Item: With five national championships himself since succeeding his mentor Roy Simmons Jr. in 1999, it was only a matter of when John Desko was going to join Laurie Cox, Roy Simmons Sr. and Jr. as the program’s entire coaching lineage is now represented in the sport’s ultimate shrine in suburban Baltimore.
There’s simply no other program like it in Div. I college athletics.
Think about it. Only four head coaches in 104 years of competition, and with Thursday’s announcement from the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame that Desko, SU’s 22-year head coach, former assistant and player, is joining the three others in the Hall as a member of the 2020 induction class, well, it’s unprecedented.
No other school can claim all of its coaches in one particular sport as Hall of Fame members, certainly not a program that has competed for over a century with the average head coaching tenure lasting an unbelievable 26-years.
It also completely wipes out the ill-will heaped on by the fan base just 15 short months ago when the Orange was upset by Colgate in the 2019 season opener, and the calls were loud for Desko’s ouster.
After helping Simmons Jr. win six titles, including the benchmark 1983 victory over Johns Hopkins to set the program sailing into unchartered territory, Desko stepped right into his mentor’s role playing for the championship in each of his first three years as coach between 1999-2001, winning once.
He won back-to-back titles in 2008-09 (accomplished eight times in 50 years of NCAA Tournament play) to cap off his current five crowns, and even with the seven-year drought of making a national semifinal appearance souring Orange Nation as the sport exploded nationally, Desko had the ‘Cuse unbeaten and No. 1 ranked before the 2020 season was suddenly wiped out March 12 by the global pandemic.
“I’m honored to be inducted to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame,” Desko said in a statement released by the university. “I’ve been so fortunate in my time at Syracuse to be surrounded by incredible players, coaches and administrators, which made the success of our program possible.”
The success is now legendary. Desko was the fastest coach in Div. I history to win 100 games. His career .750 winning percentage is the best among any active coach, and only Denver’s Bill Tierney (7) and Simmons Jr. (6) have more NCAA titles.
When Desko is formally inducted in October at the annual Hall of Fame dinner in Hunt Valley, Md., you can bet a majority of the living 29 members of the Syracuse lacrosse family, including the incredible 12 Orange Hall of Famers Desko coached, will be on hand to celebrate.