Mike Taylor was “chomping at the bit” to get started. As the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education voted Tuesday to night to accept his recommendation as the next varsity boys lacrosse coach, Taylor was preparing to meet his new team as soon as possible.
The next day, he got his chance after school to introduce himself and get to know the players he will coach when the season officially rolls around in March.
“I stayed extra with the upperclassmen to just kind of put down what my vision was and what our goals would be for the season,” Taylor said in an interview Thursday. “I was quite impressed with how they accepted me.”
Taylor, a longtime assistant lacrosse coach at Dowling College, replaces Justin Arini, who officially resigned at the Dec. 2 board meeting for “personal reasons,” after one tumultuous year as head coach.
As Taylor met with the players, he wasn’t shy about setting lofty goals.
“I said we’re going to be focused on day one of going to a state championship,” Taylor said. “That should be our goal every year.”
The Wildcats won a state championship in 2012 and Long Island title in 2013 in the last two years of Tom Rotanz’s tenure as head coach. The school opted to not rehire Rotanz for the 2014 season, and hired Arini, a guidance counselor in the school, to be his replacement. The Wildcats got off to a slow start last year, before rallying late in the season, only to lose in the first round of the playoffs.
Taylor said he welcomes the big expectations that come with a high-profile high school position like Shoreham.
“I think with the pressure of being in the college top-five rankings every year, I’ve become accustomed to high expectations,” he said. “I’m very confident, confident in the kids and confident in our ability.”
Taylor, 44, is a special education teacher in the Patchogue-Medford School District, a position he said he’s held for 20 years. He was a coach at Pat-Med when the lacrosse program was first started there, he said, before getting a position at Dowling.
His area of speciality at Dowling has been running the offense, he said. In the beginning, he was tasked with doing a little bit of everything, he said, before the program expanded and added more speciality coaches like a goalkeeper coach.
After more than a decade of working as an assistant coach, Taylor said he was looking forward to the chance to run his own team.
“When Shoreham came around, the culture they have there and tradition and passionate community, it was a great fit for me,” he said. “I know when you go there you’re going to get competitive lacrosse. These types of programs are few and far between.”
Tension was high at the start of last season, when many around the program were still upset over Rotanz not being brought back. The team lost three of its first six games, all by one goal, and the criticism of Arini quickly mounted.
One community member emailed the News-Review last April, six games into the season, citing the growing unhappiness of parents with the coaches. Throughout the entire season, commenters filled message boards on websites like backofthecage.com with vile comments.
Arini did not immediately return a phone call requesting an interview.
Taylor said his plan is to take what he’s learned at Dowling and implement it at Shoreham.
“[Shoreham] already has a great foundation and I think the sky’s the limit,” he said.