Hard to believe it’s been almost eight years now since sportscaster Brad Nessler told an ABC national TV audience, “that’ll be the last night he will be wearing a cardinal golf shirt, Carson Palmer behind him, as he’ll be the new athletic director at Syracuse and will be wearing Syracuse orange!”
Nessler and analysts Lynn Swann and Bob Griese were describing the picture of Daryl Gross on Jan. 4, 2005 adjacent to the Southern California bench surrounded by ex-Trojan players and other athletic department personnel in the waning moments of the #1 Trojans 55-19 romp over #2 Oklahoma (since vacated) in the national championship game in Miami, speculating on who Gross would choose to replace Paul Pasqualoni.
Despite the disastrous hire of Greg Robinson weeks later, there is not a whole lot of negatives when it comes to the direction and thought process behind the other coaching hires, especially among the school’s 15 “Olympic sports” and women’s programs during the Gross regime; draw up a ‘wish list’ with one name, and don’t stop until he/she says “yes.”
To get the women’s lacrosse team to the same level as John Desko’s men back in 2007, bring the sport’s ‘Michael Jordan’ back to his alma mater, a feat that even amazed Gary Gait himself moving his happy family from Denver back to central New York.
The results speak for themselves. Three Final Fours in five years including a championship game loss to the sport’s dominant program, Northwestern, last May.
A longtime tennis player and follower of the sport’s ATP World Tour, Gross had known 10-time doubles titlist Luke Jensen for years when he needed to hire a women’s tennis coach shortly after Gait came aboard, and again he thought “big.”
Why not turn to a player that during his career had singles victories against Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Jim Courier?
Jensen’s gone an impressive 91-46 going into year seven next month.
In just his third season, Ian McIntyre, one of the most respected college coaches in the game when he was lured from Hartwick in 2010, led the men’s soccer team to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, the best showing in school history.
The same success holds true for Ange Bradley during her five years, turning the Orange into a national field hockey power capped off by this year’s trip to the national semi-finals, and softball coach Leigh Ross who took over for the program’s founder Mary Jo Firnbach in 2007, and has led the team to two straight NCAA appearances.
As of Dec. 5, in the Capital One Cup standings for overall athletic department performance, the ‘Cuse women’s teams are a notable 13th nationally.
Throw in the apparent turning of the corner for the football program under Doug Marrone with two bowl games in three years and a chance for an eight win season, and the steady pace of Jim Boeheim as he is about to become second all-time on the victory list, and it’s a fun time to be part of a winning Orange Nation under the watchful eye of Daryl Gross.