try and find a way to make thing different. If you want to win, you have to have fast horses. You have to recruit and you have to work hard. I feel very good about the way that I coached at Hopkins and I feel very good about the things that I accomplished. Obviously there were a few people there who didn't and they were in power positions and I'm not there anymore. But I'm not going to change a whole lot in the way I coach. I just didn't win a national championship.

E-Lacrosse: Can you can win it all at Towson?

Seaman: I think you can win it all anywhere. You just have to have a combination of good players, good coaching, preparation and a hell of a lot of luck. Hopefully anybody who gets that could do it. I think the team that you have rank number one in the country based on who's there and the recruiting and the players has got to be Hopkins. They've got three first team All-Americans who were up for player of the year at their respective positions and they're all back (Rob Doerr, Brian Carcaterra and A.J. Haugen). They've got a lot going for them. But I think you've got some other schools too. I think Virginia's definitely in the mix and Loyola has the best team they've ever had. I think anyone in the top ten or twelve could win it and only Princeton and Syracuse have in the '90's. It's been very limited but anybody could. As I said, Princeton's won it five times and four of those times had an overtime win. They did twice against Hopkins they were able to go on and win the championship.

I'm excited about our potential. I think it's there and I think we've been working hard and we've got some athletes. My expectations are higher now after three weeks of practice than they were coming in. But we need some breaks and we need to stay healthy and keep our best players on the field. We need to continue to work hard. I think the biggest change is that it's very difficult to teach 45 people a new system rather than just teaching a new recruiting class, and you don't have anyone on the team who can say, "Okay, this is the way it's done and this is what you do," or "Here's how that works."
Now, I have 40 guys saying "How the hell does that work?" Or, "What do we do here?" or "I can't remember this." That's going to take a while, but if we can make it through March and April, I think May might be real interesting.

E-Lacrosse: It must be a great help, having somebody who already knows your system, Paul Cantabene, with you?

Seaman: Yes, it is. And then there's coach Stan Ross who I hired from Princeton, who's a great proponent of the defensive system that we've run for the last two years. He coached the defense at Princeton the exact same way that I like it to be played, so that fits in very well with my philosophy.

E-Lacrosse: How's recruiting been, so far?

Seaman: It's tough. We've had a couple of bad years. We haven't been that good. The trouble we get in-state is, why not go to Maryland because they've been to the final four the past four years and in the finals two of those years. So why should they want to go to Towson and not go to Maryland for the same amount of money. It's a bigger school with better football, better basketball and better lacrosse. Those types of things we'll have to fight until we get ourselves established. But we seem to be getting a good interest. The ratio of women to men [within Towson's student body] is excellent.

E-Lacrosse: Do you think that the pressure at Towson is more to get back into the playoffs every year rather than to win it all?

Seaman: It's much more a pressure to return to the playoffs.

E-Lacrosse: Any predictions for this year?

Seaman with Loyola's Dave Cottle.

Seaman: Oh, none at all. Just that we're going to have a good time, work hard and see what happens-let the chips fall where they may.

E-Lacrosse: You won several straight Ivy League championships in a row and had a consistent NCAA playoff team at Penn. What do you think of the Ivy League now, with Princeton taking over after you left?

Seaman: Well, the Ivy League is the same as it's always been, except for Princeton. Since 1991 when they won their first championship, they've been in a world of their own. They've just dominated college lacrosse. Really I think there's a couple of reasons why they've been dominant. Number one, I think they have one of the best coaches in the country if not the best coach. He's a great recruiter and a great coach. They've also had some luck, certainly more than Virginia had, losing two overtime games to them. I don't think there's a time in any one of their championships that they haven't won an overtime game. I mean, yes you can be a great coach and have great preparation, but you still have to have some luck in the end.

I also think that if you have good grades and can get in anywhere you want, Stanford, MIT, the Ivy's, Princeton has a wonderful reputation. It's also got a great geographical location. It's in Jersey and it's just south of New York and just north of Philadelphia and Baltimore. I mean there are a great many reasons why so many kids want to get in there and, if they do get in, want to go there. Along with the great lacrosse coach, Princeton is one of the Ivy League schools that gives full financial need [based] grants only. At schools like Hopkins, or here at Towson, they give financial aid in work-study or in loans, sometimes huge amounts of loans, whereas at Princeton they give the full amount in grants, which you never have to pay back. If you need fifteen thousand dollars, you get fifteen thousand dollars, and it's in grants. That's a huge factor. Harvard, Princeton and Stanford are the only schools I know of that do that. And that's because of their huge endowments. They've finally admitted, just in the past couple of years, how big they really are. And they do it, not just for their athletes, but for every kid that goes there. You add all those things up and you can understand why their recruiting is so big.

