Key takeaways from Syracuse coach Gary Gait’s introductory press conference

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Jun 8, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Former Syracuse men's lacrosse head coach John Desko speaks to reporters about his retirement.

Gary Gait was introduced as Syracuse’s fifth head coach in men’s lacrosse history on Thursday. Here’s the highlights from his press conference:

GAIT WANTS 20,000 FANS IN CARRIER DOME

While Syracuse remains one of the blue bloods of college lacrosse, there’s no doubt that the Orange has lost its edge over the last decade. SU last won a championship in 2009 and hasn’t appeared in championship weekend since 2013 or won an NCAA Tournament game since 2017.

Gait wants to change that.

When Gait played for the Orange in the 80s, he was a four-time All-American, three-time NCAA Champion, and a two-time Lt. Raymond Enners Award winner, earning the nickname “Air Gait” for bringing a style of play never seen before with his highlight worthy, circus-like athleticism. He wants to bring that kind of excitement back to Syracuse.

“In practice, guys were experimenting and trying different things so they use them in a game,” Gait said. “I’m thrilled to have that opportunity to bring it back to the program and create real buzz around the way Syracuse plays.”

He added that he wants to put 20,000 fans back in the Carrier Dome to watch the men play.

Gait speaks from a place of credibility. When he took over Syracuse’s women’s lacrosse team in 2007, the Orange had one NCAA Tournament win in program history. When Gait moved over to the men’s side following the 2021 season, he had established the women as a national power, with consistent appearances in championship weekend and three championship game appearances.

“I’ve had opportunities in the past (to move over to the men’s coaching ranks) and I’ve stayed with the women’s game,” Gait said. “It was a dream to come back (to Syracuse) and coach the women’s game, but now to have that opportunity for men’s side is unbelievable.”

PRESSURE TO WIN IT ALL?

Though former Syracuse coach John Desko won five national championships during his time as head coach, the pressure was mounting for him to break an 11-year drought in 2021. The Orange had high expectations coming into 2021 after being ranked No. 1 at the end of 2020 before the season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of that pressure may be transferred to Gait to end the drought.

While Gait did not win a championship as head coach of the women’s team, he did win as a coach at the professional level, becoming the first rookie head coach in the NLL to win a championship.

“I don’t put much pressure on it,” Gait said. “I always start to believe it and then I start convincing […] them to believe that they can do it every single year.”

» Related: John Desko bids farewell as head coach of Syracuse lacrosse

PIETRAMALA AS NEXT DC?

Gait was mostly mum as to how he would fill out his coaching staff, but did address one of the biggest rumors that swirled around his choice of defensive coordinator: Former Johns Hopkins coach and player Dave Pietramala.

Pietramala is widely regarded as one of the best defensive players of all time in college history, winning the Schmeisser Award as the nation’s top defenseman in 1988 and 1989. The three-time All-American returned to JHU as coach in 2001, and won two national championships before he parted ways with the Blue Jays.

He spent last season with ESPN, but has been linked to the Syracuse position. He and Gait played against each other in college and have remained close friends since then.

“I’m aware,” Gait said with a laugh when asked if he had heard about the Pietramala rumors. “We’d be lucky to get a guy like him.”

Still, that is only one position that Gait will need to fill.

“We should have some staff named in the next couple of days,” Gait said.

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About Wes Cheng 2691 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.