Orange Watch: 200 victories and counting for Syracuse lacrosse coach John Desko

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Another win, another milestone for Desko

Item: How about this? From 1931-present, all three Syracuse lacrosse coaches over those 82 seasons are either in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, or eventually will be, and they’ve also all won 200 or more games over the course of their SU careers. That is a historical winning tradition matched by no other Division I school.

As he has embarked on his 17th season guiding the Orange program, and off to an important quick 2-0 start for the now-No. 2/3 ranked ‘Cuse to boot, including Sunday afternoon’s stalwart defensive effort in holding longtime upstate rival Cornell to just six goals in a 14-6 blitz inside the Dome, at this point in time the only element of criteria that’s preventing John Desko from induction into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame is time.

Time as in the minimum 20 seasons of (head) coaching required (the 2018 season), the one missing piece to what’s inarguably already a Hall of Fame career consisting of five national titles since succeeding his SU coach and mentor Roy Simmons Jr. in 1999.

He’s previously been inducted as a member of a U.S. Chapter (Upstate New York) of the Lacrosse Hall, and following his 200th victory coming against the Big Red Sunday, now falls in line behind Simmons Jr. (290) and Roy Simmons Sr. (253) on the school’s all-time coaching victories list, marking the first time a trio has achieved 200 or more victories at a Div. I school.

» Related: Dream big, Syracuse lacrosse fans — It’s ‘championship or bust’

“It means I’ve been here a long time,” Desko joked with the media about his thoughts of hitting the victory milestone following the win over Cornell in the 100th meeting between the two upstate programs that have a combined 14 NCAA titles, while also uttering a statement that many coaches attribute when asked about a significant long term achievement.

“Cornell, when I was playing (1976-79) handled us a couple of times (two losses with a cumulative score of 34-12), so I guess it’s always nice to get back at them coming from a player to a coach. It was our 100th game today in our book (the SU-CU series), so to have the 200th (win) come on the 100th (meeting) is a cool thing.”

It’s not too often that Div. I lacrosse coaches are elected to the Baltimore-based Hall of Fame while still active, but the Simmons family was an exception. Simmons Jr. served the last seven seasons on the Syracuse sideline while a Hall member, and his Dad coached six years as an inductee (as a comparison, this is Jim Boeheim’s 10th season coaching as a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame), and for Desko the first full season he would be an active Hall of Fame coach is 2019.

“I’d like to be here for 300 (wins),” he said after beating the Big Red. I hadn’t really thought about it (200) going into the (Cornell) game. I’ve been here and worked with Roy Simmons Jr. (elected into the HOF in 1991) for 19 years. When he retired, obviously, took over for him. It’s great to see him in the stands (today). Knew his Dad very well, Roy Simmons Sr. (elected into the HOF in 1964), so it’s great to be in the ballpark with guys like that.”

The last active D-I coach elected to the Hall was Virginia’s Dom Starsia (360 career victories, four national championships in his current 33rd season) in 2008, and Desko would have to wait until what would be his 21st season guiding the Orange and continuing a Hall of Fame tradition like no other among major college lax programs.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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