E-Lacrosse: Are schools like Cornell, Penn and Hopkins are at a disadvantage because of their tough academic requirements?

Seaman: It depends, honestly, on what kind of admissions policy they have and what kind of benefits or considerations they give to athletes. There are definitely some who give special consideration to kids that wouldn't get in through regular admissions. They're called "special admits" or "special talent." If they don't get those types of things then they are definitely at a disadvantage. But then again, lacrosse is a type of sport that's played [at the highest level] pretty much by white collar kids from families that are pretty well off economically and are usually good students. A lot of the real good lacrosse players could get into all the good schools.

E-Lacrosse: The Gary Gait "Air Gait" shot was made famous against Penn when you were on the sideline there. How was it to watch that, to be a part of history?

Seaman: The "Air Gate" was in '88 against the [University of Pennsylvania] team that went all the way to the semifinals. It was shocking. I was like "What did he do? How did he do that?" He did it again later in the game from a different angle. At half time we had told our goalie if he tried it again, to reach out and hit his stick, since an offensive player can't interfere with a goalie's stick while he's in the crease. We asked the referees to please watch for that. We told them that we were going to interfere but it would actually be him interfering. Then when he tried again, my goalie did exactly what he was supposed to do, and Gait scored, but the refs didn't call it, so he actually got two that day. They beat us by one. It was amazing…it was awesome. It was a great play. No one expected it and both times were on man-up when no one was really playing him one-on-one. So he had the opportunity to do it and he did it.

That was an incredible day because no one really gave us a chance of playing with Syracuse up there in the dome in the semifinals. They had already beaten us 15-8 earlier that year, and I had told everybody that game was a lot closer. We missed a lot of easy shots and I told them it was going to be a close game. Our goalie had a great game and we were winning 10-9 with five minutes left and were tied with thirty seconds left in the fourth quarter, then Paul [Gait] scored the winner with three seconds left. It was an unbelievable game.

E-Lacrosse: So does Gary Gait qualify as one of the best players you've ever seen?

Seaman: Yes, and it's certainly more than just the "Air Gait." There are so many other things to it than that. He's definitely one of the three best I've ever seen play the game.

E-Lacrosse: Who are the other two?

Seaman: Dave Pietramala at Hopkins was as good at the defensive end as Gary Gait was at the offensive end and the other guy is Frank Russo who was a Maryland Midfielder and a great player.

E-Lacrosse: What do you think about the demise of the dive in lacrosse due to recent rules changes?

Seaman: I think that that is a good move. The goalies are at high risk during that particular play. I have a range of emotions. It's an interesting play and it's great for the spectators to watch, but you don't go to a game to see a dive. Now you dive so that you don't go through the crease and you're fine. The crease is only nine yards in circumference, so you just miss the crease when you dive. They had to do something. Goalies were standing there trying to make the save and they were starting to get belted. Goalies are getting smacked more and more and it happens a lot in practice. If you can't do it in the game you won't be doing it in practice. And to me it's more the decision for the referee of whether the guy is in the crease or not, that's all eliminated now.

E-Lacrosse: You've been involved with the Lacrosse Foundation and the formation of US Lacrosse. What has been your role there?

Seaman: I have been the co-chair of the steering committee for the formation of the national governing body [US Lacrosse]. Barry Freelander is the co-chair, has been the inspiration behind that and has done 90% of the work. I have also been for the past five or six years, the president of the National Coaches Association. We voted to merge and become members of United States Lacrosse a year ago, and I then went from the president of the Coaches' Association to the president of the Coaches' Council. I am still on the board of directors for US Lacrosse.

E-Lacrosse: There has been some discussion that US Lacrosse doesn't do enough to spread the game. Specifically some have said that they have been trying to spread the game around the world, like in Japan or the Czech Republic, which isn't a bad thing, but at home, it has remained a largely regional phenomenon in the Northeast. Are they doing a good job with the media, using it to promote the game? There have been especially harsh reactions about media coverage at the most recent World Games.

Seaman: I think one of the most important reasons for us moving into a national governing body and become a unified group was so that we could do just that; promote the sport and get better coverage. And the only way you can do that is through membership and getting more people involved. I think the membership was much like hockey, confined just to people with interests in lacrosse, and that's just a very small part of the population compared to what the population is. So I think we had to expand on our membership. For years it's just been who wants to get that magazine and be a member of the foundation so that you can get into the museum for free. Of course, the lacrosse foundation itself was charged with the job of spreading the game and helping people get started in the game and into organizations, but you can only work from a budget that you have. The budget was based completely on donations from the same few people who have a unique interest and have the affordability to give to the game, so they were really limited.

We watched US Hockey and US Soccer really grow once they became official governing bodies of their sports. So what that means is that every little kid who walks out and joins a lacrosse program, a youth program in a town anywhere in the country, becomes a member of US Lacrosse. When you're a little kid…seven years old and mommy and daddy have to sign you up for thirty dollars, fifteen dollars of that goes to US Lacrosse. That's what happens in soccer; that's what happens in hockey, and we never had that. It went to the local organization that was just running the teams. So there was no base. There was no budget. There was just this huge restriction on how much the game could be spread, or grow-who would get involved in it. That now has drastically changed. It's changed in a year, ever since we've become US Lacrosse.

I think our membership already has gone from somewhere around 11,000 to 38,000, and with the potential of going to 150 to 200 thousand. You multiply that by thirty dollars instead of multiplying thirty dollars by 10,000 and now you've got a budget to work with-now you can begin to influence.

Plus you show that to TV and sponsors, to people who sell newspapers and so forth, that you have a population of 200 thousand instead of 10,000 and that's how you make some impressions. We're not going to go and expand anywhere until those types of impressions happen, and I think that's just starting to take place. I think you're going to see incredible improvements over the next five years and it's going to be big-time. I think they've really been so restricted with such a small amount of money that they have to work with, large man-hours and a huge responsibility. That's all going to improve, especially if we all get behind this. I was thrilled to see the women get behind them recently in the last couple of months and they're going to join. So I think it's great for lacrosse.

E-Lacrosse: Is this going to help lacrosse move out of it's regional sport status?
Seaman: Yes it is, especially in college, but there the restriction in generally equity. I don't see men's lacrosse growing right now at the college level. It's impossible to do, I think, with colleges having to have an equal number of teams and an equal number of scholarships and equal money. Who's going to add a men's sport? It's not only men's lacrosse. It's any men's sport right now. It's probably not going to be added to any college budget. So that really hurts us, where women's lacrosse is growing in leaps and bounds because they're trying to make up for the differences with football scholarships for players. So we're restricted there, but I see a huge growth in the youth sport throughout the whole United States.

E-Lacrosse: Do you think that will eventually force the NCAA to expand lacrosse, because it would create a higher demand for teams?

Seaman: Yes, and I think once kids are there and say, "Hey I'm paying money, and I want that sport," I think that will help us.

E-Lacrosse: What is your general opinion of the coverage of lacrosse? Do you think it's adequate?

Seaman: It's wonderful in Baltimore. Very inadequate everywhere else in the United States…except Syracuse. Syracuse and Baltimore have excellent coverage of college lacrosse, high school lacrosse and club. Everywhere else [is] very, very poor. One guy up in Long Island writes for Newsday. His name's Mike Candel.
He's an old lacrosse coach. He's a great guy. If it wasn't for him they wouldn't have any coverage in that paper. That's a big paper. That's as big a paper as there is around. The Washington Post has a little coverage that's not bad. But the rest of it is very, very poor and that's really too bad.

E-Lacrosse: What do you think can be done to improve that?

Seaman: (Laughing) I really have no idea. Readership demand. You get twenty thousand people in an area that write to the editor and complain that they're not covering high school lacrosse or college lacrosse then maybe you're going to get some better coverage.

Towson at the Price-Modern Fall Tournament
Photos by John Strohsacker

Seaman's Tigers debuted with a big win over Virginia and losses to Cornell and
Syracuse in scrimmages at the Price-Modern Fall Tournament in Baltimore.
Read interviews from past issues.